British Parliament rejects Brexit deal for a second time:
- British Parliament will vote on a new motion today to decide if the UK should leave the EU within the March 29 deadline without any deal in place.
- MPs overwhelmingly rejected May's withdrawal agreement by 149 votes, leaving the deadline for the deal hanging in the balance.
- Legislators in the House of Commons voted against the deal by 391 to 242.
- Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for the general election to allow the British public to decide who should lead them into the next phase of Brexit.
- Meanwhile, the EU has warned of no Brexit deal saying that Brussels would not make any further concessions to help May win over recalcitrant MPs.
- A spokesman for Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said he regretted the result, but warned that from Brussels' viewpoint it is difficult to see what more it could do.
- EU ambassadors will also meet in Brussels today to assess the vote, the bloc's contingency plans and to discuss whether to grant a delay to Brexit if London asks for one.
- The United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, two years after the Brexit referendum in June 2016 that triggered Article 50, the exit clause in the EU's constitution and kick-started arduous negotiations with European leaders over a divorce deal.
- The British Government has, however, not yet been able to win parliamentary approval for its agreement with the European Union on withdrawal terms and future relations.
- The deadlock has raised fears of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit that could result in a major economic crisis and disruption for businesses and people both in Britain and the remaining twenty seven EU nations.
- British Prime Minister Theresa May has been frantically working to save her deal. She is under mounting pressure to quit. She survived a bid to oust her through a no-confidence vote in December 2018.
IS crumbling in last bastion:
- Kurdish-led forces said more people were surrendering from the Islamic State group’s last scrap of territory in Syria, after overnight air raids and shelling ravaged jihadist outposts.
- A ragged tent encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz is all that remains of a once-sprawling IS “caliphate” declared in 2014 across large swaths of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
- The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have been trying to crush holdout IS fighters for weeks but the mass outpouring of men, women and children from the riverside hamlet has bogged down their advance.
- Backed by the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF renewed their assault on Sunday after warning remaining IS fighters that time was up for surrenders.
- Airstrikes and shelling have since pummelled Baghouz for two nights in a row, killing scores of fighters and prompting hundreds of jihadists and their relatives to surrender.
- The frontline was quiet Tuesday morning, hours after the airstrikes and rocket attacks on Monday night engulfed the last IS pocket in flames.
- The commander said the SDF had slowed its offensive after daybreak to allow for jihadists and their relatives to turn them in.
World Gold Council Report:
- The World Gold Council its latest report highlights the quantum of gold holding by the different countries. The findings of the report are:
- India, which is the world’s largest consumer of gold, has the 11th largest gold reserve, with the current holding pegged at 607 tonnes.
- International Monetary Fund (IMF) is third on the list with total gold reserves of 2,814 tonnes.
- Top slot is occupied by the U.S., which boasts of gold reserves of 8,133.5 tonnes, followed by Germany with 3,369.7 tonnes.
- Among Asian countries, China and Japan have more reserves of the precious metal when compared to India.
- Pakistan, with its gold reserves of 64.6 tonnes, occupies the 45th position.
- The report notes that Gross purchases of 48 tonnes and gross sales of 13 tonnes led to an increase in global gold reserves by 35 tonnes on a net basis in January, with sizeable increases from nine central banks.
World Gold Council:
- The World Gold Council is the market development organisation for the gold industry. It works across all parts of the industry, from gold mining to investment, and their aim is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold.
- The World Gold Council is an association whose members comprise the world’s leading gold mining companies. It helps to support its members to mine in a responsible way and developed the Conflict Free Gold Standard.
- Headquartered in the UK, they have offices in India, China, Singapore, Japan and the United States.
Masood Azhar's UNSC listing:
- China hints it may block move to declare him global terrorist
- China has been insisting that the solution should be acceptable to all
- Proposal to designate Azhar as global terrorist was moved by France, UK & US
- China blocked the move by India & other member nations thrice in the past
- The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, UK and the US on February 27.
- The JeM, headed by the 50-year-old Azhar, carried out many terror strikes in India and was involved in the attack on Parliament, the Pathankot air force base, army camps in Jammu and Uri.
On average Lok Sabha members represent most number of people in the world:
- An elected MP of lower house represents over 15 lakh voters on average, and an MLA over 2 lakh. This is the largest number by far anywhere in the world. In 1951 an MP on average represented 3.54 lakh voters.
- But the MPs in Parliament control the Government, large budgets, and new legislation. The revenue expenditure in the early 1950s was between Rs 400 and Rs 500 crore a year.
- In 2014 the revenue expenditure budget is over Rs 17.63 lakh crore — an increase of over 3,900 times. Even at 10% growth, it should have gone up by about 500 times.
- After Independence, some of the first set of leaders emerged from the rural and urban elite. They were replaced by the rising aspirations of the Backward Castes, who were numerically larger, and then by the Dalits.
- In the Lok Sabha 2014 elections, over 475 political parties contested for 543 seats, up from 392 in 2009. In 1950 there were 54 parties. In most-so called developed countries, the number is at most half a dozen.
- The margins of victory are often small.
- In the previous five Lok Sabha elections of 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014, on average 32 seats were won with a margin of less than 1 per cent, 69 with less than 2 per cent and 101 with less than 3 per cent. With hundreds of parties in the fray, over 10 candidates per constituency, and coalition governments, an astute candidate today has to manage a small fraction of voters to win elections.
- An analysis of over 60,000 records of candidates and winners since 2004 shows that while only 12 per cent of ‘clean’ candidates, without any taint, win, around 23 per cent of tainted candidates win, and a similar 23 per cent of seriously tainted candidates win.
- Governance clearly suffers as money and muscle-power continue to play a big role.
- Across the board, the performance of the Government on various governance parameters was low, between ‘Bad’ and ‘Average’.
- The top 10 priorities for voters was employment, basic essential services (drinking water, education, health, electricity), basic infrastructure (roads, public transport), lower food prices/subsidised Public Distribution System (PDS), law and order and women’s security.