International Current Affairs
May 3rd week 2015 current affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) 100 US cities to host Yogathon on First International Yoga Day

  • More than 100 US cities will organize a Yogathon on the first International Yoga Day to be celebrated on June 21. All major spiritual and Yoga organizations like Art of Living have joined the campaign, OVBI,Overseas Volunteer for a Better India - the lead organizers said that more than 50 organizations have joined the countrywide campaign to spread the awareness about Yoga. The United Nations, in less than three months, declared June 21 as World Yoga Day on December 11 last year, following a proposal by Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi. 
  • During his visit to the United Nations in September last year, MrModi had urged the world community to celebrate Indian Yoga at the international level and that June 21 be declared as the World Yoga Day.
2) Push for reforms in G-7 summit
A part from pushing reforms, Greece’s debt crisis also dominated talks of the Group of Seven finance ministers on 29th May, with the United States and Japan pressing Europe to reach a deal with Athens to avoid rattling the euro zone and the global economy.
Even though Greece was not on the official agenda of the three-day meeting in Dresden (Germany), it was a key topic as time runs out for Athens to reach an agreement with its international creditors. There needs to be some flexibility on the part of the institutions namely the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, the summit expressed its opinion.
The meeting’s host, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, also sought to play down assertions by Athens that Greece is on the verge of reaching a deal with its creditors. After four months of negotiating to unlock some €7.2 billions in remaining bailout cash, Athens’ coffers are near empty.
The Greek government has sent mixed signals about how close the two sides are to a deal. On the one hand it has suggested that an agreement could be reached by 31st May.
3) Comprehensive response sought to migrant crisis
  • The U.N. on 29th May called for a comprehensive response to the large scale humanitarian crisis of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar, of which nearly 2,000 are still believed to be stranded in the perilous sea across the Bay of Bengal.
  • On 29th May, 17 countries, including India, the U.S., Australia, Japan and the regional countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Bangladesh met in Bangkok to thrash out a solution to the crisis even as 2,000 people are still believed to be stranded on the sea. Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to address the root causes of a migrant exodus from their shores, but critics pilloried a deal that failed to mention the Rohingya minority at the heart of the crisis.
  • UNSC adopted resolution on protection of journalists in conflict zones
  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 27 May 2015 unanimously adopted a resolution 2222 (2015) on the protection of journalists in conflict zones. The resolution was adopted following number of deaths and kidnappings of media professionals which has continued to climb.
  • The resolution was adopted during a meet that was heard by nearly 70 speakers under the agenda item Protection of civilians in armed conflict. The meet was chaired by Lithuania’s Foreign Minister.
  • The Security Council resolution also condemned such attacks on journalists and warned parties to conflicts, including governments and armed groups, that they should take all reasonable steps to protect journalists. The resolution urged Member States to take active steps to ensure accountability.
  • Besides, Christophe Deloire, Director-General of Reporters Without Borders called on to appoint a special representative on the protection of journalists to ensure that Member States abided by their commitments under the text and under previous resolution.
4) India Pavilion inaugurated at 68th Cannes Film Festival
  • Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on 17th May inaugurated the India Pavilion at the 68th Cannes International Film Festival. He stressed the importance of movies in government campaigns like `Make In India` and `Skill India
  • The new government at the Centre is certainly more decisive and focused and is constantly working towards taking India to higher levels of growth, which is inclusive.
  • The government is channelising that objective through campaigns like `Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’, and realises that the film industry is an important part of these campaigns given its tremendous potential towards job creation
  • India has already signed co-production agreements with a slew of countries, and in the last one year five co-productions have been undertaken with France alone. We need to take these partnerships to the next level now
  • The session also saw unveiling of the 46th IFFI, 2015 regulations and ‘India Film Guide’ by Rathore. The India Film Guide is a comprehensive booklet with information on policy initiatives by the government pertaining to film sector, the listing of Indian companies at Cannes Film Market, Indian films at Cannes and contacts of important people in the business of filmmaking.
  • Mohan Kumar, ambassador of India to France, said the ambition should be to get Indian films in the most important category of films at Cannes. He added over the next two to three years, he will strive to work on that. The Cannes film gala began on May 13 and it will conclude on May 24.
  • Gurvinder Singh`s Punjabi film “Chauthi Koot” and Neeraj Ghaywan`s debut feature "Masaan" are among the Indian films that have been chosen to be screened in the official UnCertain Regard section of the jamboree, the red carpet of which is being graced by Indian ambassadors of L`Oreal Paris -- Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.

5) Global energy subsidies to hit USD 5.3 trillion this year: IMF

  • Current Affirs The International Monetary Fund, IMF has voiced alarm about energy subsidies across the world, saying they were expected to reach 5.3 trillion dollars in 2015, more than government health spending. In a report on 18th May, the IMF said, these estimates are shocking. According to report………
  •  The figures were among the largest negative factors for economic growth it had ever estimated, piling up adverse effects on efficiency, growth and inequality.
  • This year`s energy subsidies represent 6.5 per cent of the global economy, likely exceeding government health spending across the world.
  • Long an opponent of energy subsidies, the IMF defines them as the difference between the amount of money consumers pay for energy and its true costs, plus a country`s normal value-added or sales tax rate.
  • In addition to what is required to produce and distribute energy, the true costs include environmental effects like carbon emissions that lead to global warming and the health effects of air pollution.
  • China is by far the largest spender on energy subsidies, at 2.3 trillion dollars a year, followed by the United States at 699 billion dollars and Russia at 335 billion dollars.
  • The overall energy subsidies had more than doubled since 2011.
  • The IMF explained that more than half of the increase was due to more precise evidence of the damaging effects of energy consumption on air quality and health, such as premature deaths.
  • The IMF has long argued that getting energy prices right can help national governments achieve their goals not only for the environment but also for inclusive growth and sound public finances.  
6) Dubai plans world’s first underwater tennis court
  • Dubai is planning to construct, world’s first first underwater tennis centre where spectators can watch games from below or above the sea life through a massive glass dome. Krzysztof Kotala, a Polish architect who owns a studio in Warsaw, is currently seeking investment from local players to make the ambitious project a reality.
  • The proposed location for the project (arguably one of the world`s lowest tennis courts) is just next door to the highest tennis court atop the Burjal Arab skyscraper in Dubai.
  • The initial designs of the project have been completed, but there is a need to find the potential investors to launch the proposal.
7) Bob Hewitt jailed
  • Retired tennis champion Bob Hewitt has been jailed for six years in South Africa for raping underage girls. The 75-year-old was sentenced to eight years in jail for two counts of rape, with two years suspended, and two years for sexual assault. Judge Bert Bam ordered the three terms to be served at the same time, meaning Hewitt should spend up to six years in prison
  • The sportsman was also ordered to pay around £5,000 towards state-run campaigns against sexual violence. Three women had told the court Hewitt assaulted them while they were minors and he was their tennis coach in South Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. Hewitt, who was born in Australia and became a South African citizen after marrying his wife, denied all charges but was found guilty in March following a trial in Johannesburg.
8) N. Korea claimed possessing Nuclear technology
  • North Korea said on 20th May that it had perfected the technology to make nuclear warheads, not long after announcing it had launched a ballistic missile from a submarine, dramatically upping military brinkmanship with its U.S.-led foes. It also cancelled a visit by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon after he accused it of fuelling regional tensions, in a week that also saw U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemn the North’s “provocative, destabilising and repressive actions”
9) Ramayana miniatures go on show in Canberra
  • An exhibition of 101 vintage miniature paintings that string together a grand narrative of the ancient Indian epic `Ramayana` opened at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA)
  • Titled "The story of Rama: Indian Miniatures from the National Museum, New Delhi", the three-month show features paintings done between the 17th and 19th centuries. And it is the first major initiative under a recently-inked agreement on culture between India and Australia.
  • According to NGA director Gerard Vaughan, the exhibition of vibrant and exquisite Indian miniature paintings is important for the gallery. It forms part of our commitment to share the art and rich cultural heritage of India with all Australians
  • In November 2014 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of arts and culture between Australia and India was inked during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the continent-country.
  • The agreement demonstrates India`s readiness to partner with countries and celebrate the arts. National Museum`s curator Vijay Kumar Mathur, who has selected the 101 paintings in a chronological progression capturing the story of the Ramayana, revealed that the collection had been pooled in from India`s northern, central and eastern territories.
10) Palmyra is in control: IS
  • Islamic State fighters tightened their grip on the historic Syrian city of Palmyra on 21st May and overran Iraqi government defenses east of Ramadi, the provincial capital that they seized five days earlier. The twin successes not only pile pressure on Damascus and Baghdad but throw doubt on a U.S. strategy of relying almost exclusively on air strikes to support the fight against Islamic State.
  • The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the al Qaeda offshoot now controlled more than half of all Syrian territory after more than four years of conflict that grew out of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. 
  • The monitoring group added that Islamic State had seized the last border crossing between Syria and Iraq controlled by the Damascus government. The crossing is in Syria`s Homs province, where Palmyra is located. Fighters loyal to the Sunni Muslim group have also consolidated their grip on the Libyan city of Sirte, home town of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
  • Islamic State said that it was in full charge of Palmyra, including its military bases, marking the first time it had taken a city directly from the Syrian military and allied forces. The U.N. human rights office in Geneva said a third of Palmyra`s 200,000 residents may have fled the fighting in the past few days.
11) Thailand’s government to hold referendum on constitution
  • Thailand’s government agreed on 19th May to hold a public referendum on the newly drafted constitution, the prime minister and junta leader said, indicating that the decision could delay a general election. The move to amend the interim charter to allow the referendum comes after calls by several sides, including the charter’s drafters, for the public to be able to vote on whether they approve of the constitution.
  • The military abolished an earlier constitution after it took over power from an elected government in a May 2014 coup, and the government operates under a temporary charter. The junta later picked the drafters and a 250-member National Reform Council to help write a new constitution.
  • The Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order, the junta’s official name, agreed to hold the referendum
  • According to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha the process would take about three months and would affect the political road map that was laid out by the junta after the coup. This means a referendum will likely delay a general election that the government has said could take place early next year.
12) US NSA planned hack of Google app store : Report
  • The US National Security Agency developed plans to hack into data links to app stores operated by Google and Samsung to plant spyware on smartphones, a media report said on 22nd May.
  • The online news site The Intercept said US intelligence developed the plan with allies in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, a group known as the "Five Eyes" alliance. The report, based on a document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, said the plan aimed to step up surveillance efforts on smartphones. 
  • The plan appeared to have been discussed at meetings involving the intelligence services in 2011 and 2012, according to the classified document.
  • The project called "Irritant Horn" would allow the agencies to hijack data connections to app stores and surreptitiously implant malicious software on smartphones that would allow for data to be harvested.
  • The intelligence agencies could also use the spyware to send misinformation to targets to confuse potential adversaries, according to the report. 
  • The Intercept said the plan was motivated in part by concerns about the possibility of "another Arab Spring," or the spread of popular movements.
  • The agencies were particularly interested in the Africa region, especially Senegal, Sudan and the Congo but also targeted app store servers in France, Cuba, Morocco, Switzerland, Bahamas, the Netherlands and Russia.
  • At the time, the Google app store was called Android Market. It is now known as Google Play. In developing the plan the agencies found weaknesses in UC Browser, an app owned by Alibaba Group which is popular in China and India to browse the Internet and is used by some 500 million people worldwide. 
  • The document was also published in Canada by CBC News, which said the aim of the plan was to collect data on suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, including their online search queries, SIM card numbers, device IDs and the location of the smartphone.
  • In one case, according to the CBC, analysts found a foreign military using the UC Browser app to communicate covertly about its operations in Western countries.

13) IS takes full control of Syria`s Palmya city

  • Islamic State says it has full control of Syria`s Palmyra city; United Nations deeply concerned about citizens` plight; World powers acknowledge the millitants` gains as a "setback
  • Islamic State fighters tightened their grip on the historic Syrian city of Palmyra on 21st May and overran Iraqi government defences east of Ramadi, the provincial capital that they seized five days earlier.
  • The twin successes not only pile pressure on Damascus and Baghdad but throw doubt on a U.S. strategy of relying almost exclusively on air strikes to support the fight against Islamic State.
  • U.S. and coalition forces had conducted 18 air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq since 20th May, the U.S. military said.
  • The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the al Qaeda offshoot now controlled more than half of all Syrian territory after more than four years of conflict that grew out of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
  • The monitoring group added that Islamic State had seized the last border crossing between Syria and Iraq controlled by the Damascus government. The crossing is in Syria`s Homs province, where Palmyra is located.
14) EU-Ukraine sign 2 billion dollars loan deal to boost Ukrainian economy
  • The European Union and Ukraine have signed a 2 billion dollars loan deal in an effort to help revive the cash-strapped country`s economy. EU and Ukrainian officials signed the agreement today in Riga at a summit of leaders of EU nations and six post-Soviet countries.
  • The deal requires Ukraine to adopt a series of reforms including anti-corruption measures to remedy structural problems in its economy. At the Riga summit, the EU also promised grants of 223 million dollars to support small and medium-sized businesses in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
15) UNSC resolution for arms curb
  • The UN has adopted a resolution calling for stronger cooperation in stemming the illicit transfer and misuse of small arms and light weapons, underlining the suffering they have caused to civilians 
  • The UN Security Council adopted the resolution on 22nd May by a vote of nine in favour to none against, with six abstentions. The text recognises the importance of preventing the illicit transfers and sales of weapons and ammunition, including small arms and light weapons, to armed groups and criminal networks that target civilians and civilian objects.
  • In its resolution, the Security Council called on States to consider ratifying the Treaty or accede without delay. It identifies a wide range of areas in which international cooperation could be bolstered, recognising the importance of well-targeted and monitored sanctions regimes, appropriate UN peacekeeping mandates, effective reintegration and demobilisation programmes and security sector reform in that regard.
  • In the resolution, the members of the Council advocate the establishment or strengthening, as appropriate, of subregional and regional mechanisms for cooperation, coordination and information sharing, particularly cross-border customs cooperation and information exchange networks "in order to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit transfer, the destabilising accumulation and misuse of small arms and small arms." 
  • The Security Council also considers it necessary that Member States put in place, if it does not exist, laws, rules and administrative procedures to allow them to effectively control the production of small arms and small arms within their jurisdiction and the export, import, transit or retransfer of such weapons.
  • It also asked Member States, relevant United Nations entities and intergovernmental organisations, regional and subregional organisations in a position to do so to cooperate and exchange information on persons suspected of trafficking.
16) UNICEF launched development programme
  • UNICEF, the United Nations International Children`s Educational Fund and ARM have announced a multi-year partnership to accelerate the development of new technologies to overcome the barriers that prevent millions of families from accessing basic health, education and support services. ARM is a family of instruction set architectures for computer processors developed by British company ARM Holdings, based on a reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture.
  • The partnership`s first action is to collaborate with global product strategy and design firm frog on a `Wearables for Good` challenge to generate ideas for new and innovative devices that tackle maternal and child health needs in emerging economies.
  • The partnership will focus on enabling UNICEF to provide faster and more comprehensive help to children coping with the effects of mass urbanization and increased social and economic divides. Together, UNICEF and ARM will use their influence to encourage the tech sector to innovate for impact.
  • The multi-year partnership will include launch of Wearables for Good design challenge that will seek to optimise wearable and sensor technology for children`s welfare. Running over six months, the challenge invites developers, designers, community partners and problem-solvers to design a wearable device that offers a cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable solution to pressing maternal, newborn or child health problems.
  • ARM will work alongside UNICEF`s network of Innovation Labs and country offices to identify and scale up pilot projects that demonstrate the potential to be used at a national level. Over the next year, UNICEF and ARM will uncover the most impactful solutions being used or in trials across the UNICEF network and invest to deliver them wherever they are needed.
17) Nod for same sex marriage in Ireland
  • Ireland has become the first country to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote - 22 years after it legalised homosexuality.
  • On May 19, 1897, Wilde - one of Ireland`s most famous sons and one of Victorian era`s greatest writers was released from prison having served two years of hard labour for being a homosexual.
  • The Irish constitution will now read `Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex,` according to Frances Fitzgerald, minster for justice and equality.
  • The government said "Being of the same sex will no longer be an impediment to marriage. Existing civil partners may marry each other. Religious solemnisers will not be obliged to solemnise the marriage of a couple of the same sex. At a marriage ceremony, the parties to a marriage will declare that they accept each other as "husband and wife" or as "spouses of each other". There will be amendments to a number of Acts to replace the words "husband" and "wife" with the word "spouse". A change of gender would have no effect on a marriage".
18) Indian heritage center launched
  • Current Affirs Indian heritage Center has been launched by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 8th May. The center is located at the heart of Little India in the city state and which blends traditional Indian and modern architectural elements
  • The museum, which is the first one dedicated to Indian history, starts with the early interactions between South Asia and Southeast Asia, then goes on to feature the origins and movement of Indians from the 19th century to the 21st century.
  • The Little India center received a total of 368 artifacts through a collection drive in 2011. More than 200 of these pieces are now on display. 
  • The center cost the National Heritage Board 16 million Singaporean dollars (around $12 million) to build and 5 million Singaporean dollars more to fit it out. Ethnic Indians comprise around 9.1 percent of Singapore`s population of 3.9 million.
19) Taliban releases video of missile
  • Pakistani Taliban on 10th May released a video showing its militants with a surface-to-air missile which it claimed was used to bring down an Army helicopter in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) that killed seven people including two Ambassadors.
  • A video released by a jihadist media forum shows at least four masked militants with the surface-to-air missile (SAM-7B) allegedly used in hitting the Mi-17 that crashed in Naltar valley of Gilgit-Baltisitan in PoK.
  • The message claimed that the missile was fired from a distance of three km to down the helicopter on 8th May. Norwegian envoy Leif H. Larsen and Domingo D. Lucenario Jr. of the Philippines were killed along with the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian Ambassadors, besides two Army pilots and a Pakistani crew member after the helicopter crashed.
20) Swedish Supreme Court rejects Assange appeal
  • Sweden`s Supreme Court on 11th May has rejected an appeal by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange against his arrest warrant for alleged rape and sexual assault. Sweden issued the arrest warrant in 2010 following allegations from two Swedish women with the allegations. The Supreme Court noted in a statement that investigators have begun efforts to question Julian Assange in London and finds no reason to lift the arrest warrant.
  • Assange has been ensconced in Ecuador`s embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to the Scandinavian country. Assange, who faces arrest if he tries to leave the Ecuadorian embassy, has always vehemently denied the allegations and insisted the sexual encounters were consensual. Meanwhile Assange`s lawyer said that he has agreed to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London.
  • 42 killed, over 1000 injured as 7.3 magnitude quake hits Nepal
  • A new powerful earthquake and several strong after shocks shook Nepal on 12th May killing at least 42 people and triggering panic in the Himalayan nation already devastated by a massive temblor less than three weeks back that had claimed over 8,000 lives. The earthquake sent strong tremors through several eastern and northern parts of India leaving 19 dead while 39 others injured.
  • The earthquake struck at 12:35 PM, some 83 km east of Kathmandu near Mount Everest at a shallow depth of 15 km, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). The quake hit Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk districts - the worst-affected areas in the last month`s temblor. There were five more aftershocks measuring over 5 on the Richter Scale after the second tremor. The tremors were also felt in China, where one woman was killed in Tibet.
Hollande visits Cuba:
  1. Current Affirs French President Francois Hollande has met Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on a historic trip to Havana. Hollande is the first French president to visit Cuba since 1898, and the first Western head of state on the island since its thaw with Washington. He visited Cuba for the improvement of bilateral relations.
Burundi coup failed:
  1. Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza`s attempt to return home to tackle a coup has failed and he has returned to Tanzania where he was attending a summit. The plane turned back after 10 minutes as it would have been unable to land safely in Burundi. Earlier, Gen. Niyombare had ordered the closure of the airport to prevent Mr. Nkurunziza`s plane from landing.
21) The coup announced by Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare
  • According to a few reports in Burundi, the factions of the military still loyal to the President were in negotiations with those backing the coup to determine the next step. The loyalists still reportedly hold the presidential palace and main radio offices. The capital, Bujumbura, was said to be quiet last night. The UN and US have urged all sides to show restraint.
  • Coup leader arrested: Three leaders of a failed coup against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza have been arrested. However, coup leader General Godefroid Niyombare is "still on the run". The president has returned to the capital after being stuck in Tanzania. More than 105,000 people have fled the country since the unrest began last month, the UN says. 
  • The President of Burundi declared on 15th May that peace had returned, two days after a failed military coup left the African nation in a state of chaotic violence.
  • The attempted coup -- announced on 13th May over the radio by an army general while the President was out of the country -- was launched in the wake of deadly protests over Nkurunziza`s controversial intention to extend his rule beyond term limits. The unrest sparked fears that Burundi could plunge into ethnic violence, with the country`s history of civil war making it vulnerable to deep divisions. 
  • Shortly after the President returned from his Tanzania summit on 15th May, authorities said that they had arrested Army Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, as well as the others involved in the failed plot. They will be charged with mutiny in a military court, said Willy Nyamitwe.
22) Vatican recognizes Palestine
  • The Vatican announced on 13th May that it had brokered a treaty with the "state of Palestine. The treaty is expected to be signed "in the near future
  • The treaty is thought to mark the first time the Holy See has formally recognized Palestinian statehood in a legal document. 
  • Vatican policy, however, has long held that a two-state solution is the best road to peace in the Holy Land. The Vatican has referred to Palestine as a state since November 2012, when the United Nations voted to recognize it as a nonmember observer state.
23) Terror attack in Karachi; Pak Taliban claims responsibility
  • At least 47 people have been killed and several others injured after eight gunmen entered a bus and opened indiscriminate fire on passengers in Pakistan`s southern port city Karachi. According to police, more than 60 people were onboard the bus.The injured have been shifted to various hospitals by rescue workers. The heavily-armed militants donning police uniforms left behind a pamphlet of ISIS claiming responsibility for the attack.
Bill against NSA spying passed:
  1. In USA, the House voted to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would effectively shut down portions of the NSA’s controversial domestic spying program in their current form.
  2. The bill, passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 338 to 88, would put an end to the government’s bulk collection of phone records from U.S. telecoms—a program first uncovered by USA in 2006 and re-exposed in 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. 
  3. The bill instead calls for records to be retained by telecoms and forces the NSA to obtain court orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gain access to them. It also requires the agency to use specific search terms to narrow its access to only relevant records.