International Current Affairs
January 1st week 2015 current affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) Nepal Assembly forms panal on praposals

  • Nepal Constituent Assembly (CA) announced formation of a proposal committee to prepare questionnaire on the disputed issues of the new Constitution.A majority of lawmakers in the CA approved the move by voice vote when the CA Chair made the announcement as per Clause 91 of the CA Rules 2014. In the 73 member committee, 49 members were named
  • The committee is to study the report submitted by the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC). The PDCC, despite four extensions, could not resolve the disputes. The new committee has also been tasked to prepare ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ questions for voting.This paves the way for drafting the Constitution through the process of voting. The ruling parties have more than the required two-thirds majority to pass the Constitution.

2) Anti-austerity Syriza party wins Greece`s general elections

  • In Greece, anti-austerity Syriza party has won general election, putting the country on a possible collision course with the European Union over its massive bailout. With nearly 75 per cent of the votes counted, Syriza is projected to win 149 seats, just two short of an absolute majority, though that number could change.

3) Greece New PM Alexiz Tsipras

  • The head of Greece`s far-left Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, has been sworn in as prime minister and is set to lead an anti-austerity coalition government.Turning up for the ceremony without a tie, the leftist took the oath less than 24 hours after winning the general election on an anti-austerity platform.Earlier, he formed a coalition with the centre-right Independent Greeks.
  • Syriza, acronym meaning the "Radical Coalition of the Left", was formed in 2004 and is led by Alexis Tsipras, 40; first came to prominence after 2008 Greek riots. The Greek Independents, a right-wing party formed as a New Democracy splinter in 2012 and led by Panos Kammenos; hard line on immigration. Both allies want to end austerity and renegotiate Greece`s debt. 

What is Syriza?

  • A large portrait of Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg hangs in the Thessaloniki office of Nikos Samanidis, a founder member of Greece`s Coalition of the Radical Left, better known as Syriza.
  • With many Greeks exhausted by five years of recession, tax hikes and record unemployment rates, Syriza and its firebrand leader Alexis Tsipras are tipped to win the early elections that must be called, according to the Greek constitution, if parliament fails to elect a new head of state by 29 December.

4) Gates, UK take lead in $7.5 bln pledge for children`s vaccines

  • International donors pledged $7.5 billion on 27th January to immunise 300 million children in poor countries against deadly diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
  • At a Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) conference in Berlin, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the British government topped the donations list at $1.55 billion and $1.5 billion respectively.
  • German development minister Gerd Mueller said the total reached $7.54 billion, surpassing GAVI`s target of $7.5 billion, despite a stronger dollar complicating funding efforts.
  • Other major donors included the United States, Norway and Germany. China, a recipient of GAVI assistance early last decade, has now become a donor.
  • Gates, who has donated $4 billion to GAVI since it began 15 years ago, said there had been "amazing" progress but one in 20 children still died before their fifth birthday.
  • GAVI has provided vaccines to about 500 million children worldwide and saved 6-7 million lives from diseases like pneumonia, hepatitis B, diarrhoea and measles, working with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, World Bank and charities. 
  • GAVI funds immunisation for countries that cannot afford them, using its buying power to negotiate discounts from the likes of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres argues that it should strike even tougher deals.
5) Dubai Airport soared success
  • Dubai has soared ahead of London’s Heathrow, riding a boom in long-haul flights between Asia and the West to become the world’s top international travel hub, it said on 27th January.Traffic at the airport increased 6.1 per cent last year to 70.47 million passengers, Dubai Airports said, adding that it expected a further surge in traveller numbers in 2015.
  • Dubai International is home to Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier, which along with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad and Qatar Airways has seized a significant portion of travel between the West, Asia and Australasia.
6) Impeached Srilankan Chief Justice reinstated
  • Sri Lanka`s new president has reinstated the country`s chief justice, who was impeached two years ago after she refused to back a law granting wider powers to the former president`s brother, the government said on 28th January. 
  • Bandaranayake reassumed her duties 28th January afternoon but would retire after attending a farewell ceremony on Thursday. That would allow the government to appoint a new chief justice.
  • Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa built up immense power during his nine-year rule, including the ability to appoint the heads of formerly independent agencies. The government of new President Maithripala Sirisena, who defeated Rajapaksa in a Jan. 8 election, has been slashing the former leader`s influence and investigating corruption allegations against his family.
7) UN Security Council meets on Israel-Lebanon flare-up
  • The UN Security Council has met in an emergency session to discuss ways to defuse tensions between Israel and Lebanon after a deadly flare-up on the border. France requested the urgent talks in the 15-member council on 29th January, after two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish UN peacekeeper died in an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters.
  • The violence raised fears of another all-out conflict between the two countries, who fought a month-long war in 2006, in a region already wracked by fighting with Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq.
  • France was to present a draft statement to council members urging restraint.Tension in the area has been building, especially after an Israeli air strike on the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general on January 18.
  • Israel`s ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council in a letter that Israel will take all necessary measures to defend it. The clashes began when Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile at a military convoy in the Israel-occupied border area, prompting Israel to respond with air and ground strikes.
Why conflict between Israel and Lebanon?
  • The Israeli–Lebanese conflict is of military clashes. It involved three countries, apart from Israel, Lebanon, it also involves Syria. This started after Palaestine Liberation Organization’s recruitment of militantsin Lebanon from among the families of Palaestinianwho had been expelled or fled due to the creation of Israel in 1948.
  • After the PLO leadership and its Fatah brigade wereexpelled from Jordan for fomenting a revolt, they entered Lebanon and the cross-border violence increased. Meanwhile,demographic tensions over the Lebanese National Pact led to the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). Israel`s 1978 invasion of Lebanon pushed the PLO north of the Litani River, but the PLO continued their campaign against Israel. Israel invaded Lebanon again in 1982 and forcibly expelled the PLO. Israel withdrew to a slim borderland buffer zone, held with the aid of proxy militants in the South Lebanon Army (SLA). In 1985, Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia radical movement sponsored byIran, called for armed struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory. When the Lebanese civil war ended and other warring factions agreed to disarm, Hezbollah and the SLA refused. Combat with Hezbollah weakened Israeli resolve and led to a collapse of the SLA and an Israeli withdrawal in 2000 to their side of the UN designated border. Citing Israeli control of the Shebaa farms territory, Hezbollah continued cross border attacks intermittently over the next six years. Hezbollah now sought freedom for Lebanese citizens in Israeli prisons and successfully used the tactic of capturing Israeli soldiers as leverage for a prisoner exchange in 2004. The capturing of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah ignited the2006 Lebanon War. Its ceasefire called for the disarmament of Hezbollah and the remaining armed camps of the PLO, and for Lebanon to control its southern border militarily for the first time in four decades.
8) Tokyo is Safest City: The Economist report
  • Tokyo and Singapore has topped the list of safest cities in the world listed down by The Economist. The Economist`s Safe Cities Index looked at 50 cities and ranked them on more than 40 metrics that spanned four main categories i.e. digital security, health security, infrastructure safety and personal safety, the Huffington Post reported. 
  • Osaka, Japan and Stockholm, Sweden were ranked at third and fourth spot respectively. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Sydney, Australia, Zurich, Switzerland, Toronto, Canada, Melbourne, Australia, and New York, US were among other safest cities in the world. 
  • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Johannesburg, South Africa, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, Tehran, Iran, and Jakarta, Indonesia were some of the cities that were considered most dangerous cities to live in. The report notes that wealth and economic development is closely linked to city safety but certainly does not guarantee it.Researchers also stated that being statistically safe is not the same as feeling safe.

8) US, Iran talks at Switzerland

  • Top diplomats from Iran and the United States held substantive talks aimed at speeding up negotiations for a nuclear deal, with US Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks between Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif are aimed at breaking a stalemate which has caused them to miss two previous deadlines for a full agreement to rein in Iran`s suspect nuclear programme
  • Iranian and US diplomats resumed talks in Switzerland on 24th January, as the pace intensifies toward a complex deal on Tehran’s nuclear program.
  • Two days of meetings between Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and top US negotiator Wendy Sherman began, EU political director Helga Schmid was also taking part in the meetings
  • The talks are taking place less than a week after Araghchi met with Sherman and representatives for five other global powers in Geneva in a bid to hammer out a comprehensive deal which would rein in Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from a tight network of sanctions.
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry, who met last week in Geneva and then again in Paris with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss the nuclear negotiations, also returned to Switzerland 24th January.
  • Under an interim deal agreed in November 2013 by Tehran and the so-called P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany — Iran has frozen its uranium enrichment in exchange for limited sanctions relief. But two deadlines for a full accord cutting off Iran’s possible pathway to an atomic bomb have been missed.
  • Among issues complicating negotiations are hardliners in Washington and Tehran who appear willing to torpedo the efforts.
  • The new Republican-controlled US Congress is considering a fresh sanctions bill, despite strong opposition from President Barack Obama, who has threatened to veto any such legislation. If a sanctions bill does go through, some Iranian lawmakers have hinted they will push to resume unlimited uranium enrichment.

9) Boyhood`, `Budapest` take the cake at Golden Globes

  • Director Richard Linklater`s latest movie `Boyhood` has added another laurel to its kitty- the 72nd Golden Globes awards in three categories, including best drama, and best director, in Los Angeles on 18th January.Wes Anderson`s capricious film `The Grand Budapest Hotel` surprised all by sweeping the Golden Globe in the musical or comedy category.
  • Linklater’s masterpiece was shot over an astoundingly long period of 12 years, following the story and growth into adulthood of a boy from age seven through eighteen.
  • Adding to the film’s list of awards, actress Patricia Arquette clinched the best supporting actress Globe. Anderson`s eccentric flm about a colourful hotel concierge in `The Grand Budapest Hotel` beat frontrunners `Birdman` and recent releases `Into The Woods`, `Pride` and `St Vincent`, to the top slot.
  • The awards were commenced with tributes paid to the recent Charlie Hebdo victims by numerous Hollywood A- listers like George Clooney, Diane Kruger, Helen Mirren, Kathy Bates, Jared who also wore `Je suis Charlie` (I am Charlie) badges, expressing solidarity with the breaved.
  • Julianne Moore was awarded the best actress - drama trophy for her portrayal of a linguistic professor battling with an early onset of the Alzheimer’s in `Still Alice`.
  • This also was Amy Adams’ second consecutive Globe for her role as portraying a painter, Margaret Keane, in `Big Eyes` , Tim Burton`s movie inspired by real life.
  • She won the Globe in the best actress Comedy / Musical category this time after her last year’s award for `American Hustle`. 

10) IMF downgrades global growth forecast

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its forecast for global economic growth for this year and next. The IMF now expects growth of 3.5% this year, compared with the previous estimate of 3.8% which it made in October. The growth forecast for 2016 has also been cut, to 3.7%.
  • The downgrade to the forecasts comes despite one major boost for the global economy - the sharp fall in oil prices, which is positive for most countries. The IMF expects that to be more than offset by negative factors, notably weaker investment.
  • That in turn reflects diminished expectations about the growth prospects for many developed and emerging economies over the next few years. If business expects weaker growth, there is less opportunity to sell goods and services and so less incentive to invest.
  • The eurozone is a case in point. The IMF does expect the recovery there to continue, but not strongly. It is estimating growth of 1.2% in the euro area this year and 1.4% in 2016. For the European Central Bank, the immediate priority is to tackle the deflation, or falling prices, now under way.
  • The slowdown in China is another factor behind the revised forecasts. On Tuesday, official figures showed that China`s growth slowed to 7.4% last year, from 7.7% in 2013. Next year, the IMF growth forecast for China is 6.3%, compared with an average of 10% over the three decades up to 2010.
  • The sharpest downgrade of all is for Russia, which is forecast to see its economy contract by 3% this year and 1% next. That is the result of the fall in oil prices and what the report calls increased geopolitical tensions - in other words, the crisis in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Russia.