International Places in News Part 3

Botswana reports mysterious deaths of hundreds of elephants

  • Hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta.
  • Ruled out poaching as the tusks were found intact.
  • The landlocked country has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated at 130,000. 
  • The Delta alone is home to an estimated 15,000 elephants.
  • In a report prepared for the government, conservation organisation Elephants Without Borders (EWB) said its aerial surveys showed that elephants of all ages appeared to be dying.


Natanz- Iranian Nuclear Enrichment Facility

  • Recently a fire ripped through a building at Iran’s main nuclear-fuel production site.
  • The Atomic Energy Agency of Iran acknowledged an “incident” at the desert site, but did not term it sabotage. 
  • The fire and explosion took place inside the nuclear complex at Natanz, where the Iranian desert gives way to barbed wire, antiaircraft guns and an industrial maze. 
  • The damaged building is adjacent to the underground fuel production facilities where, a decade ago, the United States and Israel conducted the most sophisticated cyberattack in modern history, code-named “Olympic Games.” 
  • Homeland Cheetahs group claimed responsibility.
  • Enriched to around 3 percent, the fuel can be used in nuclear reactors; at 90 percent, it can fuel atom bombs.


Hagia Sophia

  • The construction of this iconic structure in Istanbul started in 532 AD during the reign of Justinian I, the ruler of the Byzantine Empire, when the city was known as Constantinople.
  • Recently, a Turkish court has allowed the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul can be converted into a mosque.
  • The 1,500 year old Unesco World Heritage site was originally a cathedral before becoming a mosque and then a museum in the 1930s.
  • In the 1930s, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, shut down the mosque and turned it into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
  • Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the change during an election rally.
  • Islamist groups and devout Muslims demand the building be turned back into a mosque, and have staged protests outside it, against a 1934 law that bars religious services at the site.


China bubonic plague

  • Authorities in China have stepped up precautions after a city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Urad Middle Banner, in Bayannur city, confirmed one case of bubonic plague.
  • The bubonic plague was once the world’s most feared disease, but can now be easily treated.
  • The health committee of the city of Bayan Nur issued the third-level alert, the second lowest in a four-level system.
  • It is rare but serious bacterial infection transmitted by fleas from rodents and has the potential to be transmitted to other animals or humans. 
  • According to the World Health Organization, bubonic plague can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time.

What is bubonic plague?

  • Bubonic plague, caused by bacterial infection, was responsible for one of the deadliest epidemics in human history – the Black Death – which killed about 50 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe in the 14th Century.
  • But nowadays it can be treated by antibiotics. 
  • Left untreated, the disease – which is typically transmitted from animals to humans by fleas – has a 30-60% fatality rate.
  • Symptoms of the plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin.

There are three types of plague, a bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis: septicemic, which spreads in the blood; bubonic, which affects the lymph nodes; and pneumonic, which affects the lungs.

Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary

  • China recently objecting to a request to develop the Sakteng wildlife sanctuary in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang district at an online meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), claiming it to China’s area.
  • Set up in 1992, GEF is a US-based global body to finance projects in the environment sector.
  • Bhutan objected to the Chinese claim, and the GEF council passed the project for funding. 
  • Bhutan and China had disputed areas in only two points — north and west. This has been widely known, as per the 24 rounds of border talks between 1984 and 2016.

Algae turns Italian Alps pink

  • Scientists in Italy are investigating the mysterious appearance of pink glacial ice in the Alps, caused by algae that accelerate the effects of climate change.
  • Italy’s National Research Council said the pink snow observed on parts of the Presena glacier is likely caused by the same plant found in Greenland.
  • The plant, known as Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, is present in Greenland’s so-called Dark Zone, where the ice is also melting.
  • Ice reflects more than 80% of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but as algae appear, they darken the ice so that it absorbs the heat and melts more quickly.


Kuwait Approves Expat Quota Bill

  • According to the Bill, Indians should not exceed 15% of Kuwait’s population.
  • Some 8 lakh Indians could be forced to leave Kuwait after a parliamentary committee approved a draft expat quota Bill seeking to gradually slash the number of foreign workers in the Gulf country
  • Kuwait has a real problem in its population structure, in which 70% are expats.

Kuwait is a top source of remittances for India. In 2018, India received nearly $4.8 billion from Kuwait as remittances.


Balloon-powered internet in Africa

  •  A fleet of high-altitude balloons started delivering internet service to Kenya.
  • Extending online access to tens of thousands of people in the first-ever commercial deployment of the technology.
  • The balloons, which hover about 12 miles up in the stratosphere — well above commercial airplanes — will initially provide a 4G LTE network connection to a nearly 31,000-square-mile area across central and western Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi.
  • Loon, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, launched 35 balloons in recent months.
  • The balloons had previously been used only in emergency situations, such as in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria wiped out cell towers. 
  • The balloons, made from sheets of polyethylene, are the size of tennis courts. 
  • They are powered by solar panels and controlled by software on the ground. 
  • While up in the air, they act as “floating cell towers,” transmitting internet signals to ground stations and personal devices. 
  • They last for well over 100 days in the stratosphere before being returned to earth.


Que- Which two countries have become the first two countries in the South-East Asia region to eliminate both measles and rubella ahead of the 2023 target. The announcement was made by WHO South-East Asia’s Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh after the fifth meeting of the regional verification commission for measles and rubella elimination, held virtually.

  1. a) Maldives and Bhutan
  2. b) Bhutan and Sri Lanka
  3. c) Bangladesh and Bhutan
  4. d) Maldives and Sri Lanka

Ans- (d)

  • A country is verified as having eliminated measles and rubella when there is no evidence of endemic transmission for over three years by a well-performing surveillance system.
  • Maldives reported its last endemic case of measles in 2009 and of rubella in October 2015, while Sri Lanka reported last endemic case of measles in May 2016 and of rubella in March 2017.
  • Member countries of WHO South-East Asia region had set 2023 as the target for elimination of measles and rubella. Bhutan, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste are other countries in the region who have eliminated measles.


Que- Turkmenistan  issued health advice that recommended rinsing the mouth with salt water and using yuzarlik, recommended by the country’s president. What is Yuzarlik

  1. a) Sanitizer
  2. b) a herb used in traditional medicine
  3. c) An allopathy medicine
  4. d) A kind of Yoga exercise

Ans- (b)

Commercial farming of endangered species in Myanmar

  • Wildlife and environmental conservation group WWF and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) have warned that the change in the Myanmar law allowing for commercial farming of endangered species may boost the demand for rare animals in the world.
  • The government of Myanmar in June passed a law allowing private zoos to breed 90 wildlife species out of which more than 20 are endangered. 
  • The list of wildlife animals allowed for commercial farming include Tiger, Pangolin, Siamese crocodile and Ayeyarwady Dolphin which are among endangered species in the world.
  • Myanmar is considered to be a major hub of illegal trade in wildlife driven by demand from neighbouring China.


World’s longest subsea power cable

  • Construction work has begun in Lincolnshire on the world’s longest subsea power cable, which will run between Britain and Denmark to share renewable energy between the two countries.
  • The 475-mile (765km) cable is a joint-venture between National Grid in the UK and Denmark’s Energinet. By 2023, the high-voltage, direct-current link will transmit the equivalent of enough electricity to power 1.5m British homes.


Iran drops India from Chabahar rail project

  • Four years after India and Iran signed an agreement to construct a rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, along the border with Afghanistan, the Iranian government has decided to proceed with the construction on its own, citing delays from the Indian side in funding and starting the project.
  • Recently, Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami inaugurated the track-laying process for the 628 km Chabahar-Zahedan line, which will be extended to Zaranj across the border in Afghanistan.

The entire project would be completed by March 2022, and that Iranian Railways will proceed without India’s assistance, using approximately $400 million from the Iranian National Development Fund.


  • The development comes as China finalises a massive 25-year, $400 billion strategic partnership deal with Iran, which could cloud India’s plans.
  • The railway project, which was being discussed between the Iranian Railways and the state-owned Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON), was meant to be part of India’s commitment to the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan to build an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
  • In May 2016, IRCON had signed an MoU with the Iranian Rail Ministry.


‘Cloud-brightening’ trial on Great Barrier Reef

  • A government-backed research program to make the Great Barrier Reef more resilient to global heating will developing technologies that could shade corals and make clouds more reflective during marine heatwaves.
  • The development of a technique known as marine cloud brightening, trialled on the reef in March, will be backed as part of the government’s $443m grant being coordinated by the not-for-profit Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
  • Earlier this year the reef suffered its third mass coral bleaching event in five years. About one quarter of the reef suffered severe bleaching in the most widespread event ever recorded, affecting the full length of the 2,300km world heritage marine park.
  • In the experiment, a modified turbine with 100 high-pressure nozzles was placed on the back of a boat to spray trillions of nano-sized salt crystals into the air.
  • When deployed at a larger scale, those salt crystals theoretically mix with low-altitude clouds to reflect more solar energy away from the waters around the reef.
  • Brightening clouds could work on a scale large enough to both shade corals and cool sea surface temperatures that could be the difference between corals dying from bleaching or recovering.