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International Current Affairs April 2nd Week 2019

 1. US designates Iran`s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps a `terror group`

President Donald Trump announced the United States is designating Iran`s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a terrorist organisation.
Trump said in a statement that the unprecedented move recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.
It is the first time the US has labelled another nation`s military as a terrorist organisation. 
The US has sanctioned parts of the IRGC before, including it`s elite Quds Force intelligence unit.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, businesses and banks around the world now have to ensure that companies with which they conduct financial transactions are not conducted with the IRGC in any material way.
2. Brexit deal:Update
British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin in a bid to delay Brexit deal.
Ms May is also scheduled to meet French President Emmanuel Macron tonight in Paris to urge him to back her request to delay Brexit again until June 30.
EU leaders will meet in Brussels tomorrow to discuss Ms May`s request to move the Brexit deadline, which is set for April 12.
Ms May will be at an emergency summit tomorrow when all EU states will vote on an extension.
UK lawmakers finally approved a Brexit bill after weeks of failing to reach agreement on May`s proposals or any of the alternative models of leaving the EU.
The bill aims to block a no-deal Brexit, whereby the UK crashes out of the EU without any transition arrangements in place
Faced with a political deadlock in London, the EU agreed last month to postpone Brexit from March 29 to April 12.
3. Sudan`s army ousts president Omar al-Bashir
Sudan`s army ousted and arrested President Omar al-Bashir.
Announcing this on state television, Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf said, the President has been removed from power and detained by the army. He also said, a three-month state of emergency was being put in place. 
He said, Sudan`s constitution was being suspended, border crossings were being closed until further notice and airspace was being closed for 24 hours.
Awad Ibn Ouf said, the army had decided to oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections.
Meanwhile, Sudan`s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) service announced that it was freeing all the political detainees across the country. 
Protests against Mr Bashir, who has governed Sudan since 1989, have been underway for several months.
Mr Bashir is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan`s western Darfur region.
4. Algeria: Presidential election to be held in July
In Algeria, Presidential election will be held in July. This was announced by the presidency as protests continue against the ruling elite following veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika`s resignation.
Interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah`s office said, Presidential elections will be held on July 4.
The new date was set a day after Bensalah assumed office for a 90-day period, as stipulated by the constitution. 
However, the appointment of upper house speaker Bensalah as Algeria`s first new president in 20 years failed to meet the demands of demonstrators.
Although Bensalah, a close Bouteflika ally, is barred under the constitution from running in the upcoming election, protesters have demanded the new president to step down. 
Meanwhile, army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah said, the military would ensure the transition follows the rules of transparency and integrity, and the laws of the republic.
After two decades in power, the 82 years old ailing Bouteflika finally stepped down last week after weeks of demonstrations triggered by his bid for a fifth term in office.
5. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu set to get fifth term
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to win re-election after his main rival former Army chief Benny Gantz conceded defeat. 
This comes after a dramatic finish to a tightly-fought race Parliamentary elections in which Gantz accepted that Netanyahu had won.
With more than 99 percent of votes counted, Netanyahu`s Likud tied with Gantz`s Blue and White, gaining 35 seats each. No party has crossed the half way mark in the 120 seat Parliament (Knesset). 
However, since a number of right-wing parties have expressed their support for Netanyahu, a coalition between Likud and smaller right-wing parties could form a 65 seat majority.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Mr Netanyahu for a victory in the polls. In a tweet, Mr Modi described him as a great friend of India, saying New Delhi is looking forward to continuing to work with him to take the bilateral partnership to new heights.
6. New Zealand Parliament votes to ban semi-automatic weapons
In New Zealand, Parliament has voted to ban all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the Christchurch attacks.
The bill was approved by 119 members while lone member opposed it. It is expected to become law within the next few days after receiving royal assent from the Governor General.
An amnesty has been imposed so the owners of the weapons can hand them back, followed by a buy-back scheme which could cost up to 200 million New Zealandean dollar.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced changes to the law after 50 people were killed last month by a suspected lone gunman at two mosques in Christchurch.
7. First Commercial drone delivery service in Australia
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, launched its first commercial drone service through its Wing subsidiary in Canberra, Australia after the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), granted it regulatory approval.
The drones will deliver coffee, food, and over-the-counter medicines directly to clients’ homes  using a connected smartphone app.
In the primary stage, Wing is coupling with Australian retailers including Capital Chemist, Drummond Golf, Pure Gelato, KickstartExpresso, Bakers Delight, Jasper + Myrtle, and Guzman Y Gomez.
Drones will not be permitted to fly over main roads and it has a specific timetable.
Wing began testing its drone delivery service way back in 2014, and since then it has conducted over 3,000 drone delivery flights. For its initial consumer launch, Wing will be teaming up with Australian retailers Kickstart Expresso, Capital Chemist, Pure Gelato, Jasper + Myrtle, Bakers Delight, Guzman Y Gomez, and Drummond Golf. That selection of companies will expand in the future.
8. ‘white paper’ named ‘online harms’ draws focus to users’ (mostly children’s) safety
The British government has published an “online harms white paper” which is open for public consultation (till July) focuses to make online social media platforms responsible to safeguard users, especially children.
It is a joint proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office.
Since all of the social media platforms use strong algorithms leading to echo-chambers, where a user is bombarded with only blinkered content (according to the user’s web-browsing) instead of multi-directional content (i.e. seeing a variety of voices and opinions), all of which can affect children’s brain; the white paper proposes the compulsory ‘duty of care’ on various social media platforms for taking reasonable steps to protect users (focusing on children) from getting harmed.
9.Taliban announces spring offensive amid Afghan peace talks
In Afghanistan, Taliban has announced its annual spring offensive, which comes as the United States and Afghan leaders try to negotiate for a peace settlement with the militant group.
In a statement, Taliban said that Operation Fath, which means `victory` in Arabic, will be conducted across Afghanistan with the aim of eradicating foreign occupation and `cleansing` the country of invasion and corruption.
The annual spring offensive traditionally marks the beginning of the so-called fighting season. 
However, the announcement is largely symbolic as in recent winters the Taliban have continued fighting Afghan and US forces. Qais Mangal, a spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Defence, said the Taliban`s spring offensive is a mere propaganda. 
10. World’s first Islamic bank to launch banking via WhatsApp
The bank`s customers will now able to conduct daily banking activities via WhatsApp in a seamless and hassle-free manner.
Emirates Islamic has announced the launch of Chat Banking services for customers via WhatsApp, marking a global first in the Islamic banking sector.
The bank’s customers will now able to conduct daily banking activities via WhatsApp in a seamless and hassle-free manner. The Chat Banking solution, supported by Infobip,  further enhances Emirates Islamic’s suite of digital banking channels and allows customers to use features such as checking account balances and temporarily blocking or unblocking of an existing card.
“As the first Islamic bank in the world to launch a WhatsApp banking solution for customers, we have further cemented our position as an industry innovator and digital frontrunner in the Islamic banking sector,” said Wasim Saifi, Deputy CEO - Consumer Banking and Wealth Management at Emirates Islamic.
“The launch of Chat Banking via WhatsApp reflects our commitment to digitising our services and building customer engagement via social media platforms. Emirates Islamic will continue to develop innovative and technology-driven solutions that will enable the migration of our customers from branches to digital channels, in line with the Smart Dubai agenda.”
The bank has successfully integrated its core systems with the WhatsApp Business solution.All messages on Emirates Islamic`s verified WhatsApp Business account are encrypted, ensuring confidentiality and security. To ensure a safe and secure banking experience, customers should always check for the green badge next to the Emirates Islamic name on the chat.
11. Algeria’s first new president in 20 years
Algerian protesters gathered for the protests since the announcement of presidential elections to succeed ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika fearing a ploy by the ruling system to stay in power.
Social media, the source of mass protests which led to the end of Bouteflika`s two-decade rule, have echoed with calls for an eighth week of demonstrations, this time under the slogan of "They will all leave".
Presidential elections are to be held on July 4, interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah`s office announced just hours after he pledged "transparent" polls. The new date was set a day after Bensalah assumed office for a 90-day period, as stipulated by the constitution but much to the ire of demonstrators.
The appointment of upper house speaker Bensalah as Algeria`s first new president in 20 years has failed to meet the demands of demonstrators. Although 77-year-old Bensalah is barred under the constitution from running in the upcoming election, protesters have nonetheless pushed for the close Bouteflika ally to step down.



International Current Affairs April 2nd Week 2019

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