Daily Current Affairs - 16th Dec 2017

A.K. Pandya passes away

  • Arun Kumar Pandya, the founder Director-General of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and later Secretary (Sports), Government of India, passed away in Bhopal. He was 83. A 1957-batch IAS officer, Pandya also served as chairman of the Kerala State Sports Commission.
  • He has also authored a book, Quest for Olympic Gold: Strategies for Excellence.

Austrian conservatives, far-right announce coalition deal

  • Austria's conservative People's Party has agreed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. The deal comes two months after a parliamentary election which the People's Party won but without an overall majority.
  • At just 31, the People's Party's Sebastian Kurz is set to become the world's youngest head of government. If the coalition is ratified, Austria would become the only western European state with a governing far-right party.
  • Capital: Vienna
  • Currency: Euro

Cabinet approves signing of MoU between India and Colombia in the field of agriculture and fisheries

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Colombia in the field of agriculture and fisheries.
  • To develop projects in association with agricultural companies for production of seed
  • 1. Innovative production models and value generation processes in horticulture(vegetables, fruits and flowers)
  • 2. Innovative agricultural practices/approaches, Successful models of agricultural marketing,
  • 3. New agricultural mechanizations, Exchange of information/exchange visits of experts
  • Jatropha and Karaya,
  • Cooperation in research in oil seeds and oil palm
  • Marine Industrial Fishing, Aqua-culture and Research & Training in the field of Fisheries
  • 1. Small and large ruminants (cattle, sheep, goat) and pigs productivity, diseases and diagnostics and
  • 2. Pork processing and value addition.

Cabinet nod for Bill making instant triple talaq a crime

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a Bill that makes instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence and a Muslim husband resorting to instant talaq can be jailed for up to three years. The government intends to introduce the Bill in the winter session of Parliament that got under way.
  • Instant triple talaq in any form — oral, written or electronic form — has been banned and made a cognizable offence. The Bill also provides for a subsistence allowance of a harassed Muslim woman and her dependent children and the custodial rights of minor children.
  • In August, the SC had passed a landmark judgment terming instant triple talaq “llegal and unconstitutional.”

Centre raises duty on electronic items

  • The Centre has increased customs duty on several electronic items including televisions, mobile phones and microwaves, making the import of these goods more expensive and thus lending a fillip to its ‘Make in India’ programme.
  • The custom duty on push button phones, including mobiles, and on smart electricity meters has been increased to 15%, from 10%.
  • The duty on products like monitors, projectors, water heaters, microwaves, TVs and lamps and light fittings has been doubled to 20%.
  • The increase in customs will boost domestic manufacturers who are making about 500 million cellphones a year, more than double the output three years ago.
  • Eight out of 10 phones sold in 2017 have been made locally.

Commonwealth Wrestling Championship: Wrestlers reach South Africa

  • A 60-member Indian wrestling team, including two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, reached Johannesburg to participate in the 2017 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship.
  • The Indian contingent also includes Asian champion Bajrang Punia, 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Geeta Phogat, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat.
  • India has fielded two wrestlers in each weight category.

Disney is buying most of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion

  • Disney announced a deal to acquire many parts of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion in stock. The company will get Fox's movie studios, networks Nat Geo and FX, Asian pay-TV operator Star TV, and stakes in Sky, Endemol Shine Group and Hulu, as well as regional sports networks.
  • The deal has a total value of approximately $66.1 billion, with Disney assuming $13.7 billion of Fox's net debt. The acquisition values the combined Fox business at $29.54 per share, based on Disney's closing share price.
  • With this acquisition Disney's plans to become a dominant streaming service platform, making it a bigger threat to Netflix.
  • Bob Iger will remain Disney's chairman and CEO through the end of 2021, at the request of the board of directors of both companies.

Dubai World Superseries Finals: PV Sindhu to face Chen Yufei in semi-finals

  • PV Sindhu will clash with China's Chen Yufei in the semi-finals of the Dubai World Superseries Finals.Sindhu had topped Group-A with wins in all the three matches, while Yufei had finished second in Pool-B with 2 victories and a defeat.
  • In the other semi-final, Japan's Akane Yamaguchi will face Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand.
  • Kidambi Srikanth was the other Indian shuttler who took part in the tournament. He failed to register a win and had crashed out in the group stage.

Exports surge 30.6% to $26.19 billion in November, trade deficit widens

  • According to the Commerce Ministry data, India’s exports rose 30.55% to $26.19 billion in November, reversing the decline witnessed in October, helped by robust growth in shipments of gems and jewellery and engineering goods.
  • Imports too grew 19.61% to $40 billion in November from $33.46 billion in the same month last year. gold imports dropped by 25.96% to $3.26 billion last month.
  • Oil imports and non-oil imports in November grew 39.14% and 14.57% to $9.55 billion and $30.47 billion respectively.
  • The trade deficit widened to $13.82 billion as against $13.39 billion in November 2016.

Footwear, leather to get Rs. 2,600 crore

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a Rs. 2,600 crore special package for the leather and footwear sector to help generate 3.24 lakh jobs in the next three years. The scheme would lead to development of infrastructure for the leather sector, address environment concerns specific to the leather sector, facilitate additional investments, employment generation and increase in production.
  • It also said enhanced tax incentive would attract large scale investments in the sector.

GMR consortium set to bag Philippines airport project

  • A consortium of GMR and Philippines Megawide Construction Corporation is poised to bag its second airport project in the Southeast Asian country — the $250 million new terminal project of Clark International Airport.
  • This will be the consortium’s second airport in the Philippines. GMR and Megawide are already working on the Mactan Cebu International airport.The consortium will construct the integrated terminal, with a capacity to handle eight million passengers per annum, along with specified land-side facilities such as car parks

Govt. to return MDR to banks to boost digital

  • The Centre said it would reimburse the merchant discount rate (MDR) applicable on digital transactions up to Rs. 2,000 for the next two years to give a fillip to digital payments in the country.
  • MDR charges on transactions up to Rs. 2,000 shall be reimbursed by the government to the banks.
  • This will be applicable on transactions done using debit cards, UPI BHIM application or Aadhaar.
  • The decision, cleared by the Cabinet, was expected to cost the exchequer more than Rs. 2,500 crore.
  • Debit card transactions worth more than Rs. 2.18 lakh crore had been carried out between April-September 2017.
  • Digital transaction below Rs. 2,000 account for about 15-20% of the payments in terms of value. In volume terms, it was much higher.

Jitesh Singh Deo wins Mr India World 2017; to represent India on world stage

  • Jitesh Singh Deo from Lucknow bagged the Mr. India World 2017 title. He will represent India at the Mr World competition in 2020. Deo defeated 16 contestants competing in the finale.
  • The first runner-up was Abhi Khajuria and the second runner-up was Pavan Rao. All the contestants were groomed and mentored by Mr World 2017 Rohit Khandelwal.

Make offices accessible to disabled: SC

  • The Supreme Court upheld the right to dignity of the disabled while directing that government buildings providing public services should be made fully accessible to differently-abled persons by June 2019.
  • A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan held that the target to have at least 20 to 50 State government disabled-friendly buildings across 50 cities by December 2017 should be fulfilled.
  • The court stated that only seven States had met the target of having at least 50 % of their government buildings accessible to the disabled.
  • The court held that 50% of such buildings in the National Capital and State capitals should be made disabled-friendly by December 2018.

MIT creates bioluminescent trees that glow like fireflies

  • To create glowing plants, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned to an enzyme called luciferase, used by fireflies to create their characteristic fluorescent glow. Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light.
  • Another molecule called Co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity.
  • The MIT team packaged each of these components into a different type of nanoparticle carrier. They injected specialised nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant, which caused it to give off a dim light for nearly four hours.
  • The nanoparticles help them to get to the right part of the plant and also prevent them from building to concentrations that could be toxic to the plants. The result was a watercress plant that functioned like a desk lamp.

Norway becomes the first country to end nationwide FM radio

  • Norway has completed the move from analog to digital radio, making it the first country to shut down national FM radio broadcasts. The transition began in January to allow for better sound quality and more channels.
  • The transition only involves national radio channels, and most local stations will still broadcast on FM.
  • Norway, which launched the first digital radio station in 1995, currently has 31 national radio channels on the Digital Audio Broadcasting System. Digital radio is popular in many European countries, with at least 40 other countries using the technology to some extent.

Russian parliament launches presidential campaign

  • Russian lawmakers set the presidential election for March 18, a move that sets in motion campaigning for a race that President Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win. Mr. Putin declared his intention to run for another six-year term last week. Putin has been in power in Russia since 2000.
  • Putin enjoys approval ratings above 80 per cent, while his most visible adversary, anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, has declared his intention to run but a criminal conviction bars him from doing so.

SBI starts State Bank Rewardz scheme

  • The State Bank of India has introduced a loyalty program for its valued customers called Rewardz. State Bank Rewardz is the enterprise-wide loyalty program for State Bank customers that awards them with reward points for various transactions across many banking services.
  • The scheme will reward in multiple ways and these reward points can be redeemed for full or partial payments to get products and services online as well as from Max Get More partner outlets. These reward points are used to pay for a wide range of redemption options such as movie tickets, mobile/DTH recharge, air tickets, apparel, electronics, home appliances, SBI gift card and more.