Today Current Affairs 8th February 2017

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ICICI Securities, a subsidiary of ICICI Bank, has entered into a strategic partnership with Saxo Bank, an online multi-asset trading and investment specialist. This partnership will offer Saxo's trading and investment capabilities via a digital platform to Indian investors. It will enable ICICI Securities' 4 million clients of to diversify their investments outside of the domestic Indian market and access multi-asset investment opportunities on 36 stock exchanges across 24 countries, through SaxoTraderGo. Clients opting for these services to invest outside India will gain access to third party research with Under the Liberalised Remittances Scheme, Indians can invest up to $ 250,000 to acquire and hold shares, debt instruments or other assets outside India without prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India. Commenting on the partnership, Shilpa Kumar, Managing Director & CEO, ICICI Securities said this will help "our customers diversify their portfolio outside of India". It will help them leverage the combined strong knowledge and superior platforms and ensure they have access to the broadest set of global capital markets investment options

In a novel initiative that would push digitalisation and cashless economy, Bank of Baroda (BOB) has tied up with IFFCO, a cooperative, to provide co-branded debit cards with inbuilt overdraft facilities to the farmers. In this regard, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between G.B.Panda, General Manager (government relationship) BOB and Yogendra Kumar, General Manager (Marketing) IFFCO here on Tuesday. Under this MOU, two lakh co-branded debit cards will be issued to the farmers beginning with the state of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Subsequently more cards will be issued across rest of India. These co-branded debit cards will be exclusively used for the purchase of IFFCO products only. BOB has agreed to issue the co-branded debit cards to the farmers with an overdraft limit of Rs 2,500 per cardholder. BOB will also provide 2500 PoS machines initially at the various locations across India recommended by IFFCO at mutually agreed terms and conditions.  

Federal Bank has partnered with leading online data and information portal Commodity Online for the distribution of loans against warehouse receipts and collateral management services across the country. Commodity Online will roll out an agri commodity financing platform through its flagship portal where farmers and traders can track commodity markets and warehouses online and get financing for their commodities quickly. According to Mohan K, Deputy General Manager (SME & Agri), Federal Bank, the bank’s partnership with Commodity Online enables it to aggressively get into the online space to provide financing for agri commodities with collateral management across India. George Iype, Managing Director of Commodity Online, said the portal has rolled out an exclusive online platform wherein farmers and traders can track the spot market prices of all commodities live, check where warehouses are available and track research insights from each commodity market across India.

The Adani Group has appointed Jennifer Purdie as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for its renewable energy business unit in Australia in a bid to drive its plans to become the largest renewable energy player in the country. Adani’s aim is to become the largest renewable energy industry participant in Australia with a total capacity of 1,500 MW in the near term.

Scientists from California National Primate Research Centre, US have successfully tested a new male contraceptive  ‘Vasalgel’ that blocks sperm flow on monkeys. Now it is waiting for human trials. During the animal trials, the Vasalgel contraceptive provided effective birth control in rhesus monkey groups for more than one year. It brings the prospect of an alternative form of birth control for humans.  The trial use of Vasalgel in groups of rhesus macaques has confirmed the previous preclinical trail findings in rabbits on the efficacy of the new contraceptive. Vasalgel is a high molecular weight polymer containing styrene-alt-maleic acid (SMA) dissolved in dimethyl sulfoxide. The polymer forms a hydrogel after injection into the sperm-carrying tube vas deferens, creating a blockage to the passage of sperm rather than cutting it as in vasectomy, to filter sperms from the fluid ejaculation. The contraceptive effect of Vasalgel can also be reversed by flushing the material out with a simple sodium bicarbonate solution. The purpose Vasalgel is to prevent pregnancy, not just by eliminating sperm in larger animals more anatomically. In over a last century, male contraceptive options have not changed and currently are limited to vasectomy (meant to be permanent) and condoms and withdrawal (with high pregnancy rates). Vasagel could be the first long-acting, non-hormonal, potentially reversible male contraceptive to reach market.

Researchers from MIT have developed a small battery that runs on stomach acids and is capable of powering e-pills to monitor patient health. The small system can generate enough power to run small sensors or drug delivery devices that can reside in the gastrointestinal tract for extended periods of time. For this battery, researchers used idea of very simple type of voltaic cell, lemon battery which produces electric current between the two electrodes stuck in a lemon due to its citric acid.  To replicate it, the researchers attached zinc and copper electrodes to the surface of their ingestible sensor.  The zinc emits ions into the acid in the stomach to power the voltaic circuit. It can generate enough energy to power a commercial temperature sensor and a 900-megahertz transmitter to wirelessly transmit the data to a base station located 2m away, with a signal sent every 12 seconds.  The current prototype of the device is a cylinder about 12 millimeters in diameter and 40 millimeters long. Researchers are anticipating to make the capsule about one-third that size.   It offers a safer and lower-cost alternative to the traditional batteries used to power such devices. It can also help in manufacturing new generation of electronic ingestible pills that could enable novel ways of monitoring patient health and treating disease.

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel has kept the key policy rates unchanged.  It was central bank’s sixth bi-monthly and last policy for the financial year 2016-17 and overall the third by the MPC. All six members of the MPC voted in favour of holding rates. Besides, RBI also changed its stance from accommodative to neutral. It also lowered GDP growth forecast for the current fiscal to 6.9%. However the apex bank expects a rebound in GDP growth to 7.4% in 2017-18. Repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF): Unchanged at 6.25 percent. Reverse repo rate under the LAF: Unchanged at 5.75 per cent. Marginal standing facility (MSF): Unchanged at 6.75 per cent. Reserve Ratios Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks: Unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liability (NDTL). tatutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR): Unchanged 20.75 per cent.

The Union Ministry of Finance notified an amendment to the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme (PMGKDS), 2016. The notification was issued by the Union Government on 7 February 2017 in conusltation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The amendment allows declarants to make deposits on one or more occasions in the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme (PMGKDS), 2016. Before the amendment, the declarants were allowed to deposit in the scheme in only one installment. Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme : For the first time, the scheme was proposed by the Union Government under the Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016. Consequently, the scheme was notified on 16 December 2016 and became operational on the next day. Under the scheme, taxpayers are required to declare their undisclosed income possessed in the form of cash or deposited in banks, post offices or RBI. The money thus collected will be used for executing irrigation and infrastructure projects, primary education, primary health, housing, toilets and livelihood. The deposit sum must not be less than 25 per cent of the declared undisclosed income. The deposit will not earn any interest and can be withdrawn only after four years from the date of deposit. The taxpayers who will declare their undisclosed wealth in denominations of banned Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes under the scheme, will have to pay a tax at the rate of 30 per cent of the undisclosed income. The amount can be deposited in the authorized banks between 17 December 2016 and 31 March 2017.

The Safer Internet Day was celebrated on 7 February 2017 with the theme - Be the Change: Unite for a Better Internet. To mark the occasion, various activities were undertaken across the world by the stakeholders of the internet like internet service providers (ISPs), search engine service provider Google and policy makers. In  India, Google distributed awards to the winners of the 2nd edition of the Web Rangers initiative. The initiative was launched by the company to promote digital literacy and spread awareness about internet safety. Safer Internet Day : The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology. It also seeks to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. The Safer Internet Day calls upon young people, parents, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers to join together in helping to create a better internet. As per an estimate, the Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries spread across the world. The day is jointly coordinated by the Insafe/INHOPE network with the support of the European Commission.The day was observed for the first time in 2011 with the theme - Virtual Lives.

Author Salman Rushdie’s new novel titled 'The Golden House' is slated to release in September 2017. The announcement was made by Penguin Random House on 7 February 2017. The book will be published in India by Penguin Random House, which acquired the subcontinent rights from the Wylie Agency. Rushdie’s forthcoming novel is a modern-day thriller, which tells a story of a mysteriously wealthy family from Bombay that is desperately seeking to forget the tragedy they left behind as they settled in New York City. Salman Rushdie  : Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist and essayist. He was born in Bombay (British India) into a Muslim family of Kashmiri descent. His second novel, Midnight's Children, won the Booker Prize in 1981. It was also deemed to be "the best novel of all winners" on two separate occasions. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, was the subject of a major controversy. It provoked protests from Muslims in several countries. In 1983, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the United Kingdom’s senior literary organisation. In 2008, The Times ranked him 13th on its list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

In United States, Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump's controversial nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos by the slenderest possible margin. US Vice-President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to secure her cabinet role, splitting the chamber 50-50. It was the first time ever that a vice-president has interceded in such a way for a cabinet secretary. Betsy DeVos : Betsy DeVos is the 11th United States Secretary of Education.  Her background includes experience as a businesswoman, philanthropist and noted political campaign contributor DeVos is a member of the Republican Party known for her advocacy of school choice, voucher programs, and ties to the Reformed Christian community.  

Arunachal Pradesh government today said it has implemented a paperless system to drastically cut down on the time taken to hold a cabinet meeting.  The 'e-Cabinet' system uses a web-based software by which ministers can prepare for cabinet meetings, conduct them and review minutes, entirely without paper. Once the state adopts the e-Cabinet system, the average length of cabinet meetings will be slashed from 4 to 5 hours to just 30 to 90 minutes and the government can eliminate the need to print and deliver thousands of pages of documents.  Before the cabinet session begins, ministers can access the system to review each agenda and determine one's own position. The system is a multi-user secure solution that keeps information organized and updated in real time, giving ministers a clear overview of each item under discussion.  The department also distributed one secured tablet to each and every members of the cabinet through which they could access the e-Cabinet solution. Chief Minister Pema Khandu appreciated the system implemented by the Information Technology and Communication department.

Jovenel Moise has been sworn in as Haiti's new president, opening a new chapter in the country's history after a long-running political crisis . The 48-year-old banana exporter, who has never held political office. The elections were further postponed in October after Hurricane Matthew battered the country, killing hundreds and causing extensive damage. Moise won a November election redo with 55 percent, vowing to stimulate the economy and create more jobs.  The new president begins his five years in power with an already fragile popularity, since he is at the centre of an unresolved money laundering probe. Haiti's Central Unit of Financial Intelligence alleges that Moise laundered $5m through suspicious money transfers - charges he denies. Haiti has been dependant on international aid since a powerful earthquake devastated it in January 2010. Its serious economic problems have been compounded by political instability, violence and corruption. Despite the challenges Moise faces as the poor Caribbean country's new president, some Haitians are willing to give him a chance.

India’s first ever Centre of Excellence for differently-abled sportsmen will be established in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.  The centre will be built on 7.5 acres of land belonging to the Sports Authority of India (SAI).  It will train the para athletes for various international sporting competitions including Olympics, Asian Games and Common Wealth Games.  It will have dedicated tracks and a 64 m long, fully air conditioned indoor hall having swimming pool as well as other training facilities for the athletes.

India is going to host Implementation and Assessment Group Meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), a key meet on nuclear security on February 8-10, 2017.  It is being hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in coordination with the Department of Atomic Energy. Approximately 150 delegates from 100 GICNT partner countries and international organisations will participate in this event.  The event will highlight India’s commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its overall engagement with the international community on nuclear security issues.  GICNT was launched in 2006 jointly by the Russia and the United States. Since then, it has grown to include 86 partner nations and 5 official observer organisations.  It has held several multilateral activities in support of its Statement of Principles.

Israel’s Parliament (Knesset) has passed a law retroactively legalising about 4,000 homes built in Area C of the occupied West Bank.  The law was passed by 60 votes to 52. The new law states that the original Palestinian landowners will be compensated with money or alternative land.  It covers Israeli settlements and outposts built on private Palestinian land in the Area C. Under it, outposts, the settler homes not approved by the government, are deemed illegal.  Most countries consider these settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace as they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians want for a viable state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.  However, Israel disputes this and cites historical, biblical and political connections to the land as well as security needs.

The 23rd edition of International Conference and Exhibition on Terrestrial & Satellite Broadcasting was held in New Delhi.  The 3-day conference was organized by the Broadcast Engineering Society (India).  The theme of the conference was Hybrid Technologies in Broadcasting – New Opportunities. In this EXPO, nearly 300 companies from 25 countries displayed their products directly or through their dealers and distributors in India.  It also showcased products to promote the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and practices of broadcasting in the field of Radio, Television and other media etc. in the Telecom Equipment and Products industry.

Renowned Indian-origin British sculptor Anish Kapoor was honored with the prestigious $1 million 2017 Genesis Prize by Israel for his utmost contribution for Jewish community. However, the money received by the innovative artist would be contributed by him to help the Syrian refugees and expand Jewish engagement in the global effort to reduce the refugee crisis. The 62-year-old Anish was chosen by the prize committee headed by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. 

Scientists from Japan have developed terahertz (THz) transmitter technology, a next generation system which can transmit digital data over 10 times faster than 5G mobile networks. It will pave transmitting digital data at a rate exceeding 100 gigabits per second (gbps) over a single channel using the 300-gigahertz band. The THz band is a new and vast frequency resource expected to be used for future ultrahigh-speed wireless communications.  The THz transmitter achieves a communication speed of 105 gigabits per second using the frequency range from 290 GHz to 315 GHz.  These range of frequencies are currently unallocated but fall within the frequency range from 275 GHz to 450 GHz. It paves way for faster downloads and improve in-flight network connection speeds.  Terahertz wireless is high-data-rate minimum-latency communications. Its possible applications include fast download from contents servers to mobile devices and ultrafast wireless links between base stations.  In 2016, scientists had demonstrated that the speed of a wireless link in the 300-GHz band can be greatly enhanced by using quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM).  Later in 2017 they showed six times higher per-channel data rate, exceeding 100 gbps for the first time as an integrated-circuit-based transmitter.

The Lok Sabha has passed the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2017 to enable employers to pay wages to workers through cheque or directly crediting to their accounts. The bill will replace the Ordinance promulgated by the President in December 2016 to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936. Method of payment of wages: Earlier, under the parent Act employer can pay his employee’s wages either by cheque or by crediting it into his bank account after obtaining his written authorisation. Permit the employer to pay an employee’s wages: (i) by cheque; or (ii) by crediting them into his bank account or (iii) in coin or currency notes. It removes the requirement of obtaining prior written authorization for payment of wages by cheque or through a bank account. It empowers Union or state government to specify certain industrial or other establishments where the employer should pay his employees only by: (i) cheque; or (ii) crediting the wages in his bank account. The Union Government had decided to take the ordinance route amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 because after demonetisation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 banknotes in November 2016 had led to a cash crunch, and employers were finding it tough to pay workers in cash.

Sourabh Verma and Rituparna Das on 7 February 2017 won the men’s singles and women’s singles titles respectively in the 81st Senior National Badminton Championships tournament in Patna, Bihar. To win the title, the second seed Rituparna defeated the 9th seed Reshma Karthik in straight sets 21-12 21-14 in the final match. In the men’s singles final, Sourabh Verma defeated Lakshya Sen in straight sets 21-13 21-12. In the women's doubles event, the pair of Aparna Balan and Prajakta Sawant clinched the title by defeating Shikha Gautam and Sanyogita Ghorpade 21-9 21-11. In the men's doubles event, the duo of Satwik Sai Raj and Chirag Shetty clinched the title by defeating Nand Gopal K and Sanyam Shukla 21-17, 16-21 and 21-16. In the mixed doubles category, the duo of Satwik Sai Raj and Maneesha K defeated Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan 21-14 21-18 to claim the title. Sourabh Verma : Sourabh Verma is an Indian badminton player. He hails from Madhy Pradesh. In 2011, he became the Indian National Badminton Champion in the senior singles category. Sourabh Verma won his first international title in 2011 by winning the Bahrain International Challenge. He stood as the runner up in the men’s singles category at the prestigious Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold 2011 after losing to the former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat.He won back-to-back international titles in 2013 and 2014. First of them was the Tata International Challenge 2013 in Mumbai.  He clinched the title by defeating Prannoy Kumar. Verma grabbed the next title at Iran Fajr International Challenge 2014 by defeating Alrie Guna Dharma. He won his third title at the Austrian International Challenge 2014 by defeating Hsu Jen-hao. Sourabh Verma stood as the runner up at the 2014 Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold. In the championship, he was defeated by Simon Santoso of Indonesia. In October 2016, he won the men’s singles title in the Chinese Taipei Open by defeating Malaysia's Daren Liew.