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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - December 2020

Dec 2020

Jun 18, 2021

Canada's First Judge of Colour in Supreme Court

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made history by nominating the first judge of colour to sit on the country's Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.
  • Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario's court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.
  • Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court in July.

Botswana Unearths World's Third Largest Diamond

  • According to a joint venture between Anglo-American's De Beers and the government, a 1,098-carat diamond, believed to be the third largest gem-quality stone ever to be mined, has been discovered in Botswana.
  • The stone was presented to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by Debswana Diamond Company's acting managing director Lynette Armstrong. It is the third largest in the world, behind the 3,106 carat Cullinan stone recovered in South Africa in 1905 and the 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona unearthed by Lucara Diamonds in Botswana in 2015.
  • This is the largest diamond to be recovered by Debswana in its history of over 50 years in operation.

Iran Votes in Presidential Poll Tipped in Hardliner's Favour

  • Iran began voting in a presidential election tipped in the favour of a hard-line protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, fuelling public apathy and sparking calls for a boycott in the Islamic Republic.
  • State-linked opinion polling and analysts put hard-line judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi as the dominant front-runner in a field of just four candidates.
  • Former Central Bank chief, Abdolnasser Hemmati, is running as the race's moderate candidate but hasn't inspired the same support as outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who is term limited from seeking the office again.

Jun 17, 2021

Biden Names Lina Khan as Chairwoman of FTC

  • President Joe Biden named Lina Khan Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, an unexpected move that puts one of the most prominent advocates of aggressive antitrust enforcement against U.S. technology giants in charge of the agency.
  • News of Khan's appointment came hours after the Senate confirmed her for a seat on the FTC by a vote of 69-28. She will take over the agency from Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, who has been a commissioner for three years and had been expected by some to be tapped by Biden to lead the agency permanently.

Leftist Castillo Wins Popular Vote in Presidential Race

  • Leftist candidate Pedro Castillo has won the most votes in Peru's close-run presidential run-off election.
  • With all ballots now counted, Mr. Castillo has just over 50% of the votes - 44,000 more than right-wing contender Keiko Fujimori.
  • But Mr. Castillo cannot be declared the winner until electoral authorities have finished processing a slew of legal challenges brought by Ms. Fujimori.
  • She has claimed electoral fraud, but has not provided any detailed evidence.
  • Electoral observers, including the Organisation of American States, have said they have found no irregularities. Castillo's Free Peru party has also rejected accusations of fraud.
  • More than 18.8 million Peruvians cast their votes in this year's race - a turnout of nearly 75%. Observers have said it could take weeks to deliberate over Ms. Fujimori's legal challenges and formally announce a winner.

Biden and Putin Praise Geneva Summit Talks

  • The presidents of the US and Russia have praised their talks in Geneva but have made little concrete progress at the first such meeting since 2018.
  • Disagreements were stated, said US President Joe Biden, but not in a hyperbolic way, and he said Russia did not want a new Cold War.
  • The talks lasted around three hours, less time than was scheduled.
  • Mr. Biden said they did not need to spend more time talking and there was now a genuine prospect to improve relations with Russia.
  • The two sides agreed to begin a dialogue on nuclear arms control. They also said they would return ambassadors to each other's capitals - the envoys were mutually withdrawn for consultations in March, after the US accused Russia of meddling in the 2020 presidential election.
  • However, there was little sign of agreement on other issues, including cyber-security, Ukraine and the fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a penal colony.

Jun 16, 2021

India 4th most Charitable Country

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has upended giving trends across the world as several western economies have slipped down the Index due to COVID lockdowns, as per the World Giving Index (WGI) 2021.
  • Released by the Charities Aid Foundation's (CAF), this year's survey highlights the impact of lockdowns on charitable giving, as the USA, Canada, Ireland, the UK, and the Netherlands -- all fell out of the highest rankings.
  • India is now in the top 20 most generous countries in the world, at 14. This is up from the 10-year global rank of 82. Only Australia and New Zealand, where the survey was undertaken in the weeks before the first wave of the pandemic took hold, maintained their top 10 rankings.

China Warns NATO, Urges Dialogue

  • China warned the North Atlantic Treaty Organization it won't "sit back" in the face of any challenges, illustrating the potential for tensions to escalate while the U.S. tries to convince its allies to take a tougher approach to the Asian nation.
  • Beijing doesn't pose a "systemic challenge" to any countries, according to a statement on the website of its mission to the European Union that added NATO should not exaggerate China's military power.
  • The statement also urged NATO to push forward with dialogue and cooperation, and said the bloc should work to safeguard international and regional stability.
  • The comments from Beijing come after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the alliance is "concerned by China's coercive policies, which stand in contrast to the fundamental values enshrined in the Washington Treaty" on which the bloc rests.

Jun 15, 2021

UK and Australia Agree Broad Terms of Trade Deal

  • The broad terms of a trade deal between the UK and Australia have been agreed.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott Morrison agreed the deal at Downing Street.
  • This is the first trade deal to be negotiated from scratch since the UK left the EU.
  • It is seen as an important step towards the UK joining a wider Asia Pacific free-trade agreement.
  • The UK government has signed a long list of trade deals over the past year, but they have been rollovers of those the UK already had as part of the EU.
  • The new trade deal is expected to give UK and Australian food producers and other businesses easier access to each other's markets.

Netanyahu Plots Comeback even Before New Government Sworn in

  • Benjamin Netanyahu, unseated after a bruising, two-year battle to hold on to his job, is already plotting a comeback.
  • The once-invincible Israeli leader was voted out of office after 12 uninterrupted years in power, replaced by a shaky governing alliance.
  • The new coalition will govern with the slimmest majorities -- commanding 61 of parliament's 120 seats -- and runs the gamut of Israeli politics: secular and religious factions, hawks and doves, free marketers and social democrats, and an Arab party for the first time in Israeli history.
  • Under a power-sharing agreement that allowed the new government to get off the ground, Bennett, a 49-year-old former Netanyahu ally, will serve until August 2023. He'll be replaced by centrist Yair Lapid, who was the main architect of this unlikely coalition and will lead the country through November 2025.

Ex-Mongolian Prime Minister Khurelsukh Wins Presidential Election

  • Former Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh became the country's sixth democratically elected President, further consolidating the power of the ruling Mongolian People's Party(MPP).
  • Khurelsukh, who was forced to resign as Prime Minister after protests earlier this year, comfortably defeated Sodnomzundui Erdene of the opposition Democratic Party and Dangaasuren Enkhbat of the Right Person Electorate Coalition in a national vote.
  • Khurelsukh will replace incumbent Khaltmaa Battulga, who was denied an opportunity to seek re-election following controversial changes to Mongolia's constitution that restricted presidents to one term in office.

Jun 14, 2021

Google to Build World's Longest Undersea Cable to Connect Latin America and the US

  • Alphabet's Google announced on June 9, 2021, that it will be building an undersea cable that will connect the United States, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina, to bolster the capacity of internet connection between these regions.
  • The undersea cable called Firminia, named after a Brazilian abolitionist and author Maria Firminia dos Reis, will be the longest cable in the world.
  • The announcement by Google has also come at a time when the demand for the cloud and internet services has surged because of an increase in online activity due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Netanyahu's Tenure Ends; Bennett is Israel's New PM

  • After a record 12 years under Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel entered a new era, voting in a motley coalition united by animosity towards "Bibi" and installing his one-time protege Naftali Bennett as the prime minister.
  • Sixty members of the Knesset voted in favour of the ideologically divided alliance and 59 against, with one abstention.
  • Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years, after which coalition architect, centrist Yair Lapid, will take over.
  • Earlier in the day, Bennett said that renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran would be a major mistake. In a speech to parliament prior to the vote, Bennett said that Israel remains ready to act against Iran.

Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, UAE Elected To UN Security Council For 2022-23 Term

  • Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates were elected unopposed to the powerful UN Security Council as non-permanent members for the 2022-23 term.
  • The 193-member UN General Assembly held elections to elect five non-permanent members who will take their seats on the 15-nation Council for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2022.
  • All the five countries won the elections unopposed as they were the only candidates from their respective regional groups vying for the allotted seats on the Council.
  • As per regional distribution for the 2021 election, three seats were available from the African and Asian States that went to Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates, one Latin American and Caribbean Group seat to which Brazil was elected and the Eastern European Group seat that went to Albania.
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