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February 4th week 2015 current affairs
Author : uppy
Category : International Current Affairs
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February 4th week 2015 current affairs

1) Obama’s $4tn budget sets up fight with GOP

  • President Barack Obama sent to Congress a $4 trillion budget that seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and increase domestic spending.
  • The annual budget proposals are more like wish lists than initiatives soon to become law. Congress is now fully controlled by Republicans who oppose Obama`s proposals. And the budget resolutions eventually approved by Congress would be non-binding.
  • But budgets influence the spending bills that determines how much Americans will be taxed and how government programs will be funded.
  • In a lengthy run-up to 2nd February budget release, the Obama administration said its budget represented a strategy to strengthen the middle class
  • The new budget offers an array of spending programs and tax increases on the wealthy that Republican lawmakers have already rejected. But it puts Republicans in the politically awkward position of rejecting tax cuts for middle-class families.
  • The president also wants to give a huge boost to spending on infrastructure, funded by a one-time tax on profits US companies have amassed overseas.
  • Obama would ease tight budget constraints imposed on the military and domestic programs back in 2011, when attempts at a bipartisan budget deal failed. His budget will propose easing those painful, automatic cuts to the military and domestic agencies with a 7 percent increase in annual appropriations.
  • Obama`s fiscal blueprint, for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, would leave a deficit of $474 billion. Obama`s budget plan never reaches balance over the next decade and projects the deficit would rise to $687 billion in 2025. 
  • The administration contends that various spending cuts and tax increases would trim the deficits by about $1.8 trillion over the next decade, leaving the deficit at manageable levels. 
  • Republicans rejected: Republicans in control of Congress summarily rejected US President Barack Obama`s $4 trillion budget. The ink was barely dry on Obama`s proposal -- which would bypass mandatory spending caps and post a $474 billion deficit -- before Republicans came out en masse to make clear it will not become law.
2) Serbia and Croatia claims rejected
  • The International Court of Justice has rejected claims of genocide by Serbia and Croatia against each other during the Croatian war of secession from Yugoslavia. The Croatian government had alleged that Serbia committed genocide in the town of Vukovar and elsewhere in 1991.
  • Serbia later filed a counter-claim over the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia. About 20,000 people died during the 1991-1995 war, mostly Croatians. 
  • The Croatian town of Vukovar was devastated when it was occupied by Serbs for three months in 1991. Tens of thousands of ethnic Croats were displaced, and about 260 Croat men were detained and killed. Four years later, the Croatian military`s Operation Storm bombarded the majority ethnic-Serb Krajina area, forcing about 200,000 people from their homes. 
  • A brief back ground: The Republic of Croatia filed the suit against the Yugoslavia on July 2, 1999, citing Article IX of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
  • The Republic of Serbia counter-filed a genocide lawsuit against the Republic of Croatia on January 4, 2010.
  • The application covers missing people; killed people, refugees, expelled people and all military actions and concentration camps with historical account of World War II persecution of Serbs committed by the Independent State of Croatia, puppet state of Nazi Germany, and Ustaše, a pro-Nazi Croatian group, during World War II. Both applications have a financial aspect, seeking compensation of damages.
3) UK nod for three parent babies
  • Britain on 3rd February created history by becoming the first country to legalize children conceived with DNA from three parents after lawmakers voted in favour of the controversial procedure
  • In the House of Commons, 382 MPs were in favor and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child. A further vote is required in the House of Lords for complete clearance.
  • The British Parliament was to decide whether to allow the creation of IVF babies using DNA from three people - mother, father and a female donor. The technique is aimed at preventing deadly genetic diseases being passed from mother to child and is expected to help about 150 couples a year.
  • Under the proposed change to the laws on in-vitro fertilization (IVF), as well as receiving normal "nuclear" DNA from its mother and father, the embryo would also include a small amount of healthy mDNA from a woman donor. Experts believe that the use of mDNA from a second woman could potentially help around 2,500 women in Britain at risk of passing on harmful mDNA mutations.
  • Brief note on three parent babies: Three-parent babies are human offspring with three genetic parents, created through a specialized form of In vitro fertilization in which the future baby`s mitochondrial DNA comes from a third party. The procedure is intended to prevent mitochondrial diseases including Diabetes mellitus and deafness and some heart and liver conditions
  • The process of producing a three-parent baby, Three Parent In Vitro Fertilization (TPIVF), involves taking the nucleus of one egg and inserting it into the cytoplasm of another egg which has had its nucleus removed, but still contains mitochondrial DNA, and then fertilizing the hybrid egg with a sperm. The purpose of the procedure is to remove a nucleus from a cell with defective mitochondria and place it in a donor cell with healthy mitochondria, which after fertilization will contain a nucleus with genetic material from only the two parents.
4) Jordan executes two jihadists
  • Jordan has executed two convicts, including a female jihadist, following the killing of one of its air force pilots by Islamic State (IS) militants. The woman, failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, and al-Qaeda operative ZiyadKarboli - both Iraqi nationals - were hanged
  • The executions came hours after IS posted a video appearing to show pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive. He was seized after crashing during an anti-IS mission over Syria in December. Jordan had attempted to secure Lt Kasasbeh`s release in a swap involving Rishawi, but IS is believed to have killed him a month ago.

5) China tightens rules on internet use, online comments

  • China has tightened Internet controls with new rules that require users to register their real names and barring online material that challenges the country`s political system. The rules issued on 4th February follow what technology companies to block use of virtual private networks to circumvent Chinese Internet filters.
  • The new rules apply to blogs, online discussion forums and other forums that allow Chinese to express themselves in public in a society in which all media are state-controlled. The rules say Internet companies are required to confirm the identities of their users. It says users that post material deemed to challenge state power or national unity will lose their accounts.
6) Cancer cases may rise sharply: WHO
  • The number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by about 70 per cent globally over the next two decades, the World Health Organisation has cautioned. WHO has released data on 4th February. This day is celebrated as Cancer day. According to World Health Organization,
  1. There were 14 million new cases of cancer.
  2. Over eight million people died of cancer in 2012, with 60 per cent of these deaths reported in Africa, Asia and Central and South America.
  3. Cancer was among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally in 2012, and as per India’s Cancer Incidence Report (2009-2011), from 10,57,204 cases in 2012, the number went up to 10,86,783 in 2013 and to 11,17,269 in 2014.
  4. According to the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry (India), the estimated mortality every year is five lakh in the country.
  • The WHO, which has launched a global drive to prevent premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by 25 per cent by 2025, has called for vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV), reducing exposure to non-ionizing radiation by sunlight and ionizing radiation (occupational or medical diagnostic imaging) and early detection.
  • It said more than 30 per cent of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, which include tobacco use, obesity, unhealthy diet, urban air pollution and indoor smoke from the household use of solid fuels. Owing to the increasing cancer cases and the burden they put on the health budget, the Ministry of Health in India has rolled out cancer screening programmes.
Egypt court upholds death sentence of Muslim Brotherhood supporters
An Egypt court upholds death sentence of 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters for attack on police station near Cairo. The attackers were convicted over the deaths of at least 11 officers in Kerdasa. A court in Egypt has upheld death sentences on 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters over a 2013 attack on a police station near Cairo. The men were convicted over the deaths of at least 11 officers in Kerdasa. The attack took place after Egyptian military forces cracked down on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi that July, 2013.


7) Conference on Tamil Language in Singaore

  • Current Affirs A three-day conference on Tamil language computing and Tamil internet will be held in Singapore by the end of May and international experts have started work on their papers to be presented at the event. The event is scheduled May 30 to June 1
  • Tamil teachers from around the world would also join the conference themed "Natural Language Processing and Mobile Computing". 
  • The Tamil computing development began in 1997 at the National University of Singapore with about 25 academics having brainstormed the importance of computerization.
  • The annual conference has since been held in different places in India, the US, Malaysia and Singapore which is organized by the California-registered International Forum of Information Technology in Tamil (INFITT), a non-profit global organization for the language.
  • The Tamil language computing began with a standard keyboard of 99 characters and has since progressed to international encoding and uni-code methods
  • Tamil is also one of the four official languages in Singapore along with English, Chinese and Malay. Singapore hosts the INFITT secretariat with the government support. Singapore will host the annual Tamil Language Festival in April.
8) Rebels take over Yemen
  • Yemen`s Shia Houthi rebel movement has announced it is taking over the government and dissolving parliament. A five-member council would act as the president for an interim period.The group took control of the capital Sanaa in September, forcing the resignation of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in January. 
  • Yemen is in the grip of its most severe crisis in years, with Houthi rebels having taken over large parts of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.
  • The Houthis are members of a rebel group, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), who adhere to a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. Zaidis make up one-third of the population and ruled North Yemen under a system known as the imamate for almost 1,000 years until 1962. The Houthis take their name from Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi. He led the group`s first uprising in 2004 in an effort to win greater autonomy for their heartland of Saada province, and also to protect Zaidi religious and cultural traditions from perceived encroachment by Sunni Islamists.
  • After Houthi was killed by the Yemeni military in late 2004, his family took charge and led another five rebellions before a ceasefire was signed with the government in 2010
  • In 2011, the Houthis joined the protests against then President Ali Abdullah Saleh and took advantage of the power vacuum to expand their territorial control in Saada and neighbouring Amran province.
  • They subsequently participated in a National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which led to President Hadi announcing plans in February 2014 for Yemen to become a federation of six regions.The Houthis oppose the plan, which they say will leave them weakened.
9) UN prepares resolution to confront Islamic State on oil, antiquities
  • In a show of unity by the world powers against the Islamic State, the United Nations Security Council is preparing to adopt a legally binding resolution intended to choke the terrorist group`s ability to trade in oil, antiquities and hostages.
  • The draft resolution requires all 193 member states of the United Nations to prevent the sale of antiquities from Syria, similar to a measure the Council passed 10 years ago regarding antiquities from Iraq. It also calls for sanctions against those who help the banned terrorist organisation produce and smuggle oil out of Syria, and reminds all countries around the world that it is already illegal to pay the group ransom in exchange for hostages.
  • In a measure of rare consensus among world powers about the need to confront the Islamic State, the draft resolution was proposed by Russia and backed by the United States and other Western powers.
  • The draft resolution is under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, though it does not authorize the use of military force. Council resolutions already prohibit providing financial support of any kind to the Islamic State, as well as to a Qaida affiliate operating in Syria known as the Nusra Front.
  • The draft measure cites the trade in oil, making it specifically illegal to buy oil produced or sold by those groups, or to supply equipment to help them run oil refineries, though the plummeting price of oil is believed to have reduced how much the group earns from doing so.
  • The draft also refers to a previous resolution that prohibits the payment of ransom to banned terrorist organizations, though it does not specifically address the issue of prisoner exchanges. A United Nations panel late last year estimated that the Islamic State received more than $35 million in ransom payments over the past year, though it could not quantify how much it made from the sale of antiquities, directly or from taxing dealers who operated in its territory.
  • The draft resolution does not add any new names to the list of individuals who face sanctions already, though it asks a United Nations sanctions committee to "immediately consider designations of individuals and entities engaged in oil trade-related activities."



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