International Current Affairs
January 2nd week 2015 current affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) Richest 1% to own more than rest of world: Oxfam

  • The wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world`s population, according to a study by anti-poverty charity Oxfam. The charity`s research shows that the share of the world`s wealth owned by the richest 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% last year.
  • On current trends, Oxfam says it expects the wealthiest 1% to own more than 50% of the world`s wealth by 2016. The research coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The annual gathering attracts top political and business leaders from around the world.
  • Oxfam`s executive director Winnie Byanyima, who will co-chair the Davos event, said she would use the charity`s high-profile role at the forum to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor. In a statement ahead of the gathering, Ms Byanyima said the scale of global inequality was "simply staggering". 
  • Oxfam based its prediction on data from the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth datebook, which gives the distribution of global wealth going back to 2000. It uses the value of an individual`s financial and non-financial assets, mainly property and land, minus their debts to determine what individuals "own".
  • The data excludes wages or income. The BBC`s head of statistics, Anthony Reuben, said in order to be part of the wealthiest 1% of the world`s population, an individual would need to be worth just over half a million pounds. 
  • Oxfam is calling on governments to adopt a seven-point plan to tackle inequality, including a clampdown on tax evasion by companies and the move towards a living wage for all workers.
  • Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people).
  • It said that that comparison had now become even more stark, with the 80 richest people having the same wealth as the poorest 50%.
2) UNSC calls for lasting ceasefire in Yemen
  • UN Security Council has called for lasting ceasefire and dialogue to end the political and security crisis in Yemen. At its emergency meeting on 20th January, the 15 nation council expressed its support for President Mansour Hadi as the Houthi rebels seized the Presidential palace in the capital Sanaa. It has strongly condemned the attacks on the Presidential palace and called for all parties to rapidly engage in finalizing the constitution in a constructive manner. UN special envoy for Yemen, Jamal Benomar has been rushed to Sanaa to help restore stability.
  • Only a day after signing a ceasefire deal with the Yemeni army, the Shiite Houthi rebels backtracked and launched an assault to seize the Presidential Place in Sanaa on 20th January. They used heavy artillery and tanks to take over the palace at a time when President Haadi was inside meeting visitors.
  • Earlier on 19th January, nine persons were killed and 90 others were injured in the massive fighting between Houthi rebels and Yemeni army in the capital Sanaa.
3) Yemen government resigns amid rebel stand-off
  • In Yemen, President Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister KhaledBahah and his cabinet have resigned. The development comes a day after the President agreed to demands of Shia Houthi rebels, who stormed his palace and private home in Sana`a earlier this week. Yemeni Presidential adviser Sultan al-Atwani said Mansour Haadi submitted his resignation just hours after receiving the resignations of Prime Minister Khalid Bahah and his cabinet. However parliament speaker Yahia al-Rai refused to accept the President`s resignation. He has called an extraordinary session of parliament on Friday morning. Yemeni Prime Minister Bahah posted on his Facebook page that he doesn’t want to be a part of what is happening or will happen.
  • Meanwhile Houthi rebels continued to stand guard President Haadi`s home and palace despite having promised to withdraw militia and siege of both buildings. They have also not released the chief of Presidential staff, Ahmad Awad Bin Omar. Supporters of Haadi protested outside his residency in Sana’a, demanding to know where the president was. Houthi leaders said he would come out after implementing the power sharing agreement.

4) China accelerated drive on silk road

  • China has accelerated its drive to draw Africa into the Maritime Silk Road — Beijing’s ambitious transcontinental initiative — following the visit to the continent by Foreign Minister Wang Yi.Among the several themes covered during Mr. Wang’s five-nation visit, the push for speedy construction of a modern standard-gauge rail link between Nairobi and Mombasa was one of the star highlights.
  • The project to linkup the capital of Kenya and the country’s well-established port has much larger implications. Once it is through, the rail corridor will help connect the vast hinterland of East Africa with the Indian Ocean, making it a salient strategic project, which will add one more layer to the realisation of President Xi Jinping’s dream of establishing a 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
  • The Chinese undertook the project, clearly aware of the larger regional opportunities that it presented. Symbolically, this was evident when the leaders from Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan stood aside with visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Nairobi, along with representatives from Tanzania, Burundi and the African Development Bank, to sign a deal on the project.
  • Hoping to avoid the vulnerable Malacca strait, the Chinese are building rail corridors from Kunming, Yunnan’s capital, to Myanmar and Thailand via landlocked Laos. China has signed an agreement to build a rail corridor that will connect Yunnan with Myanmar’s port city of Kyaukphyu on the Bay of Bengal, thus bypassing Malacca straits. Kyaukphyu is also the starting point of the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline, and enters China at the city of Ruili.
  • With Laos, the China-Vientiane railroad project is expected to be completed by 2018. China has recently approved a $23 billion project, which includes a high-speed link between ChaingKhong, just south of the Laos’ capital Vientiane, and Ban Phachi in Thailand.
5) Cuba, U.S. open talks
  • The United States and Cuba launch talks on 22nd January on restoring diplomatic relations after a contentious session on immigration accentuated the difficulties in overcoming half a century of hostilities. The highest-level U.S. delegation in 35 years will conclude two-day talks in Havana, with both sides cautioning an immediate breakthrough was unlikely.
  • Senior U.S. officials say they hope Cuba will agree to reopen embassies and appoint ambassadors in each other`s capitals in coming months. The United States also wants travel curbs on its diplomats lifted and unimpeded shipments to its mission in Havana.
  • During talks on 21st January, the Americans vowed to continue granting safe haven to Cubans with special protections denied to other nationalities.
  • Cuba complained the U.S. law promotes dangerous illegal immigration and protested against a separate U.S. program that encourages Cuban doctors to defect, calling it a reprehensible brain drain practice.
  • As her deputy sparred with the Cuban officials over immigration policy, the lead U.S. negotiator in the diplomatic talks, Roberta Jacobson, arrived in Havana aboard a commercial charter from Miami. 
  • She became the first U.S. assistant secretary of state to travel to the communist-led island in 38 years and the highest-ranking visitor in 35 years. Her Cuban counterpart will be Josefina Vidal, director of the foreign ministry`s U.S. affairs, who also participated in the immigration talks.
  • The meetings are the first since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 they would work to restore diplomatic ties snapped by Washington in 1961.
  • Despite resistance from some in Congress, Obama has set the United States on a path toward removing economic sanctions and a 53-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he looked forward to formally opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba. Kerry also said he was prepared, when the time was right, to meet his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, with whom he has only talked by telephone.
  • In his annual State of the Union speech on 20th January, Obama urged Congress to start work on ending the embargo but critics say Obama first needs to win concessions on Cuban political prisoners and democratic rights, the claims of U.S. citizens whose property was nationalized after Cuba`s 1959 revolution, and U.S. fugitives who have received asylum in Cuba.
Sought to reopening embassies:
  1. Cuban officials sat down on 22nd January with the highest-level US delegation to visit Havana in 35 years for landmark talks on reopening embassies and thawing long frozen ties.US assistant secretary of state Roberta Jacobson, the most senior US official on the communist-ruled island since 1980, led the American delegation as the Cold War-era rivals opened a second day of meetings. 
  2. Cuba was represented by the director of the foreign ministry`s US affairs department, Josefina Vidal, at the capital`s Convention Centre. The two sides claimed a good first day on 21st January despite persistent disagreements over US migration policies, which Havana says encourages Cubans to flee to nearby Florida. 
  3. US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the two sides still have much to negotiate before they can normalize ties frozen since 1961.Cuban officials have also downplayed expectations of major breakthroughs this week, stressing that normalising ties will be a long and complex process. 
Immigration row:
  • Cuba complained that the US law promotes dangerous illegal immigration and protested against a separate US programme that encourages Cuban doctors to defect
  •  However, the Americans vowed to continue granting safe haven to Cubans with special protections denied to other nationalities
  • The US also wants travel curbs on its diplomats lifted and unimpeded shipments to its mission in Havana
  • Roberta Jacobson became the first US assistant secretary of state to travel to the communist-led island in 38 years and the highest-ranking visitor in 35 years
6) Pakistan bans Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Haqqani Network
  • Pakistan has included Jamaat-ud-Dawa led by 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and Haqqani network in the list of proscribed organisations. The step was taken after pressure heaped on Pakistan to stop making a distinction between good and bad militants following a deadly Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar that killed 150 people. After the ban, the assets of these groups will be frozen.
  • The Haqqani network, founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, has been blamed for the Indian embassy bombing in Afghanistan in 2008 that left 58 people dead, a 2011 attack on the US embassy in Kabul, and several big truck bombing attempts in Afghanistan.


7) Thai Ex-Premier Yingluck impeached

  • Thailand`s first woman premier Yingluck Shinawatra was on 23rd January banned from politics for five years and faces criminal charges for negligence that could put in jail for up to 10 years, in a heavy blow to the ousted leader`s powerful family that has ruled the nation for years.
  • Thailand`s military-appointed legislature voted to successfully impeach Yingluck Shinawatra. Yingluck was impeached by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) over a controversial rice subsidy scheme, which, though popular, cost billions of dollars and triggered protests that toppled her government. Under the scheme, the crop was purchased from farmers at around twice the market prices. The vote, that implies Yingluck will be banned from politics for five years, came hours after the attorney general`s office announced plans to indict her on criminal charges for negligence related to the rice programme. Yingluck will face criminal charges in the Supreme Court and if found guilty faces up to 10 years in jail, the Attorney General`s Office said.
8) South Korea launches world`s second-biggest carbon market
  • Trading started on 12th January in South Korea`s new emissions trading scheme, which will impose caps on emissions from 525 of the country`s biggest companies and becomes the world`s second biggest carbon market. The new market is a key component in the government`s plan to meet a target of limiting climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 to 30 percent below current levels. 
  • Under the scheme, South Korea`s power generators, petrochemical firms, steel producers, car makers, electro-mechanical firms and airlines have been given a fixed amount of permits to cover their emissions for the next three years.
  • The government has set the total amount of allowed emissions for the 2015 to 2017 period at 1.687 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Any company emitting more than they have permits to cover must buy allowances from others in the market.
  • On 12th January trading, a first batch of permits went through at 7,860 won ($7.26) each before the price climbed to 8,640 won ($7.97), similar to price levels in the European market, the world`s biggest.
  • In the first day of trading, four deals for a total of 1,040 permits went through on the Korea Exchange (KRX), which hosts trading under the scheme.
  • The Korean trading scheme has no links to the international carbon market and participation is restricted to companies directly covered by the scheme, with the exception of three policy banks. Commercial banks and trading houses are excluded.
  • South Korea is the second country in Asia after Kazakhstan to launch a nationwide emissions market. Regional schemes are in operation in China and Japan. The EU market will be dwarfed by the eventual national scheme in China, which should be fully operational in 2020.
9) World leaders join millions in March for `unity` in Paris
  • World leaders joined nearly 4 million people on the streets of Paris and around France on 11th January in solidarity with the victims of a terror spree that killed 17 people in the first week of January 2015.
  • Over 40 world leaders joined the start of the Paris march, linking arms in an act of solidarity. French President Francois Hollande and leaders from Germany, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Britain, Russia and the Palestinian territories among others, moved off from the central `Place de la Republique` ahead of a sea of French and other flags. This march was organized shortly after the march of attack on French magazine, `Charlie Hebdo`.
Back ground:
  • On 7 January 2015, two Islamist gunmen forced their way into and opened fire in the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve: staff cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski, economist Bernard Maris, editors Elsa Cayat and Mustapha Ourrad, guest Michel Renaud, maintenance worker Frédéric Boisseau and police officers Brinsolaro and Merabet, and wounding eleven, four of them seriously.
  • Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly newspaper,featuring cartoons, reports, polemics, and jokes. Irreverent and stridently non-conformist in tone, the publication describes itself as strongly anti-racist, anti-religiousand left-wing, publishing articles on the extreme right, religion (Catholicism, Islam, Judaism), politics, culture, etc.
  • The magazine has been the target of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and in 2015, presumed to be in response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it published. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including Charbonnier and several contributors.