Current Affairs in Short: 20 April 2018
Miguel Diaz-Canel elected as Cuba's new president
• Miguel Diaz-Canel was formally named as the new President of Cuba on April 19, 2018.
• Canel would be succeeding Raul Castro in a historic handover that ends the six-decade rule by the Castro brothers.
• The 57-year-old, who was the only candidate for the presidency, was elected for a five-year term with 603 out of 604 possible votes in the National Assembly.
Nepal honours first conquest of Everest without bottled oxygen
• Nepal's government on April 19, 2018 honoured two climbers who were the first to scale Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen 40 years ago.
• Italian Reinhold Messner and Austrian Peter Habeler had reached the summit without the use of supplementary oxygen, while others on their team used bottled oxygen.
• Until then, all climbers carried oxygen cylinders to aid them at high altitudes where oxygen levels were low.
• Since the Everest was first scaled in 1953, thousands of climbers have reached the summit and hundreds more make attempts every year.
• This year nearly 350 foreign climbers have already been issued climbing permits. Most climbers still use supplementary oxygen.
Jim Bridenstine becomes new NASA Chief in a close vote
• The US Senate has narrowly confirmed Jim Bridenstine, President Donald Trump's pick to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in a 50-49 vote.
• Bridgestone, US Navy veteran and former pilot, will become the 13th administrator of NASA.
• The 42-year-old has expressed an interest in returning humans back to the moon, spoken of closer ties between NASA and the commercial space industry and has voiced skepticism about human-caused climate change.
• He was a strong supporter of Trump during the 2016 presidential race.
In a rare case, hundreds of refugees return to Syria from Lebanon
• Hundreds of Syrians, who lived for years as refugees in Lebanon left the country on April 18, 2018 to return to their home.
• The case is a rare case of a mass return of those who left the country since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.
• Over 500 people, including children and the elderly, left the Shebaa area in southeast Lebanon in 15 buses for the Beit Jinn district in Syria, in western Ghouta, which was recaptured from rebels by pro-government forces in December.
India to bid for 2026 Youth Olympics
• The Indian Olympic Association has decided to bid for the 2026 Youth Olympics as well as the 2030 Asian Games and the 2032 Summer Olympics.
• The bidding process for the 2026 Youth Olympics is likely to start in early 2020.
• Besides India, Thailand has also expressed interest to host the 2026 Youth Olympics.
• A decision on the 2032 Summer Olympics host city will only be taken in 2025 and the bidding process is expected to start sometime before that.
• Germany and Australia have expressed their desire to bid for 2032 Olympics and more countries are expected to join the bid later.
Global debt has reached record high, warns IMF
• With public debt currently at historic highs in advanced and emerging market economies, the IMF has advised countries to avoid policies that increase economic fluctuations.
• Vitor Gaspar, Director, IMF Fiscal Affairs Department has also advised countries to build strong public finances in good times in order to tackle looming risks.
• The global debt reached a record high in 2016 at USD 164 trillion, or almost 225 per cent of GDP.
• China alone has contributed 43 per cent to the increase since 2007.
• In emerging market economies, debt at almost 50 per cent of GDP on average is at levels that in the past have been associated with fiscal crisis.
• In contrast, for low-income developing countries, average debt-to-GDP ratios at 44 per cent of GDP are well below historical peaks.
Govt asks states to allow private licence for taxis
• The Union Government has asked states to allow drivers to use private licence for driving taxis and light vehicles for commercial purposes.
• However, commercial driving licences would be required for trucks, buses, heavy commercial vehicles and other medium.
• To ensure compliance with a Supreme Court order, in an advisory to states, Ministry of Transport said, the requirement under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to obtain the transport licence would arise in case of medium or heavy goods and passenger vehicles only.
• The Ministry has clarified that no other vehicle will require any separate endorsement, even if they are used for commercial purposes.
Syria returns to France the prestigious Legion d'honneur
• Syria has returned to France the prestigious Legion d'honneur presented to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
• The award was returned to France through the Romanian embassy in Damascus.
• President Assad was decorated with the highest class of the award, the Grand Croix, in 2001 after he took power following the death of his father.
• The move comes days after France said a disciplinary procedure for withdrawing the award was under way.
• France recently joined the US and Britain in bombing Syrian targets over an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Direct phone link established between North & South Korean heads
• A direct phone link between the South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un started operating on April 20, 2018.
• The date of the first talks between the two leaders is not however, yet fixed.
• Both the leaders earlier agreed to hold their first conversation on the hotline before their landmark summit on April 27, 2018.
SC terms public statements on impeachment of judges unfortunate
• The Supreme Court on April 20, 2018 termed public statements, including those made by lawmakers, on impeachment of judges, as very unfortunate.
• A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said after the counsel appearing for the petitioner raised the issue of politicians making public statements on impeachment of judges.
• The apex court has posted the matter for further hearing on May 7.
• The apex court asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist it to deal with the plea, which has also sought a gag on the media from reporting such statements.
• The development is significant as it comes on a day when the opposition parties have decided to submit a notice to initiate impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Berlin set for mass evacuation as World War II bomb is defused
• A large-scale evacuation is to take place in Berlin on April 20, 2018 to allow experts to defuse a World War Two bomb.
• Buildings will be cleared in a 2,625 feet radius from the construction site where the bomb was discovered.
• Thousands of unexploded bombs from the 1939-45 war are found every year. The 500-kilogram British bomb was found on Heidestrasse last week.
• According to police, the area to be cleared includes Berlin Hauptbahnhof - the central railway station, an army hospital, the economy and transport ministries and the embassies of Indonesia and Uzbekistan.