Current Affairs Dec 2017 - International
1 - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani launched 1st phase of Chabahar port in Iran
The first phase of the Chabahar port, Iran, launched by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, has opened a new strategic transit route between Iran, India and Afghanistan. Mr Radhakrishnan represented India in the 2nd meeting of the India-Iran-Afghanistan Ministerial-level Trilateral Meeting on Chabahar Port Development, presided by respective Ministers of Iran and Afghanistan. The Ministers agreed to intensify efforts on issues concerning regional connectivity and focusing on Chabahar Port development under the Trilateral Transit and Trade Agreement at the Trilateral Meeting.
2 - India re-elected as Member of International Maritime Council
India was re-elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organization [IMO] under Category “B” at the 30th session of the Assembly of the IMO held in London. The IMO Council consists of 40 member countries. In Categories “A” and “B” there are 10 members each and in Cateogary “C” 20 members, who are elected by the IMO Assembly. IMO Council plays a crucial role to play in deciding various important matters within the mandate of the IMO, in relation to the global shipping industry, including its work programme strategy and budget.
3 - IMF gave nod to new USD 88 billion credit line for Mexico
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund approved a successor two-year arrangement for Mexico under the Flexible Credit Line (FCL) of amount US$88 billion and cancelled the previous arrangement in the same amount. The FCL is designed for crisis prevention purposes as it provides the flexibility t countries with very strong track records to draw on the credit line at any time to help keep their economic policies will remain strong.
4 - China hosted 3rd DRC-NITI Aayog Dialogue
The 3rd edition of the Dialogue between the NITI Aayog and the Development Research Council of China was held in Beijing, China. The dialogue took place under the MOU. The DRC-NITI Dialogue provided an important platform for both sides to discuss key macro- economic issues impacting both countries and areas of mutual interest. The 3rd Dialogue enabled an in-depth interaction between the two delegations on the world economic prospects, India-China economic cooperation and need to strengthen bilateral cooperation in trade and investment.
5 - ADB to support power plant projects in Bangladesh
The Asian Development Bank’s Board of Directors has approved debt financing and partial risk guarantees totalling $583 million to develop the Reliance Bangladesh Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and Power Project. The project, which includes a power generation facility to be located in Meghnaghat, near the capital city of Dhaka, and an LNG Terminal, near Kutubdia Island will significantly increase power generation and improve energy infrastructure in Bangladesh. ADB’s support will help Reliance Power Limited to develop an initial approximately 750 megawatts (MW) of gross power generation capacity and terminal facilities for LNG import.
6 - Venezuela launched new virtual currency
Venezuala government announced creation of cryptocurrency, named as ‘Petro’. It was launched by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. It is launched so as to ease financial transactions and overcome the US -led financial blockade. US -led financial blockades are US sanctions on Venezuela about remitting money through international banks, which is in turn impacting some bond payments and certain oil exports. Petro digital currency will be backed by Venezuelan reserves of gold, oil, gas, and diamonds. A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that work as a medium of exchange. Some of examples of cryptocurrency are Zcash, Bitcoin etc.
7 - Supreme Court Allows Trump's Travel Ban to go into Full Effect
The US Supreme Court has allowed President Donald Trump's travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries to go into full effect. The ban will now go fully into effect for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seeking to enter the US. Seven of the nine judges lifted restrictions on the travel ban imposed by other courts earlier. However, as an exception to the ban, certain people from the six nations can still apply for a visa for tourism, business or education purposes.
8 - Venezuela's Avior Airlines banned from European Union skies
Venezuela's Avior Airlines has been banned from European Union skies after a commission determined it no longer meets international safety standards. Avior had been added to a list of international airlines prohibited from flying within the union because the European Aviation Safety Agency detected unaddressed safety deficiencies. Major carriers like United and Delta have already halted operations in Venezuela. Avior operates flights within Venezuela, throughout Latin America and to Miami, Florida.
9 - Australia passed ‘Marriage Equality Law’
In the past, Australia’s parliament had passed bill unanimously to allow same sex marriage. The same was now passed by House of Representatives. With this new marriage equality law, Australia became 25th country to recognize marriage irrespective of gender. According to law, couples have to give one-month notice period before getting married and those who are married, will be recognized automatically once governor general gives his assent. Other countries who have passed marriage equality law are Austria, Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Spain, UK, US, Mexico etc.
10 - President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel
U.S. President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced that the American embassy would be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The decision was welcomed by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel but criticized by many other international bodies. The decision came after the promise made by Trump during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections campaign that U.S. embassy in Israel will be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he termed as the "eternal capital of the Jewish people.
11 - Saudi Arabia lifts ban on movie theatres after 35 years
The government of Saudi Arabia announced the lifting of ban on movie theatres. The nation will have its first public cinemas in more than 35 years. According to the government statement, the licensing process for cinema operators will start within 90 days and the films “will be subject to censorship according to media policy standards of the kingdom”. Saudi Arabia has been witnessing a series of reform in the past few months under the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, which includes giving women the right to drive and to attend soccer games.
12 - China successfully launched Algeria's 1st communication satellite
China has successfully launched Algeria's first communication satellite, the first project in aerospace industry between the North African nation and Beijing. The satellite was launched by the Chinese Long March-3B carrier rocket. The Alcomsat-1 was launched into a present orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The Satellite will be used by Algeria for broadcast and television, emergency communication, distance education, e-governance, and satellite-based navigation.
13 - France has banned baby milk formula, food products by dairy giant Lactalis
France has banned the sale and ordered a recall of several baby formula milk and baby food products made by French dairy giant Lactalis after the discovery of salmonella bacteria. According to consumer protection agency DGCCRF, Lactalis had not managed contamination risk. Twenty cases of salmonella infection of infants were reported in France during early December. Lactalis is one of the world’s biggest dairy producers and has 229 production sites in 43 countries.
14 - Qatar inked $8-bn deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from Britain
Qatar has signed a $8-billion deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from Britain. It follows a billion-dollar deal signed by Qatar to buy 12 French Dassault Aviation warplanes. These jets will boost the Qatari military’s mission to tackle the challenges they both share in West Asia, supporting stability in the region and delivering security at home. A memorandum of understanding was signed by the two countries for this Typhoon contract in September.
15 - China began set up of world's biggest floating solar project
A floating solar power plant, called to be the world's biggest solar project, will be built by China’s Three Gorges Corp unit. It will be built at the cost of 1 billion yuan ($151 million) in China’s eastern province of Anhui. World’s biggest 150-megawatt power plant project has now been connected to a grid. Power plant will have panels fixed to float on the surface of a lake. 150 megawatt power plant project will save operational and construction cost of solar plant project. It will be operational by May 2018.
16 - Cartographers surveyed that Mt Hope is new tallest mountain in British Antarctic Territory
British Antarctic Survey (BAS) discovered that Mt Paget on South Georgia island is found to be the new tallest mountain on British Overseas Territory at 3239 metres above sea level outside the Antarctic. It was discovered by cartographers surveying Antarctica for updating maps. Prior to cartographers’ survey, Mt Jackson was called as the tallest mountain in the territory at 3,184 metres. Mt Paget is 377 metres (1237 ft) taller than Mt Jackson. The survey of Mount Hope as the UK’s tallest peak is an outstanding example of British mapping techniques.
17 - US President signed USD 692 billion defence budget
US President Donald Trump has signed a 692 billion dollar defence budget, which among other things gives funding to provide legislative authority to implement his South Asia strategy and authorises critical missile capabilities to counter threats posed by North Korea. The National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) authorises 626 billion dollars of the base budget resources for the Department of Defence and the national security programs of the Department of Energy, providing an additional 66 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.
18 - AIIB approved US$250-million loan to Reduce Coal Use and Improve Air Quality in Beijing
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) Board of Directors has approved a US$250-million loan for a project that will reduce China’s coal use by about 650,000 tons annually. The project is scheduled for completion in 2021. With this, the Beijing Air Quality Improvement and Coal Replacement Project is expected to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 595,700 tons; particulate matter by 3,700 tons; sulfur dioxide by 1,488 tons and nitrogen oxide by 4,442 tons.
19 - India and Australia held their first '2+2 dialogue' in New Delhi
India and Australia discussed their first '2+2 dialogue' in New Delhi and highlighted the importance of maintaining Asia-Pacific region as a “free” and “open” zone under the “2+2”dialogue model which comprise of the foreign and defence secretaries of both sides. This 2+2 discussion was first such meeting as both the sides participated in the quadrilateral discussion for a new strategic partnership. In 2+2 dialogue, maritime influences of China, infrastructure claiming by China and freedom of navigation on South China Sea was discussed.
20 - Norway becomes first country to end FM Radio
Norway has become the first country to shut down national broadcasts of its FM radio network as the country completed its transition to digital radio. The main reason behind this technological shift is bacause the transition allows for better sound quality, a greater number of channels and more functions, all at a cost eight times lower than FM radio. The transition only involves national radio channels. Most local stations continue to broadcast on FM.
21 - Argentina hosted 11th WTO Ministerial Conference
The World Trade Organization’s 11th Ministerial Conference was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 11th to 14th December, 2017. It was chaired by Minister Susana Malcorra of Argentina. Members committed to ensure a deal on fisheries subsidies, work programme on e-commerce was adopted and cease on payments of customs duties on electronic transmissions for another two years. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The WTO has over 160 members representing 98% of world trade.
22 - Google launched 1st Machine Learning Research Lab in Asia with ‘Google AI China Center’
Google has launched its research lab focused on artificial intelligence (AI) in China. The centre is first of its kind in Asia to be launched by Google. It will consist of a team of AI researchers in Beijing, supported by Google China’s strong engineering teams. Google AI China Centre will publish its own research and support the AI research community by funding and sponsoring AI conferences and workshops. Google’s other machine learning research groups, besides the Googleplex, are in New York, London, Zürich and Toronto.
23 - Maldives signed FTA with China
The Maldives has signed a Free Trade Agreement with China. President Abdulla Yameen of Maldives signed the agreement. The FTA is focussed on 'strengthening cooperation on jointly building the 21st century Maritime Silk Road'. The FTA gives Maldives full market access in China for fish and fishery products, coconut, cotton seeds etc. at zero duty. In return, Maldives will open up to China its construction, tourism and travel, education, transport including maritime transport services.
24 - 'Youthquake' Named 2017 Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries
Oxford Dictionaries has chosen “Youthquake” as the 2017 word of the year. The word means “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people”. The word was coined in the 1960s by then-Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland, to describe upheavals in fashion and music caused by Britain's youth culture. Presently, the word refelcts a “political awakening” among young voters. Usage of the term in the UK increased fivefold in 2017 over 2016.
25 - Gabon certified as polio-free by WHO
The World Health Organisation has declared Gabon a "polio-free country". There are no new reported or suspected cases in the country. Polio is a highly-infectious viral disease which mainly affects young children and can result in permanent paralysis. There is no cure and it can only be prevented through immunisation. Now the disease is endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the WHO recorded four cases this year — two in each country. Last year, there were 37 cases globally.
26 - Sebastián Piñera won Chile’s Presidential Election
Conservative leader Sebastián Piñera has won Chile's presidential election. The former President secured 54.6% of the votes while the closest centre-left opponent, Alejandro Guillier, received 45.4%. The incoming President has proposed to slash taxes on business to revive growth. Pinera led the country from 2010 to 2014. Pinera will replace incumbent socialist Michelle Bachelet, Chile's first female president. More than half of Chile's eligible voters, some 6.5 million people, did not participate in the election's first round.
27 - India and Myanmar sign MoU for development of Rakhine State
India and Myanmar signed MoU for development of Rakhine State through the Rakhine State Development Programme. The MoU is a Government to Government agreement on long-term socio-economic development of the state. The MoU will help the Government of Myanmar achieve its objective of restoration of normalcy in Rakhine State. As a part of the MoU, GoI proposes to take up a project to build prefabricated housing in Rakhine State so as to meet the immediate needs of returning people. The MoU is the first G to G agreement.
28 - France Passed Law to Ban all Oil and Gas Production by 2040
The French parliament has passed a law that bans all exploration and production of oil and natural gas by 2040. Under the law, existing drilling permits will not be renewed and no new exploration licenses will be granted in France or its overseas territories. France became the first country to pass such law. However, the interesting fact is, France imports 99% of its domestic consumption of oil and gas. The ban is a step to fulfill France's commitments under the Paris climate agreement to curb global warming.
29 - US President signed $1.5 trillion tax overhaul into law
The US President Donald Trump has signed $1.5 trillion tax overhaul into law. It is the first major overhaul of the US tax laws since 1986. According to the new Bill, the corporate tax has been slashed from previous 35% to 21%. The bill is projected to decrease federal revenue by almost $1.5 trillion over the next decade. The Bill also temporarily reduces the tax burden for most individuals.
30 - World’s longest glass bridge opened for public in China
China opened world’s longest glass bottomed bridge for public. 1,601 feet long bridge has capacity to hold more than 2000 people but only 500 people will be allowed to walk on bridge at a time. The bridge is 6.5 foot wide and hanged over 755 feet above the ground in the beautiful Shijiazhuang of Hongyagu Scenic Area in Hebei province. The bridge is made with 1,077 glass panels and has ability to weigh 70 tonnes. The new bridge opened by China is 191 feet longer than the previous record holder, which is also in China. Hebei Bailu Group is creator of the bridge.
31 - China successfully launched remote sensing satellites to conduct electromagnetic environmental probes
China has successfully launched remote sensing satellites to conduct electromagnetic environmental probes. The satellites were launched on a Long March-2C carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite launch center in the southwest Sichuan province. The satellites have entered its preset orbit and the launch was proclaimed a success. China did not disclose the number of satellites launched. The launch was the 260th mission of the Long March rocket family.
32 - George Weah elected as the new President of Liberia
Former international football star, George Weah, has been elected aas the new President of Liberia, Africa's oldest republic. This was Liberia’s first independently run election since the end of its civil wars. Weah beat Vice President Joseph Boakai after he got 61.5% of the votes as against 38.5% of Mr Boakai. Mr Weah will take over from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is in power since 2006. Weah won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 19995 while playing for AC Milan. He later played for Chelsea and Manchester City.
33 - Russia's Central EC rejects Alexei Navalny's bid to run against President Putin next year
Russia's Central Election Commission has unanimously rejected top opposition figure Alexei Navalny's bid to run against President Vladimir Putin next year. The commission voted 12 to zero in barring Navalny from the presidential election, citing a controversial embezzlement conviction for which he received a five year suspended sentence. The decision prompted the 41-year-old protest leader, who maintains that the court case against him was fabricated for political reasons, to call for a boycott of the election.
34 - PM Narendra Modi to be first Indian PM to attend WEF in 20 years
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will become the first Indian PM in 20 years to attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum to be held in Davos, Switzerland from January 23-26. The world's top CEOs and a large number of heads of government will gather at the annual meet. PV Narasimha Rao and HD Deve Gowda are only two Indian Prime Ministers to have attended the meeting in the past, 1997 being one last such occasion. The Founder and Executive Chairman of WEF is Klaus Schwab. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
35 - UN approved 286 million dollar cut in annual budget
The United Nations General Assembly has approved a budget of 5.3 billion dollars after 286 million US dollar cut in its annual budget for 2018-19. The additional reductions come mainly from across-the-board cuts in non-post resources for most Departments and Offices. The budget covers UN activities across a range of areas, including political affairs, international justice and law, regional cooperation for development, human rights and humanitarian affairs, and public information.
36 - Guatemala to move embassy to Jerusalem
Guatemala has confirmed to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem following Donald Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Guatemala is one of only eight countries to vote with the US in opposing a UN resolution condemning Trump’s move. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales spoke to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Morales was a television personality with no real political experience before becoming president of Guatemala in 2016.
37 - UAE and Saudi Arabia formed a separate group from GCC
UAE formed a new economic and partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council so as to cooperate relations between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields. UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan approved the new “joint cooperation committee”. Gulf Cooperation Council is an intergovernmental union of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf, except for Iraq. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.