International Current Affairs
May 4th week 2015 current affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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".
6) 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.
7) 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.

8) 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.
9) 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:
  • 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.
10) 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.
11) 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.

12) 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.
13) Attack aiming Indian Ambassador in Afghanistan
  • In Afghanistan, 11 people including 4 Indians and an American were among those killed when Taliban gunmen stormed a guesthouse in Kabul. The attack was targeted at the Indian Ambassador. 
  • Soon after the gunmen stormed the guest house, Afghan National Security Forces including Special Forces arrived and began striking back the attackers and also rescuing those under siege inside the guest house. All three attackers were killed in the siege that lasted for about seven hours. The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a popular guesthouse in Kabul that officials said killed at least 11 people, including foreigners attending a dinner and arriving for a concert.
14) UN assures India of taking up Lakhvi release issue
  • Current Affirs A UNSC committee has assured India that it will take up the issue of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi. The assurance came after India expressed concern that the LeT commander`s release from a Pakistani jail violates the provisions of the global body.
  • India`s Ambassador to the UN Asoke Mukerji had written a letter to the Chair of the UNSC Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee Ambassador Jim McLay expressing concern over Lakhvi`s release and saying that it violates the provisions of the committee concerning al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities.
  • India also pointed out that as a listed terrorist, Lakhvi can neither receive or give money since all his assets and financial resources have to be frozen. Any bail money posted for Lakhvi is also a violation of the provisions of the sanctions committee since he is listed terrorist. A Pakistani court had on the 9th of April set Lakhvi free.
Peace talk of Syria revived:
  1. The U.N.’s peace envoy for Syria on 5th May launched wide-ranging consultations in Geneva with regional and domestic players, including Iran, in a bid to revive stalled talks to end the conflict.
  2. Staffan de Mistura said talks with the Syrian government and some 40 groups, including “political, military actors, women, civil society, victims, the diaspora,” would also rope in some 20 regional and international players.
  3. Iran, a key player in the conflict, was excluded from the stalled Geneva I and Geneva II peace deals. The current dialogue will also include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The consultations will be held on a one-to-one basis between the U.N. and the separate players. Terror groups such as the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra have not been invited but groups in contact with them are on the cards.
15) Iran, World powers toil to overcome divisions in Nuclear talks
  • Iran and world powers are struggling to overcome deep divisions on two core sticking points in talks on a possible nuclear deal, reimposing UN sanctions if the Iranians violate the agreement and how Tehran can buy atomic technology, according to envoy 
  • Negotiators are wrapping up nearly a week of talks in New York on 5th May, the latest round in 18 months of discussions aimed at clinching a long -term deal by Jun 30 to curb Iran`s nuclear programme in exchange for an end to sanctions.
  • The current talks have been taking place on the sidelines of a conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The negotiations between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union will resume in Vienna next week. The Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iranian state television that atmosphere of the talks was good and it is possible to reach the final deal by Jun 30.
16) US authorizes commercial ferry services to Cuba
  • The United States has authorized commercial ferry services to Cuba for the first time in over a half-century on 5th May, another major step in improving relations between the two countries
  • The US Treasury`s Office of Foreign Assets Control lifted the ban and at least one Florida company confirmed it had been licensed to launch boat services to Cuba. Ferry services between Cuba and the United States was cut off in the early 1960s, following the Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
17) Spain named world`s most tourist-friendly country
  • A report released by the World Economic Forum shows that Spain topped this year`s world rankings and Japan was listed as the most competitive tourism destination in Asia. Other popular traveling destinations including France, Germany, Britain and Switzerland have all managed to hold onto their top positions in the global rankings. East Asia has become the most dynamic travel region in the world in recent years due to the rapid growth in the number of both international and local tourists.
18) Saudi Arabia proposes ceasefire in Yemen
  • Saudi Arabia on 7th May proposed a five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen to allow aid deliveries, and the United States called on Iran-backed Huthi rebels to accept the offer. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, whose country is leading a coalition conducting air strikes on the Yemen rebels, announced the proposal after talks with visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
19) Conservatives victory in elections
  • UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservatives won a resounding victory in the British general election, with complete results on 8th May showing that the party had secured an overall majority in Parliament. The vote was a stunning disappointment for the opposition Labour Party and its leader, Ed Miliband, who had shifted the party away from the more centrist strategy it pursued in the late 1990s and early 2000s under Tony Blair. 
  • The Conservatives won 331 of 650 seats in the House of Commons, a gain of 24 seats from the last election, in 2010. Their chief rival, Labour, was nearly wiped out in Scotland by the surging Scottish National Party and did more poorly than pre-election opinion polls had suggested it would in the rest of Britain. The results were also a disaster for Nick Clegg and his centrist Liberal Democrats, who have been the junior partner in a coalition with the Conservatives. Labour Party could win merely 232 seats.
20) Ambassadors of Norway, Philippines died in chopper crash
  • Seven persons including the ambassadors of the Philippines and Norway were killed in a Pakistani military helicopter crash on 8th May. Four foreigners, including ambassadors of Philippine and Norway and wives of Malaysian and Indonesian ambassador and three Pakistani nationals counting two pilots and one crew member were killed in the crash.
  • In Mi-17 helicopter, the six Pakistanis and 11 foreigners were on board caught fire following a crash during an emergency landing, into a school in Gilgit-Baltistan of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
21) Two fresh tremors in Nepal
  • Two fresh tremors were felt in Nepal on 8th May, triggering panic among the people still reeling from the impact of the devastating earthquake that has claimed nearly 8,000 lives. The epicenter of the tremors being Sindhupal chowk and Dolakha districts, east of Kathmandu.
  • About 150 aftershocks measuring 4 or more on the Richter scale have been reported after the April 25 quake. Toll due to the earthquake has reached 7,885 so far, while the number of injured has shot up to 17,803.
  • According to UNICEF, nearly a million children will not be able to return to school in the wake of earthquake in Nepal unless urgent action is taken. The international charity says nine out of 10 schools have been destroyed in the worst-affected districts. Almost 24,000 classrooms were damaged or destroyed in the disaster that hit the country 12 days ago. Unicef is attempting to set up temporary learning spaces for children. Currently, all schools are closed in Nepal, although many of those still standing are being used as emergency shelters.
22) US, Saudi agree to ceasefire in Yemen fighting
  • United States and Saudi officials have agreed to pursue a humanitarian pause in Yemen, where fighting by Shi`ite Houthi rebels has forced thousands of people to flee the country. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Saudi counterpart, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, said efforts were underway to forge a five day ceasefire in Yemen to send in humanitarian aid. 
  • They said the ceasefire would be renewable, depending on the conditions on the ground. The Saudi Foreign Minister also said more details would be announced within the coming days about the proposed pause, which would affect all of Yemen.
23) Egypt to rebuild Lighthouse of Alexandria
  • Egypt’s Supreme Antiquities Council has approved the rebuilding of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Lighthouse, which was built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom in 280 BC, once stood at approximately 450 feet tall.
  • Now, centuries after it was badly damaged by a number of earthquakes, Egypt is seeking to rebuild the lighthouse near its original location. The Lighthouse, also known as the Pharos Lighthouse, was commissioned shortly after Alexander the Great died in the 3rd Century.