Today Current Affairs 6th February 2017

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The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRB) will soon set up a department – National Testing Agency (NTA) to conduct examinations for higher and secondary education.  NTA will be the single authority that will conduct entrance tests for all higher institutions like JEE, NEET, NET and other prestigious exams. Establishment of NTA will free CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from conducting various exams and enable them to focus on their core areas and work on improving the quality of education. Its main purpose is to bring reforms in the education system.  Initially examinations like IIT, NIT and even university exams will be conducted by NTA. Later on secondary school exams will also be handed over to it. Initially, the CBSE staff will be deployed in this department and but later on the specialised people will be hired in the NTA.  Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Union Budget 2017’s speech had announced that a single authority National Testing Agency will be established to conduct entrance tests for all higher institutions and other prestigious exams.  Earlier in 2016, Last year, the CBSE had asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to conduct the National Eligibility Test (NET) on its own as the board wanted to focus on its core areas and work on improving the quality of education. CBSE even had conveyed to the HRD Ministry that conducting exams for various government bodies puts a lot of burden on them and stretches its resources.  

Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus, a medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka The therapeutic properties of the plant were discovered based on traditional knowledge of Cholanaickan tribe, (one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala) used it to treat inflammations and wounds. The herbal drug formulation derived from Neurocalyx calycinus possesses burn-healing, wound-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, immuno-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects. Animal trials have proved that the leaves of this medicnal plant possess wound-healing properties comparable to the standard drug Povidone/Iodine in the early phase of inflammation.  The anti-inflammatory activity of the leaves was found comparable to the drug diclofenac sodium. The pre-clinical trials also have confirmed the therapeutic effects of N.calycinus against burn wounds and pain. The presence of high Vitamin E content and potent cytoprotective activity in cell lines has also enhanced the prospects of developing an anti-cancer drug. Besides it also has immuno-enhancing, platelet augmentation, and anti-oxidant potential.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has launched Measles Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the country at Bengaluru, Karnataka. It is largest ever in any campaign against these two diseases will start from five States/UTs viz. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa and Lakshadweep covering nearly 3.6 crore target children. The MR campaign is largest ever vaccination campaign aimed to target around 41 crore children across the country against two diseases. Under it all children aged between 9 months and less than 15 years will be given a single shot of Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination free-of-cost acros irrespective of their previous vaccination status or disease status. Measles vaccine is currently provided under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).  However, rubella vaccine will be a new addition to it. After the completion of the campaign, MR vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization and will replace measles vaccine, given at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age of child.  Measles immunization will directly contribute in reduction of under-five child mortality and with combination of rubella vaccine, it will control rubella and prevent CRS (congenital rubella syndrome) in country population. Measles is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children. It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. It can make a child vulnerable to life threatening complications such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and brain infection. Globally, in 2015, measles killed an estimated 1, 34,200 children, mostly under-five years. In India, it killed an estimated 49,200 children. Rubella is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing CRS, which is a cause of public health concern. CRS is characterized by congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns affecting the eyes (cataract, glaucoma), ears (hearing loss), brain (mental retardation, microcephaly) and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular and society in general. In 2010, an estimated 1,03,000 children were born with CRS globally, of which around 47,000 children (46%) were in South-East Asia Region.

The Supreme Court (SC) on 5 February 2017 directed that the people, who do not exercise their right to vote, do not have any right to question or blame the government. The ruling was made by a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar while hearing a petition of an activist seeking a blanket order to remove encroachments in the country. On this, the court ruled that one cannot blame the government for everything. The bench, which also comprised Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, also ruled that it cannot look into encroachments in a matter involving all states while sitting in Delhi and rather asked the petitioner to approach different High Courts where he saw such encroachments on roads or pavements.The ruling came when Dhanesh Ieshdhan, appearing in person for Delhi-based NGO 'Voice of India', kept his point in front of the Bench that the governments do not do anything to remove the encroachments in the country. Dhanesh Ieshdhan was seeking a blanket order to remove encroachments in the country. On this, when the bench asked whether he has voted or not, his negative reply irked the bench in giving the aforesaid ruling that if you have casted your vote, then you have no right to blame the government. However, it granted liberty to the NGO to seek remedy state-wise before the High Courts. In August 2016, while hearing the plea, the bench also emphasised that due to its limited capacity, it cannot order for the establishment of 'Ram Rajya' in the country.

Curators from the National Archives in Trencin, Slovakia have found what they believe is the world’s oldest emoji in a 382-year-old account book. The discovery- a small circle with two dots and a line- was made in a legal document dating back to 1635. The document reportedly belonged to a 17th century Slovakian lawyer. Highlights : The findings suggest that the drawing, which is recognised today as the smiley face emoji, was signed by the lawyer as his go-ahead. He was reviewing municipal account documents in a village, situated next to Slovakia’s Strazov mountain range. The discovery makes it the world’s oldest known emoji. The previously known oldest smiley face was discovered in a 1648 poem titled ‘To Fortune’, which was written by Robert Herrick from England in 1648 itself.The new discovery beats the old one by 13 years. According to Peter Brindza, the head of the National Archives in Slovakia, it is not certain whether the newly discovered smiley is indeed the world’s oldest but it is definitely one of the oldest in the Trencin region. Though there is a chance that the drawing could be interpreted as a straight face expression instead of a smiley, the picture follows a passage that indicates that the lawyer seemed to have had no problems with the accounts. Besides this, the curators also discovered a drawing featuring a pointing clown’s hand within the documents but they haven’t yet been able to establish its context.

The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation was observed across the world on 6 February 2017. The theme for the 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is “Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.” The female genital mutilation reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. The practice also violates women’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.  It is estimated that around 200 million girls and women alive today all over the world have undergone some form of FGM. Somalia, with 98 per cent, stands at top where girls and women aged 15 to 49 are forced through FGM. Guinea, with 97 per cent, and Djibouti, with 93 per cent, ranks second and third respectively.  It causes severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths. The Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 calls for an end to FGM by 2030 under Goal 5 on Gender Equality.

Former CBI Director Joginder Singh passed away on 3 February 2017 following a prolonged illness in Delhi. He was 77.He was the one who oversaw investigation of several high-profile cases including Bofors scam and Bihar's fodder scam. Joginder Singh : He was an IPS officer of Karnataka cadre of 1961 batch. He was appointed as the Director of CBI during the tenure of H D Deve Gowda as the Prime Minister of India.  He took charge of CBI in July 1996 when the agency was probing a large number of cases including Bofors, fodder scam, securities scam, Rs 133 crore urea scam, telecom deals by the then Union minister Sukh Ram, etc. Before joining the CBI, he served on various posts including Superintendent of Police in Bihar, Inspector General in Karnataka, Director General in Narcotics Control Bureau, Director General in Indo-Tibetan Border Police among other postings. He led a number of delegations to the UK, USA, Germany and France on behalf of the Indian Government.He was also a prolific writer and had penned over 25 books including 'Make a Way Where There is None', ‘50 Days to Top’ and ‘Inside CBI’ among others. He also served as Inspector General in the CRPF.

Qatar, the desert gulf state recorded the lowest temperature in its history- 1.5 degrees Celsius- on 5 February 2017. The early morning temperature was recorded by a weather station in the southwest part of the country, Abu Samra, according to Qatar News Agency (QNA). Highlights : The new temperature has even beaten the previously recorded lowest reading of 3.8 degrees that was taken in January 1964. The Qatar Met Department has stated that due to an area of high pressure, temperatures have been relatively low for the past several days in the Gulf state. Qatar is usually known for its unbearably hot weather. The temperature in the desert state regularly touches 50 degrees Celsius. Qatar’s summer heat is such that labourers have been banned from working for several hours during the day when summer is at its peak. In fact, the governing body of football, the Federation Internationale de Football Association controversially switched the dates of 2022 FIFA to be held in Qatar to November and December to avoid the country’s fierce heat. In December, the organisers of FIFA also announced that thousands of World Cup 2022 labourers would be given "cooling" hard hats to reduce their body temperature as they build football stadiums in the scorching desert heat.

A group of scientists in collaboration with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) conducted two new studies that have shown the emergence of two new groups of rust across various regions of the world in 2016. These are named yellow rust and stem rust. The FAO-supported reports have been highlighted in the journal Nature following their publication by Aarhus University and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Highlights of the studies :  The studies show that wheat in Africa, Asia and Europe is increasingly threatened by fresh groups of wheat rust. The most recently identified race of stem rust pathogen, called TTTTF, hit the Italian island of Sicily in 2016, causing the largest stem rust outbreak in Europe in decades. Farmers in the mainland Italy, Morocco and some Scandinavian countries are battling a yet-to-be-named race of yellow rust.  On the other hand, Ethiopia and Uzbekistan are fighting outbreaks of yellow rust AF2012. Wheat rust belongs to a family of fungal diseases that can cause crop losses of up to 100 percent in untreated susceptible wheats.  Infections can lead up to 20 per cent yield loss exacerbated by dying leaves, which fertilize the fungus. Wheat rusts spread rapidly over long distances by wind. They, if not detected and treated on time, can turn a healthy crop into a tangle of yellow leaves, black stems and parched grains. The disease spreads via airborne spores. Five types of spores are formed in the life cycle. Uredospores, teleutospores, and basidiospores develop on wheat plants and pycnidiospores and aeciospores develop on the alternate hosts.

The Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal launched the Chief Minister Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana (CMSGUY) in Guwahati, Assam on 5 February 2017. The Yojana has been launched with the aim of bringing a paradigm shift towards holistic development of villages in Assam. Highlights The scheme is a mega mission with financial expenditure amounting to about Rs 30,000 Cr. It aims to bring a revolutionary change by doubling farm income in the state. It will be implemented in all of the state’s villages. The scheme is expected to conclude by 2021-22. According to the Situation Assessment Survey taken between 2002-03 and 2012-13, the farm income in Assam was recorded to have shown only 0.88 percent increase as against the national average of 5.2 per cent. In the view of this, the Assam government decided to launch the CMSGUY to stimulate rural productivity by making huge investments in the rural areas for their complete transformation within a short span of just 5 years. Workings of the scheme :  Five teams will be constituted in each block that will have the responsibility of implementing different missions of the programme.   These teams will also have to prepare development plans for them to be implemented in each village .  Every village will also get its own village knowledge centre. A playground will also be built in each village. The planned average investment for the scheme is about Rs 1.20 Cr per revenue village. The Mega Mission Society, chaired by Assam CM Sonowal will be responsible for the implementation of the scheme.

Renowned Urdu novelist and short story writer Bano Qudsia passed away on 4 February 2017 in Lahore, Pakistan. She was 88. Qudsia was the widow of admirable Urdu novelist Ashfaq Ahmed. Bano Qudsia : Born on 28 November 1928 in Firozpur, India, Bano Qudsia was a Pakistani novelist, playwright and spiritualist. She migrated to Lahore with her family after partition.She graduated from the Kinnaird College in Lahore. Later, she joined Lahore’s Government College University to do her Master’s in Urdu Literature.She penned several Urdu novels, dramas and short stories. She is best known for her novel Raja Gidh (The King Buzzard), which is considered a modern Urdu classic. The author also wrote for television and stage in both Urdu and Punjabi languages.Her play Aadhi Baat has been called a classic.  Her other prominent writings are Aatish-i-zer-i-paa, Amer Bail, Asay Pasay, Aik Din, Seharay and Khaleej, Chahar Chaman, Chhotaa Sheher Baray Log, Hasil Ghaat, Hawa Kay Naam, Tamasil and Footpath ki Ghaas.Her latest novel Haasil Ghath was published in 2005. She was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan in 2003.  

Basketball Federation of India on February 5, 2017 announced that India will host FIBA Women’s Asia Cup basketball tournament in July 2017 in Bengaluru  India also set to host the FIBA U-16 Women’s Asian Championship from October 22 to 28 in Hyderabad This will be the first time since 2009 that India will host a major FIBA (International Basketball Federation) event.  Fourteen teams will compete in both the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup and the U-16 Women’s Asian Championship, with eight teams in Division A (which include new Oceania teams Australia and New Zealand) and six in lower Division B(India)

Sports Minister Vijay Goel  laid the foundation stone of the India’s first Center of Excellence for Para Sports to help para athletes in showcasing their skills and talent further both at the national and international level in Gujarat on February 5, 2017 Budget outlay: Rs.50 Crores. The Center will have a fully air conditioned indoor hall, fully air conditioned elite hostel of 100 beds, 20 VIP accommodation for foreign guest which will also be air conditioned and open land for warm-up. Goel also inaugurated the SAI Training Center (Para) at SAI NSWC Gandhinagar on February 4, 2017. This Center will provide facilities for training in athletics,swimming and powerlifting  the age group of 14-20 years.

Tamil Nadu’s political party AIADMK has elected Sasikala Natarajan as the Legislative Party leader on February 5, 2017. Sasikala, the general secretary of AIADMK was unanimously elected by the AIADMK MLAs at a party meeting in Chennai. Her name was proposed by O. Panneerselvam. Now she is set to become the Chief Minister of the state as O. Panneerselvam stepped down from the post on February 3, 2017.  Ms. Sasikala will be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on February 9 after which Panneerselvam will hand over his resignation letter to the governor. Ms. Sasikala was elected as the party’s general secretary in December 2016 following the death of Jayalalithaa.

 Leading professional services firm KPMG India has appointed the former US government official Arun M Kumar as the Chairman and CEO to lead KPMG India operations. He succeeds Richard Rekhy who was re-appointed to the post in January 2016 for a period of four years. However in November 2016 he stepped down. The KPMG India Board elected Kumar who took the charge from February 5 for a five-year term. Prior to this, Kumar had served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service in the administration of former US President Barack Obama. He has also spent majority of his career with KPMG US operation including serving on the KPMG US and KPMG Americas boards from 2008-2013.

The England Test captain Alastair Cook was honored with the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Prince Charles at BuckinghamPalace, London on February 4, 2017. CBE is one of the highest Order of honors among a series of top 5 British honors.  It is rewarded for contributions made in the field of arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the Civil Service. Alastair Cook played his debut test match at the age of 21 against India at Nagpur in 2006 and made his maiden century in the second innings. The 32-year-old also became the youngest batsman to score 10000 run in Test cricket in May 2016.

Mexico and Turkey on February 3, 2017 agreed to speed up negotiations on bilateral free trade agreement facing US President threat to leave North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and visiting Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu held seven rounds of talks in Mexico City. Besides, the two nations also proposed to strengthen MIKTA forum which is a political and trade forum that includes Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia. The United States, Canada and Mexico are preparing to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However amid Trump’s threat to leave NAFTA, Mexico is speeding up negotiations with the European Union and seeking to tighten trade bonds with other nations. Earlier Mexico launched free trade negotiations with Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam following the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade treaty.

 The Qatar Airways has launched the World’s longest scheduled commercial service to ply between Doha to Auckland. The inaugural service of Flight QR920 took off on February 5, 2017 from Doha and will take 16 hours and 20 minutes to travel 14,535 kilometers to reach Auckland in New Zealand. However, during the return flight, the Boeing 777 flight would take 17 hours and 30 minutes due to high-altitude winds. This makes Qatar Airways to launch the World’s fastest and longest passenger service in terms of flying time. Prior to this, emirates launched the world’s longest non-stop scheduled commercial flight with a service from Dubai to Auckland, spanning 14,200 kilometres.  

In a move to encourage active participation in the assembly poll especially by womenvoters, the government of Goa on February 4, 2017 conducted a unique experiment, which involved giving away 600 pink teddy bears to first time women voters across the state. The teddies were distributed at 40 model polling booths from each of the 40 assembly constituencies in Goa. These polling stations were decorated with pink balloons, pink table cloths, pink walls, while polling officials were also seen wearing pink clothes. The experiment was seen to be a fruitful effort. The 40 themed polling booths got 2 percent more voting than the average polling rate in all the other regular polling booths. Goa saw nearly 83 percent voting on February 4, 2017 at 1642 polling stations.Besides, the first time men voters received pen as a gift of appreciation.

The Ministry of AYUSH has constituted a 16-member committee under the chairmanship of Dr. H.R. Nagendra, Chancellor, S-Vyasa University, to prepare a Yoga Protocol for Diabetes Control. The Ayush Minister Shri ShripadYesso Naik said that regular yoga practice can help reduce the level of sugar in the blood, along with lowering blood pressure, keeping a weight check, reducing the symptoms and slowing the rate of progression of diabetes, as well as lessening the severity of further complications. Besides, this the Ministry has also launched a programme to integrate Ayurveda, Homoeopathy and Unani with National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS). Apart from this, Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy (CCRYN) has opened 8 OPDs in various Govt. Hospitals to integrate Yoga & Naturopathy to cure diabetes.

Anand Kumar Gupta (56) has been appointed the new Director (Commercial) of National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC).  In his new role, he will be responsible for the activities relating to Commercial, International and Domestic Business development and Consultancy business of NTPC.   In his career spanning over 36 years, he has contributed in the NTPC in various positions including those of executive director – incharge of commercial and executive director (Engineering).   He also headed business development department of NTPC and plant operations & maintenance at power stations.  He is graduate in electrical engineering from Moti Lal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad.

Top Indian diplomat, Achamkulangare Gopinathan has been re-appointed by the UN General Assembly to the Joint Inspection Unit for a five-year term beginning January 1, 2018. Along with him, Sukai Prom-Jackson of Gambia, Jean Wesley Cazeau of Haiti andNikolay Lozinskiy of Russia have also been appointed members of the Joint Inspection Unit. The Joint Inspection Unit is the only independent external oversight body of the United Nations system mandated to conduct evaluations, inspections and investigations system-wide. It aims to enhance the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations system.  Earlier, Gopinathan was for the first time appointed to the UN body from January 2013 to December 2017.

The United States President Donald Trump imposed a new sanction on February 3, 2017 on Iran in a move to punish Tehran for its latest ballistic missile test. US have imposed sanction on more than two dozen Iranian entities after Islamic republic dismissed President Donald Trump’s warnings over the missile test saying it as baseless and provocative. The missile test carried out by Iran violated the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which said that Tehran cannot test missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. The US government has sanctioned all those individuals and entities that were directly or indirectly involved in procurement of technology and material that supported Iran’s ballistic missile programme. It has also levied ban on banking transfers against 25 Iranians and companies that assisted in Tehran’s ballistic missile program and support of terrorist groups.  

Iran government on February 3, 2017 banned the United States wrestlers from participating in the freestyle World Cup to be held in February 2017 as a counter-move against President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending visas for Iran. This decision is seen as the first step by Iranian government in response to Trump’s executive order banning visas for seven Muslim-majority countries. The World Cup competition is scheduled to be held from February 16-17 in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah, Iran. The U.S. freestyle wrestlers who were to participate in the championship includes, KyleSnyder, the Woodbine, Md. Gold medalist at the Rio Olympics, and Jordan Burroughs, the three-time world champion and gold medalist from the 2012 Summer Games.

The Bihar government has introduced the transgender as a third category to opt for and appear in the Board exams conducted by the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB). It is for the firsttime that the Board will conduct the exams for the transgender category in 2017 after it was recognized by Supreme Court in 2014.  According to the Board officials, total 18 students have been enrolled this year to appear in the exam. It includes 10 students of Class 12 students and 8 students Class 10. Prior to this, only two categories were recognized as valid, male and female, and the transgender were not allowed to appear in the examinations. However, from 2017 online examination forms have been introduced with provision for the third gender.The move aims to provide equal opportunity to all students.

A six-member committee has been formed by the government to look into the matter of how to improve the Haj Poilcy of India and also deal with the issue of reducing and abolishing the subsidy to the pilgrims. Former Consulate General of India (CGI), Jeddah, Afzal Amanullah will be the head of the committee. Besides, Ministry Joint Secretary J Alam will serve as member secretary. Other in the committee includes, Bombay High Court judge (retd) SS Parkar, ex-Haj Committee of India chairman Qaiser Shamim, former Air India CMD Michael Mascarenhas , Muslim scholar-chartered accountant Kamal Faruqui. In 2012, the Supreme Court had the Union government to gradually reduce and abolish Haj subsidy by 2022. The apex court directed the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore a year on educational and social development of the community. The committee will review the effectiveness of the management of pilgrims’ accommodation and air travel by the Haj Committee of India. Besides, the committee will figure out whether the pilgrims can travel to Saudi Arabia paying less in the absence of the subsidy.  

India’s first Centre of Excellence in Automation Technology was inaugurated by the Gujarat Technological University at its campus at Vishwakarma Government Engineering College in Ahmedabad on February 3, 2017. The center has been funded by a German technology major, Bosch Rexroth. The excellence centre has four laboratories including Pneumatic Lab, Hydraulic Lab, PLC Lab, Robotic & Mechatronics Lab and Sensor Lab. The centre was inaugurated by Bosch Rexroth managing director, Hans Bangert jointly by the Gujarat government’s minister of state for higher and technical education, Jayadrathsinh Parmar. iv. The centre aims to enhance the research and knowledge base of both students and faculties. It will work to improve the technical competence, entrepreneurship and employability of Under Graduate & Post Graduate students who are being trained at the centre. It also seeks to encourage the students to pursue PG and doctoral programs. GTU has further planned to set up a few centers of excellence in Automation, Automobile, Mobile Hydraulic and Mobile Electronics Technologies with the help of BRIN.

According to recent study, an innovative vaccine made from genetic material protected lab animals from the Zika virus in experiments.  A single, low dose of the vaccine shielded mice exposed to Zika five months after the shot. Even monkeys exposed five weeks after they were innoculated were also not affected by the virus. The new vaccine is based on a modified version of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA). It is designed to pass under the radar of the immune system and enter directly into human cells.  Once there, RNA vaccine is incorporated into the cell’s protein-making machinery, it mimics the action of a live virus vaccine building up an immune response. It can be delivered into the blood stream by fat-based nanoparticles.  It can be injected just below the skin and is thus easy to administer. RNA-based vaccines are non-replicating, i.e. they cannot integrate into the host’s genetic blueprint. It overcomes safety concern that comes with live-virus vaccines. Zika virus had erupted on a large scale in mid-2015 in which more than 1.5 million people were infected, mostly in Brazil and other countries in South America.  The virus is transmitted mainly by mosquitos. It causes mild, flu-like symptoms in most people, pregnant women run the risk of giving birth to babies with severe brain damage.  The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global health emergency in February 2016, and declared it over in November 2016.  

NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft completed closest flyby of Jupiter mysterious cloud tops for the fourth time.  All eight of Juno’s science instruments were switched on during the flyby. During its closest approach it was roughly 4,300 km above Jupiter’s cloud tops and travelled at a speed of about 208,000 kmph. Currently, Juno is locked in a 53-day orbit around Jupiter.  It is expected to perform three dozen flybys over the next one and a half years. During its flybys, Juno probes beneath the cloud cover of Jupiter and studies Jupiter’s auroras to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere Juno was launched in August 2011 to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution. It’s the first solar power spacecraft to orbit Jupiter and second after Galileo.  The unmanned spacecraft had successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016 after a five year journey and traversing distance of nearly 2 billion miles. The primary goals of the mission are to find out whether Jupiter has a solid core, how its atmosphere and magnetosphere formed, and whether there is water in the gas cloud shrouding the planet.  The information gathered from it will provide vital clues to how the planet formed and evolved, but also to how the solar system we live in came into existence. The spacecraft has been named after the Roman goddess Juno, the wife of Jupiter who is considered as the god of the sky in ancient Greco-Roman mythology.  

Indian Navy has launched an Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS) in Mumbai, Maharashtra to enhance the security of valuable naval assets against asymmetric threats.  It was inaugurated by Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding- in-Chief, Western Naval Command. It is second IUHDSS to be installed in India, after first was installed at Kochi, Kerala in August 2015.  IUHDSS is designed and developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries ELTA for surface and sub-surface surveillance of the harbour. It is a state of the art system with integrated radars, advance sensors, electro optic cameras and sound navigation and ranging systems (SONARs).  Its sensors have been strategically installed around Mumbai Harbour to provide comprehensive real-time situational awareness for monitoring and analysis. It is capable of detecting, tracking, identifying and generating warning for all types of underwater and surface threats to harbour security.  Besides detecting large targets, it can also detect small targets like divers, boats and swimmers at adequate ranges. IUHDSS will play an important role in strengthening Harbour Defence and Security at Mumbai.

Scientists for the first time have successfully implanted world’s smallest pacemaker dubbed as Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) in a patient in United States.  The pacemaker about size of large vitamin capsule is for patients with bradycardia, a condition characterised by a slow heart rate, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute. TPS provides the most advanced pacing technology. It was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.  It is one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker and is the only leadless (wireless) pacemaker approved for use in the US. It can be delivered through a catheter and implanted directly into the heart Unlike traditional pacemakers, it does not require cardiac wires (leads) or a surgical pocket under the skin to deliver a pacing therapy.  It also allows us to automatically adjust pacing therapy based on a patient’s activity levels and another positive is the battery can last up to 10 years. It has unique feature that enables it to be permanently turned off so it can remain in the body and a new device can be implanted without risk of electrical interaction.  Patients with bradycardia have lower heart rate and their heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body during normal activity or exercise, causing dizziness, shortness, fatigue of breath or fainting spells.  Pacemakers are the most common way to treat bradycardia to help restore the heart’s normal rhythm and relieve symptoms by sending electrical impulses to the heart to increase the heart rate.  

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Uber Technologies Inc. Travis Kalanick in February 2017 quit the US President Donald Trump’s Economic Advisory Council. The exact reasons for this development are not known. However, it has been speculated that Travis Kalanick was forced to resign from the prestigious council due to pressure from Uber’s customers. Trump’s Economic Advisory Council : The USA President Donald J Trump announced the formation of the Economic Advisory Council in August 2016 during the election campaign for the presidency. The council assists Trump in implementing his economic agenda. The council consists of some of the top economists in the USA as well as the most successful industry leaders in finance, real estate and technology. Some of the prominent members of the council are – Tom Barrack (Colony Capital), Andy Beal (Beal Bank), Dan DiMicco (Nucor Corporation), Howard M Lorber (Vector Group) and John Paulson (Paulson & Co. Inc). Travis Kalanick : He is an American computer programmer and businessman. He is the co-founder of the peer-to-peer file sharing company Red Swoosh and the transportation network company, Uber. With an estimated net worth of USD 6 billion, Travis entered the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans in 2014. He was placed at the 290th position.