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January 31, 2020: National / International Current Affairs
1. Two soldiers martyred in North Waziristan operation
• Five terrorists were killed during an exchange of fire with security forces in North Waziristan tribal district on January 30, 2020, said Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).
• Two soldiers were martyred in the gun battle. The intelligence-based operation was conducted in the Datakhel area near the Afghan border, said a statement issued by the military`s media affairs wing.
• Officials said that security forces cordoned off the area after receiving reports about the presence of terrorists in a compound.
• They said the terrorists opened fire on security forces that resulted in the martyrdom of two soldiers
2. Cabinet approves amendments in provincial laws
• Punjab Cabinet which met here on January 30, 2020 with Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar in the chair approved amendments in rules concerning various departments besides giving its nod for installation of a disposal plant for respectful disposal of damaged pieces of the Holy Quran.
• The meeting gave approval to amendments in Punjab Stamp Rules 1934. Through this amendment, complete data of stamp vendors will be automated and they will be given smart cards for sale and purchase of less-value stamp papers.
• The meeting approved Punjab Electronic Invoice Monitoring System Rules 2019 and also approved the amendment in the second schedule of Punjab Sales Tax on Services Act 2012. This amendment would facilitate the construction industry. Punjab Cabinet decided to amend MoU with Novartis till June 2020 for the treatment of cancer patients and TORs of second MoU will be re-examined.
3. ADB to loan $15m for development of seven Punjab cities
• The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $15 million loan to help seven cities of Punjab to design comprehensive investment and public service delivery plans for urban development projects.
• The loan will fund the preparation of master plans, detailed engineering designs, and operational business plans for proposed projects in Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi and Sargodha.
• It will also help ensure a high level of readiness ahead of the ensuing Punjab urban development projects and complement the ADB`s existing technical assistance to Pakistan to conduct feasibility studies and explore innovations to improve the quality of urban services
4. WHO declares China virus outbreak an international emergency
• The World Health Organisation declared on January 30, 2020 that the coronavirus epidemic in China now constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
• Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, announced the decision after a meeting of its emergency committee, an independent panel of experts, amid mounting evidence of the virus spreading to some 18 countries.
• Tedros told a news conference in Geneva that recent weeks had witnessed an unprecedented outbreak which has been met by an unprecedented response
5. UN says Africa needs $76m to fight locust threat
• The worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years needs some $76 million to help control and the money is required by, actually, now, the United Nations said on January 30, 2020.
• So far just $15 million has been mobilised to help stop the outbreak that threatens to worsen an already poor hunger situation for millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and elsewhere, Dominique Bourgeon, emergencies director with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, told a briefing in Rome.
• `You can imagine that a country that has not seen such a thing in 70 years is not well prepared,` he said of Kenya, East Africa`s economic hub
6. Japan issues warrants for ex-US soldier, two others over Ghosn escape
• Japanese prosecutors on January 30, 2020 issued arrest warrants for a former US special forces operative and two other people accused of helping former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn jump bail and flee the country.
• The prosecutors also issued a warrant for Ghosn for leaving the country illegally, after he escaped to Lebanon via Turkey last month.
• Warrants were issued for Michael Taylor, 59, reportedly a former US special forces operative-turned-security consultant, 26-year-old Peter Taylor, who local media identified as his son, and George Zayek, 60.
7. UN shuts refugee centre in Tripoli
• The United Nations said on January 30, 2020 it was suspending operations at a refugee centre in Libya`s capital because it could become a target while the UN envoy said a truce brokered by Russia and Turkey was holding `only in name`.
• Artillery exchanges in Tripoli have significantly increased in recent days, UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame told the Security Council in a briefing, causing an increase in civilian casualties due to indiscriminate shelling.
• Since Jan 12, when forces aligned with Tripoli`s internationally recognised government and eastern based rivals led by Khalifa Haftar conditionally agreed to a truce, more than 110 violations had been recorded, Salame said
8. Asia seeing growing repression, resistance, says Amnesty
• Authoritarian governments in Asia are undermining human rights and demonising their critics, but they face a rising tide of protest from young people who defy grave risks to protest such repression, Amnesty International said in its annual report on the region.
• The human rights group`s annual survey of the Asia-Pacific region, released on January 30, 2020, said India and China, the two most populous nations, are trying to impose their own bleak, domineering vision on the continent, perceiving minorities as a threat to national security.
• `The main takeaway from the report is that in Asia, we saw an escalation of the repression in many countries. But we also saw an increase in the resistance and protest, often led by young people from Hong Kong to India, from Myanmar to Thailand,` said Nicholas Bequelin, regional director for Amnesty International.
9. New telescope reveals sun in remarkable detail
• Images from a powerful new telescope installed on top of a volcano in Hawaii show the surface of the sun in the closest detail yet, revealing features as small as 30km across. They were captured by the National Science Foundation`s (NSF) Daniel K.
• Inouye Solar Telescope, which sits at around 10,000 feet above sea level near the summit of Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawaii.
• The telescope, which features the world`s largest solar 13 feet mirror, could enable a greater understanding of the sun and its impact on our planet, according to the National Solar Observatory, a public research institute headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.
10. US-Mexico border: ‘Longest ever’ smuggling tunnel discovered
• US officials say they have discovered the longest smuggling tunnel ever found on the border with Mexico.
• Stretching for 4,309ft (1,313m), the tunnel had a lift, rail track, drainage and air ventilation systems, and high voltage electrical cables. The passageway connected an industrial site in the Mexican city of Tijuana to the San Diego area in California.
• There were no arrests made or drugs found. Authorities did not say who they suspected of being behind the tunnel.
• But Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, described by the US government as one of the largest drug-trafficking organisations in the world, operates in the area. Its founder and long-time leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is serving life in prison in the US
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