International Current Affairs
January 4th week 2015 current affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) Media organizations join in drone-test programme

  • Ten US media organizations including the New York Times and Washington Post announced a coalition to test drones for news gathering in collaboration with Virginia Tech University.
  • The initiative is "designed to conduct controlled safety testing of a series of real-life scenarios where the news media could use small UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) technology to gather the news," according to a statement from the media coalition.
  • Virginia Tech is among a small number of institutions authorized to conduct testing on various civilian applications for drones as the US Federal Aviation considers rules for these systems.Some drones going onto the market are designed as toys, while others have various applications for industries or agriculture, and online retailer Amazon wants to use drones for deliveries.
2) ICC opens inquiry on war crimes
  • The International Criminal Court, ICC has opened an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories by Israel. In a statement, the Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda announced that she has opened a preliminary examination into the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • The move comes after Palestinian Authority joined the Court and accepted its jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since 13th of June, 2014. The prosecutors would examine independently and impartially the crimes that may have occurred since June 13 last year. This allows the court to probe the civil war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza in July-August 2014 in which which more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed.
  • Israel has condemned the ICC decision as scandalous. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the decision was intended to harm Israel`s right to defend itself from terror and motivated by political anti-Israel considerations.
  • Lieberman questioned why the ICC was silent when more than two lakh people were killed in Syria. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki welcomed the move. He said everything is going according to plan, no state and nobody can now stop this action and in the end a full investigation will follow.
3) New Leadership in Mali
  • Modibo Keita is a Malian politician who was appointed as Prime Minister of Mali in January 2015. He previously served as Prime Minister for less than three months, from 18 March 2002 to 8 June 2002; he was the final prime minister appointed by President Alpha Oumar Konare.
  • In April 2014, he was appointed as President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita`s chief representative for negotiations with rebels. President Keita subsequently appointed him to succeed Moussa Mara as Prime Minister on 8 January 2015 
  • Before him Moussa Mara was the Prime Minister. But he resigned under pressure from the President of the strife-torn West African nation. Mara left the job after just eight months
  • Modibo Keita has been leading peace negotiations with rebel groups. Modibo Keita had been appointed as the president`s representative in peace talks that began in July bringing together the government and rebels based in northern Mali.
  • Mali`s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita named seven new ministers on 10th January, with cabinet members replaced in key defence and economy posts in the strife-torn west African nation.
  • The new government faces many challenges in the conflict-hit country, which descended into crisis in 2012 after Islamist groups seized control of its vast northern desert for several months, prompting a French-led military intervention.
4) Sirisena, Srilanka’s new President
  • Maithripala Sirisena won in the Srilankan Presidential Election. These elections were held on 9th January. With this election the 10 year rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa came to an end. Sworn-in along with him was his new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who till now was the leader of opposition. Both of them took the oath of office at a ceremony in the Independence Square. Supreme Court Justice K Sripavan administered the oath to Sirisena.
  1. Eelections were held in Sri Lanka on 8 January 2015, two years ahead of schedule.
  2. The incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the United People`s Freedom Alliance`s candidate, seeking a third term in office.
  3. The United National Party (UNP)-led opposition coalition chose to field Maithripala Sirisena, the former Minister of Health in Rajapaksa`s government and general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) – the main constituent party of the UPFA — as its common candidate.
  4. Sirisena was declared the winner after receiving 51.28% of all votes cast compared to Rajapaksa`s 47.58%.


5) U.N. confirms Palestinians will be ICC member on April 1

  • United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed the Palestinians will formally become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1 and the court`s registrar said on 7th January that jurisdiction would date back to June 13, 2014.
  • This means the court`s prosecutor could investigate the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in July and August 2014, during which more than 2,100 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed. 
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC), governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
  • The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands. Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities. 
  • The Hague-based court handles war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It could exercise jurisdiction over such crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory. Israel, like the United States, is not a an ICC member, but its citizens could be tried on accusations of crimes on Palestinian land.The Palestinian government signed the Rome Statute on Dec. 31, a day after a bid for independence by 2017 failed at the U.N. Security Council.
  • The Palestinians, who have been locked in a bloody conflict with Israel for decades, seek a state that covers Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem - lands Israel captured in a 1967 war.
6) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to visit Pakistan
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Pakistan this month, shortly after certifying the Pakistan government’s “action against” Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). Kerry will lead the Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad later in January, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry announced
  • The certificate is a condition for the U.S. to disburse funds under the Kerry-Lugar Bill for civilian aid to Pakistan that was co-authored by Mr. Kerry in 2009. This year’s grant of $532 million to Pakistan will be disbursed shortly, as the Congress gave its nod to President Obama, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson disclosed.
7) Women-only buses in Nepal capital
  • Nepal has introduced women-only minibuses in its capital city, in an attempt to protect female passengers from sexual assault. The initiative has begun with "women-only" signs being placed on four 17-seater minibuses and they will operate on key routes in Kathmandu during morning and evening rush hour. Only one of the buses currently has a female conductor, but he said the goal was to eventually employ an all-women crew.
  • In a 2013 World Bank survey, 26% of female respondents aged between 19 and 35 said they had experienced some form of sexual assault on public transport in Nepal. In 2011, a 21-year-old Buddhist nun was gang-raped in a bus in eastern Nepal by five men, including the bus driver.
  • Complaints about groping prompted authorities in neighbouring India to introduce women-only carriages on the metro system in the capital New Delhi in 2010
8) International Hindi conference in New Jersey
  • The International Hindi Conference with the theme of "Expanding World of Hindi: Possibilities and Challenges," would be held in New Jersey in April. To be attended by Hindi scholars from various parts of the world, in particular from the US and India between April 3-5, participants of the International Hindi Conference would discuss the current status of the teaching and learning of Hindi among other things.

9) More women, minorities in new U.S. Congress

  • The new 114th U.S. Congress counts more minorities and women than ever, although lawmakers remain overwhelmingly white and male in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate. A record 104 women are in the new Congress, and for the first time, African-American members of both genders are representing both parties. No seats in Congress are reserved for women or minorities.
  • The number of woman lawmakers is up slightly from 100 at the close of the last Congress, but represents about 20 per cent of the total in Congress. It’s far less than the nearly 51 per cent of the U.S. population.
  • A total of 84 women will serve in the House, compared with 80 in the last Congress. The House will also have 44 African-Americans, 34 Hispanic lawmakers and two Native Americans.
10) Palestinian statehood resolution fails at UNSC
  • The UN Security Council has failed to adopt a Palestinian statehood resolution that set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories by 2017.
  • The long-anticipated draft tabled here last night drew the support of eight countries - Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, Russia - just one shy of the nine needed to pass a resolution in the absence of a veto by any of the Council`s five permanent members. 
  • The United States and Australia opposed the resolution while the United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania abstained. The resolution failed to receive the required majority among members, the United States also opposed the text, a move that would have seen the draft fail to pass. The draft outlined a solution which fulfilled the vision of two independent, democratic and prosperous states - Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine - living side by side in peace and security in mutually and internationally recognised borders.
  • It also outlined several parameters for the proposed solution - with a one-year deadline for negotiations with Israel and a "full and phased withdrawal of Israeli forces" from the West Bank by the end of 2017 and would have looked forward to welcoming Palestine as a full UN Member State within the 12-month time frame, urging both parties to build trust and negotiate in good faith.
  • The text also envisaged a "just solution" to the status of Jerusalem as the capital of the two states and to the question of Palestinian refugees as well as to all other outstanding issues, including control of water resources and the fate of prisoners in Israeli jails.
  • Security arrangements for the transition would have required a "third-party presence". Following the vote, Permanent Representative of the US to the UN Samantha Power stressed her country`s support for new ways to constructively support both parties in achieving a negotiated settlement.
11) China’s Three Gorges Power Plant claims new world record
  • China’s Three Gorges Power Plant, the largest hydropower project in the country, generated 98.8 billion kwh of electricity in 2014, bettering the world record for hydropower generation set by Brazil’s Itaipu hydroelectric plant
  • Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity, but with a much smaller capacity, Brazil’s Itaipu hydroelectric plant had long been the champion of world hydropower generation. Brazil’s dam generated 98.6 billion kwh of electricity in 2013.
  • According to officials three Gorges Corporation said 98.8 billion kwh is the equivalent of saving 49 million tonnes of coal consumption and preventing the emissions of carbon dioxide by 100 million tonnes. The Three Gorges Project generates electricity, controls flooding by providing storage for water and adjusts shipping capacity on the Yangtze River, China’s longest waterway.
12) Nepal to join Silk Road Economic Belt through Tibet
  • China has taken a firm step to extend the Silk Road Economic Belt to South Asia, by working out a blueprint of connecting Nepal with the Eurasian transport corridor. Last month, Nepal formally signed a four-point document endorsing the Silk Road Economic Belt — a pet project of President Xi Jinping for connecting Asia with Europe along a land corridor, with China as its hub. The agreement was signed during a meeting in Beijing of the Nepal-China Inter-governmental Business and Investment Coordination.
  • Under the new Silk Route blueprint, the Chinese want to open up the transportation channel from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, from which would radiate rail and road routes, which would also connect with East Asia, West Asia, and South Asia. China wants to connect with Nepal and South Asia through an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.
13) Jaffna-Kankasanthurai rail track restored
  • Indian Railway’s construction company (IRCON) has restored the rail track between Jaffna and Kankasanthurai in North Sri Lanka. This restored commercial Yal Devi Express service was formally inaugurated. The track is about 18 kilometres. This passes through the high security zone which was freed from the control of Tamil tigers in 2009. 
  • IRCON was established in 1976 by Union Government, it is wholly owned by the Ministry of Railways. In 1995, it was renamed as IRCON International Limited. Since its establishment, this company had undertaken construction of railway projects in India and abroad especially in difficult terrains. It has completed more than 300 major infrastructure projects in India and over 121 major projects globally in more than 21 countries.
14) Beji Caid Essebsi sworn in as President of Tunisia
  • Tunisia`s President Beji Caid Essebsi has pledged to work towards national reconciliation after winning the country`s first free election. After taking his oath of office on 31st December, he told parliament he would be "the president of all Tunisians". The 88-year-old secured victory in the elections that were conducted in the third week of December, over incumbent Moncef Marzouki.
  • Essebsi was speaker of parliament under President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in 2011 in the first "Arab Spring" uprising. Tunisia is the only Arab country to have moved from authoritarian rule to democracy since a wave of popular uprisings spread across the region. Essebsi became the first freely elected leader of Tunisia since it gained independence from France in 1956.