Daily Current Affairs - 11th Apr 2017

'Zero recovery' for damaged corals at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

  • Coral bleached for two consecutive years at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has “zero prospect” of recovery, scientists warned, as they confirmed the site has again been hit by warming sea temperatures.
  • Researchers reported that they were detecting another round of mass bleaching this year after a severe event in 2016, and their fears were confirmed after aerial surveys of the entire 2,300-kilometre long bio-diverse reef.
  • It is the fourth time coral bleaching — where stressed corals expel the algae that live in their tissue and provide them with food — has hit the reef after previous events in 1998 and 2002

Aadhaar must for access to Survey of India maps

  • The Survey of India, the country’s oldest scientific organisation and official maker of maps, has set up a web portal called Nakshe that allows 3,000 of its 7,000 maps to be downloaded for free.
  • The major requirement for accessing maps is Aadhaar number. The maps to be made available through the portal http://soinakshe.uk.gov.in/ will make it easier for residents of villagers and panchayats to readily access information.
  • The SoI maps —prepared for defence and civilian purposes — are considered a standard reference for the shape, extent and geographic features of the country.
  • The Survey of India was developing a so-called Geoid model of the country. This would make measurements of topography by satellite — the modern method — compatible with the traditional ground-based measures.
  • Survey of India headquarters: Dehradun
  • Current Surveyor General: Dr. Swarna Subba Rao

Armed forces will be allowed to buy non-core items in open market

  • To break the monopoly of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in procurements and improve its performance, the Ministry of Defence will allow the armed forces to buy several non-core items in the open market. So far, it is mandatory for the services to buy these items from the OFB
  • The non-core items include troop-comfort items and ammunition boxes. The guidelines are being formulated.

Australian uranium to arrive soon in India

  • Australia will start supplying uranium to India as soon as possible, the visiting Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull stated. Both countries signed six agreements, including one on countering terrorism.
  • Australia has about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes of yellow cake annually.
  • Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the passage of the Civil Nuclear Transfers to India Act in the Australian Parliament, opening up opportunities for Australia to support Indian energy generation.
  • As part of the emerging Asia-Pacific focus of India-Australia ties, the joint statement took a firm position against China’s growing presence in the South China Sea region

Centre to get tough on traffic offences

  • The Lok Sabha cleared amendments to the motor vehicles law by a voice vote to give more thrust to road safety, controlling pollution and accidents.
  • The bill seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 that provides for legal standards for motor vehicles, grant of driving licenses, and penalties for violation of these provisions.
  • Learner’s driving licences to be issued online and penalise contractors for faulty road designs.
  • According to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016
  • Driving without a licence may soon lead to a minimum fine of Rs. 5,000 as against Rs. 500 at present.
  • Similarly, for over-speeding, the penalty may go up to Rs. 1,000-2,000 from Rs. 400.
  • Not wearing seatbelts would result in a minimum penalty of Rs. 1,000 against Rs. 100 at present.
  • The traffic violation penalties will also increase 10% each year once the Bill becomes a law.
  • The proposed law will also allow citizens to apply or renew a driving licence from any road transport office in the State. At present, citizens can only apply at the closest RTO.
  • The Centre also plans to make submission of Aadhaar number mandatory for applying for a driving licence and vehicle registration by making an enabling provision in the Bill.
  • To become a law, the Bill, which will amend the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, must be passed in the Rajya Sabha, followed by President Pranab Mukherjee’s consent.

China topped on executions in 2016- Amnesty International

  • According to Amnesty International reports, China topped on executions in 2016, despite the number of executions worldwide dropped by 37 percent. In its 2016 Global review of the death penalty published, China executed more people than all other countries in the world put together.
  • The report said, it is difficult to get a clear number as Beijing classifies most information related to the death penalty as "state secrets". It is believed that China executed thousands each year.
  • Excluding China, states around the world executed 1,032 people in 2016, according to Amnesty's records. I
  • ran executed at least 567 people alone, accounting for 66 percent of all the confirmed executions in the region. Saudi Arabia carried out at least 154 executions while Pakistan executed more than 87 persons in 2016.

China, Myanmar ink oil pipeline deal

  • China and Myanmar agreed a deal on a crude oil pipeline between the neighbouring countries as part of a raft of agreements signed between them. Both signed an agreement on a partially-completed crude oil pipeline between western Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu port and southern China’s Kunming city.
  • Also discussed the development of the controversial Myitsone dam, a $3.6 billion Beijing-backed project on hold since protests in 2011.
  • The two countries signed nine cooperative agreements on areas spanning public health, sports and transportation.
  • President of Myanmar: Htin Kyaw
  • Capital: Naypyidaw; Currency: Burmese Kyat

Colson Whitehead's “Underground Railroad” wins Pulitzer

  • Colson Whitehead's celebrated novel The Underground Railroad has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The novel is about an escaped slave that combined liberating imagination and brutal reality.
  • The novel had last year received the National Book Award of the US. This is for the first time in more than 20 years that the same work won the Pulitzer and National Book Award for fiction.
  • List of Winners in Letters, Drama and Music:
  • Fiction: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
  • Drama: Sweat by Lynn Nottage.
  • History: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, by Heather Ann Thompson.
  • Biography or Autobiography: The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar. Poetry: Olio, by Tyehimba Jess (Wave Books)
  • General Nonfiction: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond.
  • Music: Angel’s Bone, by Du Yun.
  • Journalism
  • Public Service: New York Daily News and ProPublica
  • Breaking News Reporting: Staff of East Bay Times, Oakland.
  • Investigative Reporting: Eric Eyre of Charleston Gazette-Mail, Charleston/.
  • Explanatory Reporting: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, McClatchy and Miami Herald
  • International Reporting: The New York Times Staff
  • Breaking News Photography: Daniel Berehulak, freelance photographer
  • The Pulitzer Prize is an annual award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States.

Flipkart raises $1.4 bn. as it battles Amazon

  • India’s largest online retailer Flipkart has raised a total of $1.4 billion from China’s Tencent, U.S.-based e-commerce firm eBay and software maker Microsoft.
  • The funding is expected to help Flipkart build its war chest in the battle against Amazon.com Inc., which is rapidly gaining share in India’s online retail market.
  • It is planning to buy eBay’s India business as part of the transaction.
  • The new funding round valued the company at $11.6 billion. This is about 24% lower than the $15.2 billion valuation it commanded in 2015 based on the $700 million it raised at the time.
  • Its existing group of investors include Tiger Global Management, Naspers Group, Accel Partners and DST Global.
  • Flipkart founders: Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal

Gorsuch sworn in as U.S. Supreme Court justice

  • Neil M. Gorsuch was sworn in as the 113th justice of the US Supreme Court, placing a devoted conservative in the seat once occupied by Justice Antonin Scalia and handing President Donald Trump a victory in his push to shape the court for decades to come.
  • It was the fulfillment of a vital campaign promise made by Mr. Trump to make the appointment of a strict conservative to the Supreme Court a top priority.

Government introduces bill to permit 15 IIITs power to award degrees

  • As many as 15 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) set up under public-private partnership mode are likely to be granted the powers to award degrees to their students. To give effect to this, the HRD Minister has introduced the IIIT (Public-Private Partnership) Bill, 2017, which seeks to declare 15 functional IIITs, as institutions of national importance.
  • Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar

Maldives political crisis intensifies

  • Maldives Opposition parties stated that they would launch a fresh bid to seize control of Parliament by impeaching the Speaker, weeks after their first attempt failed when the President called in troops to evict lawmakers.
  • A coalition of opposition parties had submitted a no-confidence motion with the support of 31 MPs — enough to force a vote in the 85-member Parliament.
  • But after the motion was submitted the government increased the number of signatures required for such a motion to 42, leaving it unclear whether a vote would go ahead.

Only Parliament can allow additions to OBC list

  • The Lok Sabha has passed Constitution 123rd Amendment Bill, 2017, that grants constitutional status to the Backward Classes Commission, now called the National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes.
  • The Bill also states that any addition to the Central list of communities under the Other Backward Classes will have to be cleared through Parliament.
  • The bill also aims to give the National Commission for Backward Classes the constitutional safeguards enjoyed by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
  • Minister for Social Justice and empowerment: Thawarchand Gehlot

RP-Sanjiv Goenka group enters FMCG

  • The RP-Sanjiv Goenka group is in dialogue with a few companies to grow its newly-created FMCG business. Announcing the group’s entry into the segment, with two snack foods, under a new company, Guiltfree Industries Ltd. The products would also be sold through the group’s retail outlet Spencer’s Retail Ltd. and its subsidiary Au Bon Pain Café India Ltd.
  • The group is targeting $1 billion in FMCG sales in five years and is looking to expand into segments beyond foods into personal care and premium organic foods.
  • Over the next five years, a Rs. 10,000 crore investment is proposed to be made on the new business.
  • Chairman: Sanjiv Goenka

Silk Road train begins 18-day journey

  • The first-ever freight train from Britain to China, laden with whisky, soft drinks and baby products, started its mammoth journey along a modern-day “Silk Road” trade route.
  • The 32-container train, around 600 metres long, left from the vast London Gateway container port on the River Thames estuary, bound for Yiwu on the Chinese east coast.
  • The train will be on its 18-day, 12,000-kilometre journey through the Channel Tunnel before traveling across France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan before heading into China.
  • The first train from China to Britain arrived on January 18, filled with clothes and other retail goods.

U.S., U.K. call on Putin to rethink support for Syria

  • The United States and Britain have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to re-evaluate his country’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  • The U.S. always emphasized on twin goals of defeating the Islamic State terror group and removing Mr. Assad from power.
  • After last week's chemical attack, Mr. Trump said his attitude toward Mr. Assad has changed very much and steps are underway to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

Wireless cameras to monitor vital signs in premature babies

  • Swiss researchers have developed a wireless camera system to monitor vital signs in premature babies, a move that could replace uncomfortable and highly inaccurate skin sensors.
  • The optical system was designed by researchers of CSEM, who chose cameras sensitive enough to detect minute changes in skin colour, while the EPFL researchers designed algorithms to process the data in real time.
  • The skin sensors currently used to monitor vital signs in babies born prematurely generate false alarms in up to 90% of cases, mainly set off by the baby’s movement.