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International Current Affairs March 3rd Week 2019

 1. United States slams China for its human rights violations

 
The United States has slammed China for its human rights violations in the country. 
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the abuses in China, Iran, South Sudan and Nicaragua in the state department`s annual reports on Human Rights Practices. 
He said, China was in a league of its own, when it comes to human rights violations.
Head of State Department`s human rights and democracy bureau Michael Kozak said, the sort of abuses China had inflicted on its Muslim minorities had not been seen since the 1930s. It is one of the most serious human rights violations in the world.
In response to this, China`s Foreign Ministry said, the report was filled with ideological prejudice and groundless accusations. 
 
2. World Kidney Day 2019
 
The World Kidney Day 2019 is being observed on March 14, 2019.
This Day is observed annually on the second Thursday of  March. 
It aims to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys.
Theme for World Kidney Day 2019: ‘Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere’.
As per the World Health Organisation, kidney diseases are responsible for almost 1.5 per cent of the current global burden of disease and for 2.1 per cent of the total deaths.
It is the 12th leading cause of death globally.
850 MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE are now estimated to have kidney diseases from various causes. Chronic kidney diseases (CKD) cause at least 2.4 million deaths per year and are now the 6th fastest growing cause of death.
Acute kidney injury (AKI), an important driver of CKD, affects over 13 million people worldwide and 85% of these cases are found in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Around 1.7 people are estimated to die annually because of AKI.
 
3. Global support to India to list Azhar as global terrorist
 
India has secured unprecedented support from the international community for listing of Masood Azhar under the UN Sanctions Committee. 
The proposal was moved by USA, France and UK and supported by 14 of the 15 UN Security Council Members and also co-sponsored by Australia, Bangladesh, Italy and Japan-non members of the Security Council this year. 
The proposal has been mooted four times in the UN to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
In 2009, India under the UPA Government was the lone proposer whereas India`s proposal was co-sponsored by the US, France and UK, in 2016. 
In 2017, USA, UK and France moved the proposal. Earlier this week China had put technical hold on proscribing Azhar as global terrorist under the UN Sanctions regime. 
 
4. British lawmakers vote in support of delaying Brexit
 
British lawmakers have voted to seek a delay to the 29th of this month`s deadline for the UK to exit the European Union (EU). 
The motion was passed in the House of Commons last night by 412 votes to 202. 
The MPs, however, rejected an amendment to the motion that sought to hold another referendum during the delayed period.
The delay in the Brexit process would now require the unanimous approval of all 27 remaining EU member states, which in effects gives the 28-member bloc the power to dictate the terms of an extension. 
The bloc could approve a long postponement if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.
The vote follows a rejection by Parliament to rule out leaving the EU without any deal. 
Ms May will make a third attempt to get her withdrawal deal pass through next week, after it was rejected by huge margins on two previous votes. 
The UK had voted to leave the EU in a referendum in June, 2016.
 
5.  New Black Hole Coin in Honour of Stephen Hawking
 
The British Royal Mint has commemorated professor Stephen Hawking in a new 50p coin, which references the late physicist’s pioneering work on black holes.
The honorary coin, which is available in three metal finishes, aims to celebrate the life and “ground-breaking” achievements of Hawking, who passed away in 2018.
It features Hawking’s name in capital letters above a rippling drawing of concentric circles, intended to represent a black hole.
Also on the coin is the formula for arguably Hawking’s most important scientific contribution. 
It references his discovery that black holes are not completely black, and instead emit radiation, meaning they eventually evaporate and disappear.
 
6. Russia releases coin commemorating annexation of Crimea
 
A new coin that features the Crimea or Kerch Strait Bridge has been released by Russia’s central bank, to mark Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
Two million new five ruble (about $0.08, €0.07) coins were pressed which depict an outline of the peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
This is second commemoration of Crimea, the first being a 200 ruble note released in 2015 and depicted the desire of the people of Russia to see these symbols on notes.
At 19 kilometers long (12 miles), the bridge over the Kerch Strait is considered the longest in Europe, spanning a rough stretch of water previously only serviced by ferry. 
The project cost 228 billion rubles and was finished six months ahead of schedule in May last year.
 
7. Six US nuclear power plants in India
 
India and the United States have committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India.
The 9th round of the India-US Strategic Security Dialogue was held in Washington DC on 13 March 2019.
With the United States and India agreeing to set up six American nuclear power reactors in India, the decks have been cleared for Westinghouse Electric (WEC), which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last August, to initiate the sale of six AP-1000 reactors for a proposed project in coastal Andhra Pradesh.
In a joint statement, the US and India said they had agreed to strengthen security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the proposal for building six US nuclear reactor units in India. The talks involved Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Andrea Thompson, US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security.
They committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India,” the joint statement said. It gave no further details of the nuclear plant project. The agreement to build these reactors, announced in 2016, followed on from the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement signed in 2008.
Government officials indicated that price negotiations had resumed late last year after Pittsburgh-based WEC re-emerged from bankruptcy. In a bid to tide over the issue of high project costs — the biggest hurdle for US reactors — the Indian side focused on bringing down the interest burden to ensure that the price of Westinghouse’s AP-1000 series of reactors matches with the two new ‘VVER’ series reactor units being set up by the Russians at Kudankulam (Units 3 and 4), Tamil Nadu.
Since Westinghouse, earlier owned by Japan’s Toshiba, has traditionally sourced much of the equipment from Japan, the Indian negotiating side managed to get the US company to commit to continue sourcing components from Japan to get access to cheaper credit, thereby bringing down project costs and making the tariff competitive, officials indicated.
WEC employees around 11,000 people globally and is a flagbearer of the US nuclear sector, alongside the GE-Hitachi combine. WEC’s AP-1000 reactors and Russian state-owned company Rosatom’s VVER reactors are types of Light Water Reactors, where water is used both as coolant and moderator.
This pact also marks a full circle for India’s nuclear reactor technology, given that WEC’s new owner is a Canadian firm, Brookfield Asset Management. While Canada played a key role in India’s nuclear evolution, having supplied the Indian reactor CIRUS in 1954, the exports of nuclear hardware and uranium to India were stopped after New Delhi used Canadian technology to carry out a peaceful nuclear test in 1974.
Last April, WEC had got strong support from US Energy Secretary Rick Perry for its proposed India project. Even as discussions between the two countries have been on for over a decade to enable the sale of US atomic reactors, India nuclear liability rules, which apportion a part of the costs of any accident to be channeled to the manufacturer of the reactor alongside the operator of the station, had been seen as a hurdle by US companies.
WEC had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017 after design reviews of its new reactor by regulators and huge cost overruns in four nuclear reactors coming up in the US. In January 2018, Brookfield agreed to buy Westinghouse from Toshiba for $4.6 billion and this deal was approved by US and British nuclear regulators and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) later last year.
In terms of pricing benchmarks, the two new Russian-design VVER-1000 reactor units (Kudankulam 3 and 4) to be set up in Tamil Nadu entail a sanctioned project cost of Rs 39,849 crore. This would translate into a cost of nearly Rs 20 crore per MWe (mega watt electric) as against the established benchmark of project cost of Rs 7-10 crore per MWe for existing nuclear projects based largely on the indigenous PHWR (pressurised heavy water reactor) technology. The cost of the WEC reactors is indicated to be around the pricing benchmark set by the Russian reactors.
 
8. Vienna topped the Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey 2019
 
Global consulting firm Mercer has released its annual quality of living survey in which 231 cities across the globe were ranked based on various factors. This is the 21st edition.
The factors that are evaluated in Mercer’s Quality of Living Reports, which offer city-to-city comparisons for nearly 500 global assignment destinations.
1. Recreation Public services and transport.
2. Socio-cultural environment.
3. School and education.
4. Medical and health considerations.
5. Political and social environment.
6. Natural environment.
7. Housing
8. Economic environment.
9. Consumer goods availability. 
Globally, Vienna tops the ranking for the 10th year running, closely followed by Zurich, the runner-up.
This year, Mercer provides a separate ranking on personal safety. Western Europe dominates the ranking, with Luxembourg named as the safest city in the world.
London has been named the UK’s best city to live in.
Indian cities: Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu is ranked at 105 in Mercer’s Quality Of Living Index and is the number one city from India. Bengaluru was the second best with the ranking of 149.
The survey shows that many cities around the world still offer attractive environments in which to do business, and the best understand that the quality of living is an essential component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses and mobile talent.
Many cities had seen an improvement, but terror attacks in the last ten years have caused cities including Athens, Madrid and Paris to slide down the table.
 
9. EU Adds 10 Countries to Tax Blacklist
 
The European Union expanded the blacklist by 10 Countries adding the United Arab Emirates, Barbados and the Marshall Island. The list had previously included five countries and now it became 15 countries.
Due to their inability towards reform commitments, countries including Aruba, Belize, Bermuda, Fiji, Oman, Vanuatu, and Dominica are moved from grey list to black list.
Naming and Shaming tactics through Tax blacklist or Tax havens done by European Union as a tool for securing a level playing field and as an external strategy for effective taxation by assessing, screening and listing third-country tax jurisdictions which are non-cooperative in tax matters.
 
10. First BRICS Sherpa meeting
 
The first BRICS Sherpa meeting under the Presidency of Brazil concluded at Curitiba in Brazil. 
Secretary, Economic Relations in the Ministry of External Affairs, T S Tirumurti led the Indian delegation at the two-day meeting.
External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that Brazil has identified countering terrorism as one of its priority areas for BRICS under its presidency.
Brazil`s priorities for its Presidency includes science, technology and innovation, digital economy, New Development Bank and BRICS Business Council as well as countering transnational crime and terrorism.
During the meeting, India conveyed its support for the priority areas set out by Brazil, particularly to take forward BRICS cooperation on counter terrorism in a meaningful and concrete manner with BRICS member countries. 
New Delhi also underlined the need to take forward people-to-people cooperation and cooperation in science and technology and innovation and in health and traditional medicine.
 
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International Current Affairs March 3rd Week 2019

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