Israel Current Affairs

US withdraws from UNESCO accusing it for anti-Israel bias

The United States has announced its withdrawal from Paris-based United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), UN’s cultural agency accusing the body of anti-Israel bias. Besides US, Israel has also decided to pull out of UNESCO. US withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. Until then, it will remain a full member. US has announced to establish an observer mission to replace its representation at UNESCO.

Background

USA and UNESCO were at loggerheads since 2011, after UNESCO had admitted Palestinian territories to the organization as an independent member-state called Palestine. UNESCO was first UN agency to recognise and admit Palestine as full member. The recognition was against US policy in Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This was against US’s law which cut off its funding for any organization that recognizes independent Palestine. The US had previously paid for 22% ($80 million) of UNESCO’s annual budget. UNESCO in 2013, had suspended US voting rights in its core decision-making bodies after US missed several rounds of payments to UNESCO.

United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

UNESCO is UN organization that helps preserve historical and cultural sites worldwide. It is special multi-country agency, formed in 1945 and based in France. It promotes literacy and sex education as well as improving gender equality in countries around the world. It is also known for recognising world heritage sites and work to preserve cultural and heritage sites such as ancient ruins, villages and temples, and historic sites.

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Israel launches first environmental research satellite Venus

Israel has launched its first environmental research satellite named as Venus (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite). It is a joint venture between the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and its French counterpart CNES.

It was launched on board of Arianespace Vega launcher from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Key facts

The Venus satellite is an earth-observation micro-satellite. It is considered the smallest satellite of its kind in the world. It weighs only 265 kilogram. It will be placed in sun-synchronized orbit at an altitude of 720 kilometers.

It will circle the earth 29 times in each 48-hour period and will stay in commission for 4.5 years. The mini-satellite is equipped with a special camera that can visualize details on Earth that are not visible to the naked eye.

Venus Satellite has a dual mission-scientific and technological. The scientific mission will monitor Earth’s vegetation using a camera capable of recording 12 narrow spectral bands. The technological mission will test the operation of an innovative electric propulsion system based on the Israeli-designed Hall Effect Thrusters (HET). HET is a relatively low power device used to propel a spacecraft after entering orbit or farther out into space.

Applications: Venus satellite will be used to survey and monitor large areas to study soil, vegetation, forests, agriculture, water and air quality and other aspects of the environment. It will help to obtain high-resolution photographs of specific sites to track environmental issues such as erosion, desertification, pollution, natural disasters, and other phenomena linked to climate change.

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