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January 12, 2020: National / International Current Affairs
1. US issues travel alert for Pakistan, other polio-endemic countries
• The United States has generated a Level 2 travel alert for Pakistan and other polio-endemic Asian countries following outbreak of the crippling disease, declaring the life-time booster dose for adults mandatory during the period of restrictions imposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
• The US issued new guidelines for travelers bound for polio-endemic countries on the recommendations of its federal agency — Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — to stop spread of the virus to other states. “The World Health Organization recommends that these countries require residents and long-term (four weeks or more) visitors show proof of polio vaccination before leaving the country,” reads the level 2 travel alert by the US.
• It says before traveling to these countries, adults who have completed their routine polio vaccine series as children should receive a single, lifetime adult booster dose of polio vaccine.
• According to the CDC, the polio outbreaks have been reported in eight Asian countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia , Papua New Guinea and Philippines.
2. Safe Punjab project launched
• Ministry of Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony launched the project in collaboration with Youth Development Foundation (YDF).
• Minister for Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Ejaz Alam Augustine has said that the government would ensure social justice and fair distribution of resources that would help eliminating sense of insecurity and deprivation among religious minorities.
• Speaking at launching of the project titled “Harmonious, Tolerant and Safe Punjab” at Royal Palm Golf and Country Club on January 11, 2020, he said giving due rights to every citizen regardless of religion or faith would help promoting tolerance and mutual co-existence in the society.
• Representatives from various walks of life including legislators, government officials, lawyers, media personnel, and academia, youth and rights activists attended simple but impressive ceremony
3. Oman’s Sultan Qaboos passes away; Haitham takes over
• Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, one of the Middle East’s longest-serving rulers who maintained the country’s neutrality in a turbulent region, passed away on January 10, 2020 and his cousin Haitham bin Tariq al-Said was named as his successor in a smooth transition.
• With his death, the region loses a leader seen as the father of modern Oman, who balanced ties between two neighbours locked in a regional struggle, Saudi Arabia to the west and Iran to the north, as well as the United States.
• In a televised speech, Haitham promised to uphold Muscat’s policy of peaceful coexistence with all nations while further developing Oman. “We will continue to assist in resolving disputes peacefully,” he said
4. Iran admits to ‘unintentionally’ downing Ukrainian plane
• A Ukrainian aircraft which crashed earlier this week in Iran had flown close to a sensitive military site belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards and was shot down unintentionally due to human error, the Iranian military said in a statement read on state TV on January 11, 2020.
• The responsible parties would be referred to a judicial department within the military and held accountable, the statement said.
• President Hassan Rouhani also confirmed the development and said that Iran “deeply regrets the disastrous mistake”.
• In a series of tweets posted on Saturday, Rouhani promised that investigation would continue to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake”.
• “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” he wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.”
5. US, China agree to semi-annual talks
• The United States and China have agreed to hold semi-annual talks aimed at pushing for reforms in both countries and resolving disputes, the Wall Street Journal reported on January 11, 2020.
• The negotiations will be announced on January 15 as part of the signing of a Phase 1 trade deal between the US and China, but will be separate from any second-phase trade negotiations, the Journal reported, adding the effort will be lead by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
• The two sides have been undergoing a trade war for well over a year.
6. Three years after $1bn Venezuela deal, US oilfield firm shuts doors
• An Oklahoma oilfield company that played a central role in Venezuela`s high profile attempt to convince the world it could halt production declines at its dilapidated oilfields has shut its doors, according to three people familiar with the matter.
• In 2016, Horizontal Well Drillers, a closely held US driller, won a $1.29 billion contract to drill 191 wells in Venezuela`s Orinoco Belt, part of an unusual plan to sharply boost output and halt Venezuela`s economic collapse. It and two other drilling contractors were asked to finance the work themselves and be paid in future production, according to documents obtained by Reuters at the time.
• But the blockbuster deal did not pan out for the company, its Canadian lender Callidus Capital Corp, or for Venezuela.
7. Texas becomes first state to refuse refugees under Trump order
• Governor Greg Abbott of Texas on January 10, 2020 became the first governor in the United States to refuse to accept refugees under an executive order requiring local jurisdictions to actively opt in to the federal resettlement programme.
• The decision is a major blow to the programme since Texas is the largest recipient to refugees in the country.
• `At this time, the state and non-profit organisations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants and the homeless,` Abbott, a Republican, said in his letter to the US State Department.
8. Taiwan`s Tsai wins landslide in stinging result for China
• Taiwan`s President Tsai Ing-wen won a landslide election victory on January 11, 2020 as voters delivered a stunning rebuke of Beijing`s campaign to isolate the self-ruled island and handed its first female leader a second term.
• Tsai, 63, was greeted by thousands of jubilant flag-waving supporters outside her party headquarters, hailing a result which looks set to infuriate China.
• `Today we have defended our democracy and freedom, tomorrow let us stand united to overcome all challenges and difficulties,` she told the cheering crowd.
9. China launches gigantic telescope in hunt for life beyond earth
• China on January 11, 2020 officially opened operations of the world’s largest radio telescope, which it will use for space research and help in the hunt for extraterrestrial life, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
• The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is the size of 30 football fields and has been hewed out of a mountain in the southwestern province of Guizhou. It is also known by the name “Sky Eye” in China.
• Xinhua reported that the telescope had received national approval to start operations. It finished construction in 2016 and has been undergoing debugging and tests in the years since
10. Weather forecasts start using space laser data
• Europe’s novel wind-measuring satellite, Aeolus, has reached a key milestone in its mission.
• The space laser’s data is now being used in operational weather forecasts.
• Aeolus monitors the wind by firing an ultraviolet beam down into the atmosphere and catching the light’s reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts says the information is now robust enough for routine use.
• The Reading, UK-based organisation is ingesting the data into its numerical models that look from one to several days ahead.
• Forecast improvements are most apparent for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.
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