International Current Affairs
September 2012 International Current Affairs
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September 2012

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg appointed a 29-year-old, Hadia Tajik, a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin, as the new Culture Minister. Hadia Tajik is the first Muslim and youngest Minister ever in Norwegian political history. Ms. Tajik, who has degrees in law and journalism and has been a career politician in Norway’s Labour Party, was appointed in a Cabinet reshuffle. Ms. Tajik has already declared that cultural diversity should become more integral to the life of her fellow citizens. She said her programme would focus on how this reflected on Norwegian society as a whole. Conservative elements in Norway believe that a very rapid influx of foreigners and foreign cultures has destabilised the steady and stable pattern of Norway’s essentially Christian society. Last year, Anders Breivik randomly shot 69 people at a summer camp organised by the Workers` Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party after blowing up a Norweigan state building. During his trial, Breivik reasoned that multi-cultural policies were harming Norway, adding that he considered Islam his enemy.

A Jerusalem court on 24 September, handed the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, a $19,000 fine for graft. He just escaped the jail term. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, after which he served as a Cabinet Minister, holding the trade and industry portfolio as well as several others, before becoming Premier in 2006.He led the centre-right Kadima party into government, but resigned from the premiership in September 2008 after police recommended that he be indicted in several graft cases. 
The three-day-long 9th World Hindi Conference concluded in Johannesburg on 25 September. India`s Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur felicitated several Hindi scholars, writers and laureates, who had gathered from different parts of the world for their contribution towards the language. Kaur jointly inaugurated the conference on September 22 and South Africa`s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.While addressing the conference, Kaur expressed gratitude for the huge success of the conference. Kaur also highlighted on the need to promote Hindi across the globe. With an estimated 200 million speakers worldwide, Hindi is among the most extensively spoken languages in the world.
China commissioned its first aircraft carrier on 25 September, The unveiling of the 300 meter-long Liaoning, a refurbished and upgraded version of the Soviet carrier Varyag which China purchased from Ukraine, came after years of sea trials and tests to fit the carrier with weapons and engines. The Liaoning was commissioned by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the port city of Dalian, the capital of the northeastern province after which the carrier is named. Defence analysts were quoted as saying by state media that the Liaoning was, however, not yet close to being put into active service with China needing to train pilots. Sources said the carrier would continue to serve “for scientific research purposes” besides military training.The commissioning of the Liaoning makes China the tenth nation to have an aircraft carrier. The development comes amid rising strains between China and Japan over the disputed Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in East China Sea.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the person behind a provocative anti-Islam film, the trailer of which led to violence in parts of Asia and North Africa has been arrested on 28 September. However, his detainment was not related with that film. The California-based man who is said to have made ‘Innocence of Muslims”, apparently an Egyptian Coptic Christian was declared a flight risk and detained by a federal Judge Suzanne Segal. Officials said that, Primary among the charges Nakoula faces was violation of probation from a 2010 cheque fraud conviction. Following the trailer being uploaded on YouTube, violent protests broke out in parts of North Africa, including Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya. In particular, an assault by heavily-armed gunmen targeting the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi led to the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador. The U.S. court has ordered Nakoula to “remain in prison without bond until another judge can hold a hearing to determine if he broke the terms of his probation.” 
The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan - Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir Mayardit signed agreements to implement a demilitarised zone that paves the way for resumption of oil exports after a five-day summit in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir said, this agreement stands as a living model for the ability of the Sudanese and African people to resolve their issues and problems through dialogue and negotiations. The resumption of oil trade is imperative for both as they rebuild their cash-starved economies after the 2011 secession of the South granted it control of most of the oil reserves but gave Sudan control of the pipelines. The centerpiece of the agreements is a 20-km wide demilitarized zone, to be monitored and patrolled by international forces, which will serve as a buffer as the neighbours demarcate an acceptable international border. Last year, tensions along the 1,800-km border sparked an armed conflict. The Presidents also signed agreements to address post-secession issues, including institutional frameworks for cross-border cooperation, central banking and the status of citizens in one country working and residing in the other. While the two countries were unable to resolve the status of Abyei, a disputed territory, the region serves as the traditional grazing grounds for the Misseriya tribes allied to the North, but is home to a settled population of the Ngok Dinka people who consider themselves South Sudanese.
French President Francois Hollande met Chancellor Angela Merkel in the southwestern German city of Ludwigsburg to celebrate an anniversary of their countries’ reconciliation following the end of World War II. The leaders of France and Germany have both stressed Europe must deepen its political and economic integration to ensure peace and continuous prosperity across the continent. Europe’s 17-nation currency zone is experiencing a deep crisis, Mr. Hollande said, therefore urging Germany and other nations to help “create instruments that make us stronger, the budgetary union, the banking union, the social union, a political union.” Ms. Merkel said both countries will and must work together closely to strengthen Europe to weather those new challenges.
Putin advocates multiple reserve currencies
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has called for creating a system of multiple reserve currencies to strengthen global financial stability and reduce dependence on the U.S. dollar. “If we are to slash the excessive number of derivatives, enhance discipline and stabilise global finances, we should promote multiple reserve currencies,” Mr. Putin said at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Vladivostok on 8 Septemebr. He slammed the position of the U.S. dollar as the single reserve currency of the world. “If there is only one global reserve currency, the issuing country will always be tempted to use it in its selfish interests, which in the long run harms the issuer and violates the fundamental principles of the functioning of the world financial system.” He said the rouble has the potential of becoming a regional reserve currency in the former Soviet Union. “Rouble can claim for the role of reserve currency . “The rouble is used more and more frequently in the settlements in the former Soviet republics”. Russia in recent years has also signed agreements with India and China to use national currencies in bilateral trade deals. At their summit in New Delhi in March, the BRICS group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa signed two accords to promote intra-BRICS trade in local currencies. 
Finland facing ageing problem more than other EU countries:
Finland, one of the most developed models of Europe, faces a challenge to meet the needs of its ageing population while ensuring its long-term fiscal sustainability. Finland has one of the most rapidly ageing populations in Europe and the world. By 2030, Finland is projected to have 26 per cent of its population over 65 years of age. This is a figure that the UK, for example, is not due to reach until 2051, a recent study said. After 95 years of independence, the standard of living in Finland has risen considerably and in consequence brought the mortality rate down year by year. While the statistical life expectancies of men and women born in Finland towards the late 1910s were 43 years and 49 years, the respective life expectancies have today risen to 76 years for men and 83 years for women. The phenomenon faced by many European countries is being keenly debated in the country like Finland whose economic model based on the exports has been more than successful.The policy makers and the stakeholders have already turned to the solution of the problem in Finland where the retirement age is 63 years with lots of welfare mechanism in the place. The rate of mortality among children under the age of 12 months has also declined enormously in nine decades. When Finland gained independence, one child in ten in the country died in their first year of life, whereas today the infant mortality rate is under 0.5 per cent. Although the growth in life expectancy is not among the very highest in the world in Finland, the country`s infant mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world. The Internatioanl Monetary Fund (IMF) has also warned this Nordic country to mitigate expected rises in health and long-term care costs associated with population ageing. "Finland should also tighten the way benefits are paid to the elderly and unemployed until early retirement, as well as increasing the legal minimum and maximum retirement ages," the IMF said. 
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud Elected Somalia`s New President :
Members of the recently sworn-in Somali Parliament voted on 10 September, to elect Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country`s new President in a secret ballot held at a police academy in capital Mogadishu, marking completion of the country`s political transition process. Mohamud defeated incumbent Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in a 190-79 vote in a run-off. The outgoing President later conceded defeat in a televised national address, saying that he was "satisfied" with the results of the "just elections."The run-off was forced after none of the candidates managed to secure the required two-thirds majority in the first round of voting. Nevertheless, 18 candidates were eliminated in the first round itself. Although outgoing Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and moderate Islamist Abdulkadir Osoble qualified for the second round, they pulled out of the race after coming third and fourth respectively in the first round. Mohamud is an academic as well as a civic activist who has worked for several national and international aid and development organizations in recent years, including the UNICEF. The English as well as Somali-speaking President-elect is the Chairman of the Peace and Development Party, which he founded in 2011. 
Cambridge loses top spot to MIT in world university rankings:
America`s prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology has grabbed the top slot from UK`s Cambridge University in a list of world university rankings for 2011-2012. However, UK universities have taken four of the six top slots in a global university "league table" by QS World University Rankings. With MIT leading the list, Cambridge fell to No. 2 spot and Harvard University ranked third in list of rankings. "The rise of MIT coincides with a global shift in emphasis toward science and technology," QS head of research Ben Sowter said, adding "MIT perfects a blueprint that is now being followed by a new wave of cutting-edge tech-focused institutions, especially in Asia." University College, London (UCL), Oxford and Imperial took fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively. Seventh place was awarded to Yale University. followed by University of Chicago, Princeton University and the tenth position to California Institute of Technology. Sowter warned higher fees and new visa rules could see UK universities struggle next year. Students trying to get ahead of a trebling in fees for English undergraduates had produced a surge in applications to start university in autumn 2011, Sowter told. 
Chris Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya killed in rocket attack
The ambassador of the United States to Libya, Christopher Stevens, has been killed dulring an armed mob attack in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, raising fresh questions about the merits of Washington’s policy of “regime change” in West Asia that followed these strikes. Mr. Stevens is the second U.S. ambassador to be killed during an outstation posting since the death of Adolph Dubs in 1979 during his tenure in Afghanistan. Reuters said three other members of the embassy staff were killed on 11 September night, as a result of a rocket attack in Benghazi. 
India has highest child mortality rate in the world:
With almost 19,000 children under five years of age dying every day across the world, India tops the list of countries with the highest number of 15.55 lakh such deaths in 2011, according to a UN agency. The `Child Mortality Estimates Report 2012` released by Unicef in New York has said that in 2011, around 50 per cent of global under-five deaths occurred in just five countries of India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. Incidentally, India`s toll is higher than the deaths in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan put together. China reported 2.49 lakh deaths of under-5 kids last year, followed by 1.94 lakh by Ethiopia and 1.34 lakh each by Indonesia and Bangladesh. Uganda with 1.31 lakh such deaths and Afghanistan with 1.28 lakh deaths held the ninth and 10th position in the list of 10 top countries reporting under-five children deaths. Singapore with a mortality rate of 2.6 has the lowest under-five deaths, while Slovenia and Sweden followed it with a mortality of 2.8. Globally, the five leading causes of deaths among children under five include pneumonia (18 per cent); pre-term birth complications (14 per cent); diarrhea (11 per cent); intrapartum-related complications (9 per cent) and malaria (7 per cent). Besides, more than a third of child deaths are attributable to under nutrition globally, the report states. 


Consumer cybercrime cost India $8bn in a year :

Software security services provider Norton on 12 September, said consumer cybercrime has cost the country around Rs 42,000 crore in the past 12 months, impacting 42 million people. Releasing the findings of its annual cybercrime report, it is estimated that over 42 million people fell victim to cybercrime in the past 12 months in the country, incurring around $8 billion in direct financial losses. In terms of cost, this is a full 18% increase. Against this, the global loss has been pegged at $110 billion. The study further notes that as many as 66 percent of online adults have been a victim of cybercrime in their lifetime in the country. During the past 12 months, as many as 56% of adults who go online here have experienced cybercrime — that is over 1,15,000 victims per day, 80 victims per minute and over one every second. The study is based on the findings of self-reported experiences of over 13,000 adults across 24 countries, Norton by Symantec said in a statement. 
Egypt: Ex-PM Ahmed Nazif jailed for corruption:
Ahmed Nazif was the first Mubarak-era official to be prosecuted after last year`s uprising A court in Cairo has sentenced Egypt`s former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to three years in prison for corruption on 13 September. Nazif, who was Prime Minister from 2004 until last year`s uprising, has also been ordered to pay a fine of nine million Egyptian pounds (£900,000). Last year he was given a one-year suspended sentence after he was charged for unlawful gains in a business deal. Nazif is one of several Mubarak-era senior officials on trial. He was arrested months after leaving his job in January 2011, shortly before President Hosni Mubarak stood down. About a dozen former Egyptian officials, including Mubarak and his two sons, have been charged either with conspiring to kill protesters or with various crimes related to corruption. 
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the newly elected president of Somalia survived assassination :
After two days of his being appointed in the office, the Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud survived an assassination attempted by the Shebab a group Islamic rebels from Al-Qaeda, on 13 September 2012. At the time when the two bomb blasts happened the president was meeting the Kenya’s Foreign Minister in Mogadishu hotel. In this attack by the multiple suicide bombers the president remained unharmed. The report presented by Ali Houmed, spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) claimed three deaths that iclude two Somali Troops and a Ugandan soldier. 
Putin loses popularity by 20 per cent:
The number of Russians, who approve of President Vladimir Putin, has declined by 20 per cent over the past decade, with fewer people seeing him as a hero, according to a latest poll conducted by the national polling centre VTSIOM . The national polling centre`s report shows how public attitude towards Mr Putin has changed over time, starting from 2002 when 79 per cent of respondents thought the new President was making a "mostly favourable" impression on them. That number has dwindled to 59 per cent as of 2012, while the number of those who disapprove of Mr Putin rose from 8 per cent to 22 per cent. At the same time, popular support for his actions as President slid from 75 per cent in 2002 to 59 per cent in 2012, while those who do not support his policies increased from 9 per cent to 23 per cent. VTSIOM General Director Valery Fyodorov said it would be more relevant to compare Mr Putin`s popularity ratings with the most recent election-related results rather than with figures from a decade ago.That was a totally different time, and a great deal has changed since then. Putin has changed, and the country and the people too," he said.The latest poll, held among 1,600 respondents in Russia`s 46 regions on August 24-25, has a margin of error below 3.4 per cent. 
Delhi, Mumbai world`s cheapest cities: Survey
Oslo is the most expensive city in the world, ahead of Zurich and Tokyo, but the well-paid residents of the Swiss financial hub enjoy the greatest purchasing power, according to a study released on Friday. The cheapest places to live were Delhi and Mumbai. The annual survey of 72 cities by Swiss bank UBS found its own hometown had the world`s highest average wages and the biggest purchasing power. The study examined the price of a basket of 122 goods and services, adjusted for currency fluctuations. The cost of living index was calculated by dividing the price of goods by the weighted net hourly wage in 15 sectors. "In Tokyo it takes nine minutes of work to earn enough to buy a Big Mac, while in Nairobi it takes 84 minutes," it said. Zurich residents must work 13 minutes for the hamburger, but other goods were relatively cheaper than in Tokyo, putting the Swiss city top of the purchasing power index. "Workers in Zurich can buy an iPhone after 22 hours work; in Manila, by contrast, it takes around 20 times longer," UBS said. Workers had to toil 42 minutes in Istanbul and 29 minutes in Shanghai for a Big Mac, while in New York and Hong Kong just 10 minutes were required. The cheapest places to live were Delhi and Mumbai. New York was the sixth most expensive, Moscow came in at number 40 and Shanghai at 49. The survey also looked at working hours and found the shortest were in Paris, Lyon and Copenhagen. Workers in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America toil the longest, at over 2,000 hours per year, it found. 
New York bans large sodas in eateries, theatres:
New York became the first city in the US to ban the sale of large sodas and sugary beverages in restaurants, a move that mayor Michael Bloomberg said will help combat the "obesity epidemic" that kills 6,000 New Yorkers every year and is destroying the health of Americans. The New York City Board of Health voted 8-0 on 13 September, in favour of limiting the size of sugary beverages sold in restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and at movie theatres, stadiums and arenas. The new regulation will go into effect next March, giving establishments six months to comply with new rules. 
Sixth Mekong–Ganga Cooperation meeting was held in New Delhi from 3-4 September 2012. Foreign Ministers meet was held on September 4 2012.The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) was established on November 10, 2000 in Vientiane, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic with a purpose of cooperation amongst India and the five Mekong region countries - Cambodia, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. It was basically established to emphasize on four areas of cooperation, which are tourism, culture, education, and transportation linkage, in order to build strong foundation for future trade and investment cooperation among the region. This is the first time that the Mekong Ganga Cooperation meeting was hosted by India. 
China and the U.S. appeared unable to bridge differences over the South China Sea issue and Syria but pledged to work together to build trust as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded a day of meetings with the Chinese leadership in Beijing on 5 September. Clinton, who met President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi — reiterated her calls for China to push forward talks on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea before November’s East Asia Summit. Chinese officials, however, did not commit to a timeline and rebutted U.S. concerns about its interests in the region by stressing that freedom of navigation in the contested waters had been fully guaranteed. The two countries also appeared unable to bridge differences on Syria. Ms. Clinton said pointedly that it was “no secret that we have been disappointed by Russia and China’s actions blocking tougher U.N. Security Council resolutions”.
Six years after Nepal’s Maoists entered open politics and signed a peace treaty, the United States has finally lifted its “terrorist” tag for the country’s ruling party. It also revoked its status as a “terrorist organisation from the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) under the Immigration and Nationality Act”. The U.S State Department said it had concluded that Maoists were no longer engaged in “terrorist activity that threatens the security of U.S. nationals or U.S. foreign policy”. Informal meetings between U.S. diplomats and Maoist leaders began in 2007. After the party emerged victorious in the elections of 2008, the U.S. Ambassador formally met party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
The U.S State Department has finally designated the fearsome Haqqani Network terror outfit in Afghanistan a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. In a rare instance of overwhelming and unanimous support in Congress leading to mounting pressure on the Obama White House to pin the FTO blacklist-label on the Haqqani group, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was given 30 days in early August to finalise her decision on the designation question. The network is said to have been behind string of deadly attacks in Kabul and elsewhere, most prominently including a bombing of the Indian embassy and an assault on the U.S. embassy using rockets. The group has also been linked to an attack on Kabul’s elite Serena and Intercontinental hotels and several kidnappings. On 7 September, she reported back to Congress that the network “meets the statutory criteria of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for designation as an FTO. This action meets the requirements of the Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012”. She added that she also intended to designate the organisation as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under an Executive Order.
The long-pending visa agreement to ease travel was inked between India and Pakistan, in Islamabad on 8 September. The agreement was signed by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Interior Minister Rehman Malik after the conclusion of the Foreign Minister-level engagement at the end of the second round of the resumed dialogue process. The new visa regime — the first major overhaul since 1974 — in particular eases travel restrictions for businessmen and introduces a new category of group tourism. Besides, persons aged above 65 will be issued visa on arrival. The regime also mandates a time frame for issuing visas. From the earlier indefinite time taken to issue a visa, the two missions have now been tied down to a 45-day period for deciding on an application. Another significant decision taken by the Foreign Ministers pertained to the cross-Line of Control (LoC) confidence-building measures (CBMs). The cross-LoC travel will be expanded to include visits for tourism and pilgrimage. Such visits to designated sites will initially be from the Chakoti-Uri and Rawalakot-Poonch crossing points.Both sides also agreed to extend assistance to valid entry permit-holders to cross the LoC in emergency situations on crossing as well as non-crossing days.
Swiss most competitive nation, India 59th: WEF survey
Switzerland ranked as the world`s most competitive economy for the fourth year running, while the United States continued a four-year slide down the table, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in its annual survey on 5th September. The study by the WEF, best known for running the annual meeting of world business leaders at the ski resort of Davos, ranks 144 countries by examining 113 indicators culled from official data sources and a poll of 15,000 executives who opine on the country where they do business. Switzerland piped Singapore to the top spot thanks to strong scores in areas such as innovation, labour market efficiency and effective public institutions. The United States fell from fifth spot to seventh because of political and economic problems that detracted from its status as a global powerhouse of innovation, the study said. The lowest ranked EU country was Greece, at 96th. But it was rock bottom - 144th out of 144 - for its macroeconomic environment. Qatar moved up three places to 11th but may need to reduce its vulnerability to commodity price fluctuations if it is going to break into a top 10 dominated by northern European countries, the report said. Four of the five BRICS nations fell in the rankings, with only Brazil climbing, up five places from last year to 48th. China still led the group. Its 29th place ranking was down from 26th in 2011 but still 30 places ahead of India, which has lost 10 places since peaking at 49 in 2009. Russia was 67th, down one place from 2011, with a sharp improvement in the macroeconomic environment offset by weak public institutions, which were ranked 11th worst.
French unemployment rises again to 10.2 per cent:
The national statistics agency says unemployment in France rose again in the second quarter, reaching 10.2 per cent. Insee said on 6th September that youth unemployment is also creeping up and was 23.5 per cent for the quarter that ended June 30. Earlier this week, the government said that the number of people out of work had passed three million, a symbolic threshold but one that has focused new attention on France’s unemployment rate. French unemployment has been climbing steadily since last year after dropping for a few quarters. It is now higher than at any time since 1999. 
Myanmar passes foreign investment law:
Myanmar’s Parliament adopted a much anticipated foreign direct investment law that is crucial to the government’s ambitious plans for economic expansion in one of Asia’s poorest countries. The law drops several provisions in the original draft that had raised fears it could deter investors. The law was seen as one of Parliament’s most urgent tasks and was passed on the last day of its current session. One proposal dropped from the law would have required a $5 million minimum initial investment outlay. The final version also allows foreign parties to hold a 50 per cent stake in joint ventures rather than limiting them to a proposed 49 per cent. Elected President Thein Sein launched economic and political reforms when he took office last year after almost five decades of military rule, foreign sanctions and restrictive laws that kept the economy stagnant. Myanmar has an inefficient agricultural sector and small industrial base, and most of its export earnings come from extractive industries, especially natural gas. Western nations, earlier this year, eased economic sanctions instituted against the former military regime, lifting another barrier to foreign investment. Reforms to the financial system, especially the jettisoning of an onerous dual exchange rate system, were also made to encourage investors. Another progressive aspect of the new law allows foreign investors to lease land for an initial period of 50 years with an option to renew, compared to 35 years under old rules.