Daily Current Affairs - 15th Feb 2017

'Thubber' for use in soft, stretchable electronics

  • In a breakthrough for creating soft, stretchable machines and electronics, scientists have developed a novel rubber material with high thermal conductivity and elasticity.
  • The material, nicknamed ‘thubber’, is an electrically insulating composite that exhibits an unprecedented combination of metal-like thermal conductivity, elasticity similar to soft, biological tissue, and can stretch over six times its initial length.
  • It can be used in various industries such as wearable computing and soft robotics, which require mechanical compliance and stretchable functionality.
  • Advanced manufacturing, energy, and transportation are other areas where stretchable electronic material could have great impact in the future.
  • The key ingredient in “thubber” is a suspension of non-toxic, liquid metal micro-droplets.

Centre sanctions Rs. 100 crore for H.P. under tourism project

  • The Union Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned `100 crores under the Himalayan Circuit of Swadesh Darshan Scheme for Himachal Pradesh.
  • The HP project has 14 sub-projects which include a water sports centre at Sunni in Shimla Rural constituency, redevelopment of Shimla ice skating rink, an artificial rock climbing work at Manali, beautification of Dal lake at Dharamshala, paragliding school at Bir, Cultural Centre at Kangra and art and culture centre at Bhalei Mata in Chamba among others.
  • The Swadesh Darshan scheme of the Union Ministry of Tourism includes thirteen thematic circuits for development namely: North-East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit.

CoA to scrutinise BCCI’s financial matters

  • The Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) is likely to dig deep into the financial matters of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and has asked the BCCI’s Chief Financial Officer Santosh Rangnekar, and its internal auditor Gokhale & Sathe, to attend the CoA meeting at New Delhi on February 17.
  • Rahul Johri, the BCCI CEO, will also be part of the third meeting of the CoA.
  • The CoA is headed by former CAG Vinod Rai.
  • The other members of the CoA are Vikram Limaye (CEO, MD of IDFC), Ramchandra Guha (Historian) and Diana Edulji (Women Test cricketer).
  • BCCI Headquarters: Mumbai.

Dedicated Freight Corridor: First portion to be operational by 2018

  • The first portion of the railways’ long-awaited dedicated freight corridor (DFC) will become operational by March 2018 between Ateli (Haryana) and Phulera (Rajasthan), a double track route on the Western DFC
  • Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL), a special purpose vehicle of the railways, has been entrusted to develop six DFCs across India, of which, the Eastern DFC and the Western DFC have been taken up on priority basis with funding assistance from the World Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), respectively.
  • Tariffs on these DFCs will be lower and once all the corridors are operational, the railways’ share in carrying freight will rise from the current 30% to 50%.
  • DFCs will have longer trains with higher tonnage capacity.

Honda unveils new City

  • Japanese auto major Honda has unveiled a new version of its best selling Sedan City in India.
  • While City had been the segment leader for a long time, it was recently dethroned by Maruti Suzuki’s Ciaz.
  • Honda CEO: Takahiro Hachigo.
  • Chairman of Maruti Suzuki: R. C. Bhargava.
  • Maruti Suzuki India Limited, formerly known as Maruti Udyog Limited, is an automobile manufacturer headquartered in New Delhi. It is a subsidiary of Japanese automobile and motorcycle manufacturer, Suzuki Motor Corporation.
  • Originally, 74% stake of in Maruti Suzuki was owned by the Indian government earlier and 26% by Suzuki of Japan. Currently, the Government of India has no longer any stake in Maruti.

IAF inducts indigenous early warning system

  • The IAF has formally inducted the first indigenously built Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) 'Netra' developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • These airborne warning systems are capable of long range surveillance.
  • Netra is based on Embraer aircraft and three such systems will be developed for the purpose. This system gives a 240-degree coverage of airspace.
  • The three aircraft would be based at Bhatinda (Punjab), facing the Western border.
  • The DRDO has begun development of a more advanced Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) with a 360 degree coverage. The AWACS would be based on the Airbus-A330.

India to join Moscow meet on Afghanistan

  • India is participating in a conference on Afghanistan’s future in Moscow on February 15, two months after Russia hosted a similar conference with only China and Pakistan.
  • After India and particularly Afghanistan objected to being cut out of the discussion, Moscow agreed to expand its ambit, announcing a six-nation conference of Russia, India, Iran, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.
  • There have been serious differences between New Delhi and Moscow over the past few months on their moves in the region.
  • India is uncomfortable with Russia’s overtures to Pakistan on defence issues. Similarly, Russia did not join the U.S., U.K. and France in sponsoring a resolution against Jaish-e-mohammed founder Masood Azhar at the U.N. sanctions committee last month.

India’s air pollution rivals China’s as world’s deadliest

  • A report based on the research conducted by the US based Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation warns that India’s air rivals China’s as the world’s deadliest.
  • It also warns that efforts to curb pollution from coal will not yield results any time soon.
  • India’s notoriously poor air quality causes nearly 1.1 million premature deaths every year.
  • India has recorded a nearly 50% increase in premature deaths linked to fine airborne particles known as PM2.5 between 1990 and 2015.
  • These microscopic particles (Particulate Matter-PM) are so light they float on air and lodge deep in the lungs, and have been linked to higher rates of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and heart disease.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix of France to head UN peacekeeping

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced the appointment of Jean-Pierre Lacroix of France to head UN peacekeeping for a year.
  • Lacroix will replace Herve Ladsous who steps down in March after six years in the top job.
  • The United States of America is the biggest financial contributor to the UN peacekeeping amounting to 29% of the latter's budget.
  • UNPK is a role held by the Department of the Peacekeeping Operations of the UN.
  • UN Headquarters: New York, USA.

Jehan Daruvala wins New Zealand GP

  • Jehan Daruvala of India won the Toyota Racing Series’ New Zealand Grand Prix at the Chris Amon Circuit in Manfeild, New Zealand.
  • This feat makes him the first and the only Indian to win a Grand Prix in motorsport.
  • This Grand Prix is the only other 'Grand Prix' besides the Macau GP, in motorsport, outside of Formula 1 and therefore very prestigious for all racers.
  • New Zealand Capital: Wellington.
  • New Zealand Currency: New Zealand dollar.

Legendary Jazz Musician Al Jarreau passed away

  • A versatile vocalist and seven-time Grammy-winning US jazz artist Al Jarreau has died at 76.
  • Nicknamed the "Acrobat of Scat," Jarreau released more than 20 albums throughout his career.
  • He won Grammys across three different categories: jazz, pop and R&B.
  • He is best known for the hits "Breakin' Away" and "We're in This Love Together".
  • Jazz is a music genre that originated amongst African Americans in New Orleans, USA, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • R&B stands for 'Rhythm and Blues' which is a genre of popular African-American music that originated in the 1940s.

Michael Flynn resigns as US National Security Adviser

  • Michael T. Flynn, the US National Security Adviser, resigned after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.
  • Mr. Flynn said he had given incomplete information regarding a telephone call he had with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 about Obama's sanctions against Russia for election-related hacking, weeks before President Trump’s inauguration as the US President.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies wiretapped Flynn's conversations with the Russian Ambassador, which finally led to the NSA's resignation.
  • Some of the US intelligence agencies are: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Military Exercise 'Cobra Gold 2017' begins in Thailand

  • The United States and Thailand have launched the multinational annual joint 'Cobra Gold' military exercises in Thailand.
  • The war games are the largest U.S.-led military exercises in Asia.
  • The multinational drill involves 29 nations from the Asia-Pacific region, although only the US and hosting Thailand have significant forces involved.
  • Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, India and China are among the 29 participants.
  • Thailand Capital: Bangkok.
  • Thai Currency: Thai Baht.

MoU signed between Publications Division and Sasta Sahitya Mandal

  • Publications Division of the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and Sasta Sahitya Mandal (SSM) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for joint publication of books on heroes of freedom struggle, cultural leaders and other eminent personalities who worked towards Nation development.
  • Sasta Sahitya Mandal, New Delhi, was established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1925 with the financial help from G.D.Birla and Jamanalal Bajaj for the promotion, development and publication of high-class literature in Hindi and to make it available to the reading public in affordable price.

NGT slaps cost on Uttarakhand for delayed response

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slapped fines on the Uttarakhand government and its agencies for not filing responses on a plea highlighting human–wildlife conflict and seeking rehabilitation of villagers living inside Rajaji National Park in the State
  • The NGT, New Delhi, has been established in 2010 under the NGT Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • NGT Chairperson: Justice Swatanter Kumar.

SC verdict ends Sasikala bid to become CM

  • Indicting former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for having criminally conspired with her aide V.K. Sasikala to launder ill-gotten wealth, the Supreme Court set aside the Karnataka High Court’s acquittal of Ms. Sasikala in the 20-year-old disproportionate assets case.
  • Ms. Sasikala, the current chief of AIADMK, has to now undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of four years.
  • Even after Ms. Sasikala serves her four-year sentence, she would be disqualified from contesting elections for the next six years as per the Supreme Court judgment in the Lily Thomas versus Union of India of July 2013 case.

Wholesale inflation races to 5.25%

  • According to a report released by Care Ratings, the Wholesale Price Index grew 5.25% in January on the back of accelerating inflation in the crude oil and minerals sectors.
  • The index saw its growth accelerating from 3.39% in December 2016.
  • While inflation in the primary articles category quickened to 1.3% in January from 0.3% in December 2016, prices in the food segment within this period contracted for the second consecutive month by 0.56% compared with a contraction of 0.7% in December.
  • The minerals segment, however, saw the rate of inflation almost doubling in January to 25.4% from 12.9% in December.
  • This significant increase in inflation has come from a substantial increase in the prices of fuel and power and marginal increase in prices of manufactured goods over previous month.