Current Affairs 11th January 2017 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Researchers from Midwestern University have identified the function of the human appendix, often viewed as a vestigial organ with little-known use. They discovered that the human appendix has evolved at least 30 times and even possibly up to a maximum of 41 times throughout the mammalian evolution. According researchers, once the appendix appears in human body, it never disappears, suggesting that the organ likely serves an adaptive purpose. This may be due to evolutionary reason of the human body that never got rid of the appendix as it doesn’t harm most people, there’s simply little evolutionary pressure to eliminate the body part.  It was found that species with appendix have higher concentrations of immune (lymphoid) tissue in cecum (part of the large intestines), thereby suggesting that appendix could serve as a secondary immune organ. The appendix might also function as a “safe house” for helpful gut bacteria as lymphatic tissue can stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Thus, fulfilling an important role in our bodies.  

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on 10 January 2017 inaugurated the three-day International Conference and Exhibition on Re-enforced Plastics (ICERP) at Bombay Exhibition Center, Mumbai. ICERP 2017 is being organised by FRP Institute, an association of Indian Reinforced Plastics or Indian Composites sector. ICERP 2017 :  ICERP is organized by FRP Institute once in every two years. It is the second largest event in Asia.  This will be the 8th exhibition in the series being organized by FRP Institute since 2002. The three-day ICERP 2017 event will comprise of exhibitions and conference programmes emphasizing on mechanism, process and automation. There will be business meetings concentrating on technological tie-ups with global leaders. Moreover, ICERP-JEC innovation awards will also be presented jointly by FRP Institutes and JEC France for the display of composite and innovative products and demonstrations of composites process.  The emphasis of the ICERP 2017 will be on the upgradation of composites technology in India to reach global level in terms of product quality. It will also focus on addressing the challenges that have to be met to achieve global standards. There will also be a display of selected composites products and innovative products developed in India to render an opportunity for the end users to learn the latest trends in the composites products. There will be demonstrations on composites processes and this will be an attractive feature for the visitors and delegates. The Indian composites sector is fully capable of supplying 100 per cent of requirements of the defence sector. Composite materials are emerging as an innovative alternative for steel and aluminium and therefore these can be used in defence equipment manufacturing. Composite materials also play an important role in light weight and corrosion resistant application in various sectors.  

The Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Union Government and the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) to complete auditing of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisation) and voluntary organisations and submit its report by 31 March 2017. The ruling was made by a bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and justices NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud. The court rebuked the government over its failure to work out a regulatory mechanism to monitor the public money that is given to the 32 lakh NGOs, societies and voluntary organisations in the country. The bench ruled that 'mere blacklisting' of these organisations cannot be sufficient. Moreover, civil and criminal action should be initiated against these organisations for misappropriation of public money received by them from the centre. The government was also directed to explain the manner in which it will maintain the accounts, conduct the audit, the process of recovery and methodology of recovery of the amount in case of misappropriation and criminal proceedings.  It directed the competent authority to come out with guidelines for a regulatory mechanism by March 2017. The bench also asked whether General Financial Rules 2005 were complied with or not as the Rules 210-212 provide for a regulation mechanism for NGOs. The ruling was made by bench while hearing a petition filed by advocate M L Sharma, seeking for monitoring of funds given to NGOs and their utilisation by them.  The court was informed that the Union government and states have disbursed around Rs 9000 crore to these societies in the period between 2002 and 2009. Moreover, it was also informed that the government merely blacklists an NGO, if it does not come back with audited accounts.  

Clare Hollingworth, legendary correspondent who first broke the news of the beginning of World War II, passed away on 10 January 2017 following a brief illness. She was 105. She was famously known as the doyenne of war correspondents. Clare Hollingworth : She was the first to report the invasion of Poland by German troops that triggered the outbreak of World War Two. Hollingworth's career took her to Palestine, Iraq and Iran, where she interviewed Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, who was overthrown by revolutionaries in February 1979. While working as a correspondent for the Economist and the Observer, Hollingworth went to Jerusalem in July 1946 when the King David hotel, where she was staying, was bombed by Zionist paramilitaries led by future Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin. She also covered the conflict in Vietnam where she scored a scoop that peace talks would shortly begin between Hanoi and Washington in 1968.She also reported the defection of British spy Kim Philby, but the story was largely buried by her editors out of the fears of a libel suit.  In 1972, Hollingworth became the Telegraph's first Beijing correspondent since 1949. She reported from China during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of violence and civil war that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the death of Mao Zedong. Later, she returned back to the UK as a defence correspondent and also travelled to Hong Kong to cover the colony's handover to Chinese control in 1997.She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Union Health Ministry in the second week of January 2017 announced that it is introducing Rubella vaccine as Measles-Rubella vaccine in its Universal Immunization Programme (UIP). The vaccine will be administered to children up to the age group of nine months to 15 years under Measles-Rubella Campaign in a phased manner. The campaign will be phased across India over a period of two to three years. The Measles-Rubella Campaign aims at rapidly building up immunity for both measles and rubella. As per the Union Health Ministry, the campaign will start in the first quarter of 2017 and will target about 41 crore children. Universal Immunization Programme : The Universal Immunization Programme is a vaccination program. It was launched in 1985 by the Government of India.  In 1992, it became a part of Child Survival and Safe Motherhood Programme. It consists of vaccination for 10 diseases- tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, poliomyelitis, monovalent measles, Hepatitis B, Diarrhoea, Japanese Encephalitis and Pneumonia. However, once Measles-Rubella is introduced, monovalent measles will be discontinued.  In 2014, it was announced that four vaccines will be also added to the programme. They are rotavirus, rubella and Japanese encephalitis, as well as the injectable polio vaccine. Rubella : Rubella is an infection caused by the rubella virus.It is also known as German Measles or three-day measles, It is usually spread through the air via coughs of people who are infected. This disease only infects humans.It is preventable through rubella vaccine. It is often given in combination with the measles vaccine and mumps vaccine. Around 100000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome occur each year. However, rates of the disease have decreased in many areas as a result of vaccination.

The 21st National Youth Festival will commence from 12 January 2017 in Rohtak, Haryana. The Festival will conclude on 16 January 2017. The Festival is organised by the Department of Youth Affairs of Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. It is organised every year on the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the participants of the Festival through video conference on the occasion of opening ceremony. Highlights : The theme for the 21st National Youth Festival will be Youth for Digital India. The theme highlights the most critical and crucial importance of the thrust accorded to the area of Digitalisation and Skill Development by Government of India. The Mascot of the festival is ‘Lado.’ The mascot reflects the sensitivity of the Haryana Government towards the gender inequality in the state. It also signifies bringing women at par with men. The Festival will see a Defence exhibition where different aspects and initiatives of the defence forces, display of equipment and avenues for recruitment into Armed Forces will be projected for the benefits of thousands of young participant. Also, there will be a performance by renowned artist on the life and ideology of Swami Vivekanand on the opening ceremony. National Youth Festival : The National Youth Festival first began in 1995 as a major activity under the programme of National Integration Camp (NIC). The centre of the festival focuses on cultural and other aspects that not only reflect the spirit of friendship but also peace and development. The Festival provides a nationwide exposure to the youth for the expression and realization of their cultural talents and aspirations. In 2016, the National Youth Festival was held in Naya Raipur, Chhattisgarh. Its theme was India Youth for Skill, Development and Harmony.

World Bank has released January 2017 Global Economic Prospects report. The report said that after a post-crisis low 2016, the global economy will accelerate moderately to 2.7 per cent in 2017. The growth will be carried on because obstacles to activity have moved away in emerging market and developing economy commodity exporters. It says that the obstacles receded when the domestic demand remains solid among emerging and developing commodity. The report also highlights that the growth in advanced economies is expected to edge up to 1.8 per cent in 2017. The World Bank’s report has decelerated India’s growth to 7 per cent for 2016-17 from its previous estimate of 7.6 per cent. In its report, the bank said the growth rate of the country slowed due to the immediate withdrawal of a large volume of currency in circulation (demonetisation) in November 2016 and subsequent replacement with new banknotes. In addition to this, the bank said that the country would regain momentum in the following years with 7.6 and 7.8 per cent. It said that several reform initiatives will help in unlocking domestic supply bottlenecks and raise productivity. According to the report, India maintains the distinction of being the fastest growing emerging market economies of the world, bypassing China. East Asia and Pacific: Growth rate in the region was projected to ease to 6.2 per cent due to slowing growth in China which is being moderated by a pickup in the rest of the region. a) China: The output was anticipated to slow to 6.5 per cent in 2017. b) Other countries of East Asia and Pacific: The growth in the region will advance at 5 per cent or more in 2017. This growth will be supported by the growth in commodity exporters, while growth in commodity importers was projected to remain broadly stable. The exception will be seen in Thailand where growth is expected to accelerate due to accommodative policies and improved confidence. On the other hand, due to the rise in private investment, growth in Indonesia will pick up to 5.3 per cent in 2017. In the case of Malaysia, the growth will accelerate to 4.3 per cent in the year due to the lower commodity prices eases and commodity prices stabilise. Europe and Central Asia: Growth is projected to pick up to 2.4 per cent in 2017. This growth will be backed by a recovery in commodity-exporting economies and recovery in Turkey. a) Russia: It is expected to grow at a 1.5 per cent in 2017 and this growth will be backed by its adjustment to low oil prices are completed. b) Other countries of Europe and Central Asia: Kazakhstan will grow by 2.2 per cent while Azerbaijan is expected to expand 1.2 per cent due to the stabilisation in commodity prices and narrowing of the economic balances. Growth in Ukraine is projected to accelerate to a 2 per cent rate. Latin America and the Caribbean: The report projects that the region will return to positive growth in 2017 and expand by 1.2 per cent. Brazil will expand at 0.5 per cent and the growth will be supported by the easing of domestic constraints. Growth in Mexico will decelerate to 1.8 per cent in 2017 due to weakening investment due to policy uncertainty in the United States. Argentina will grow at a 2.7 percent pace in 2017, which will be supported by rolling back of fiscal consolidation as well as policies that are strengthening investment. Caribbean countries will see a growth at 3.1 per cent in 2017. República Bolivariana de Venezuela continues to suffer from severe economic imbalances and is forecast to shrink by 4.3 per cent in 2017. The Middle East and North Africa:  The report projects that the region will see recover modestly to 3.1 per cent in 2017, with oil importers registering the strongest gains. Saudi Arabia’s growth will accelerate to 1.6 per cent in 2017 while Iran will see a growth to 5.2 per cent. The forecast is based on an expected rise in oil prices to an average of $55 per barrel for the year. South Asia:  the report suggests that the regional growth is expected to pick up modestly to 7.1 per cent in 2017 with continued support from strong growth in India. It says that the growth of the region, excluding India is expected to edge up to 5.5 per cent in 2017. This growth will be supported by robust private and public consumption, infrastructure investment and a rebound in private investment. India is expected to post a 7.6 percent growth rate in Financial Year 2018 as reforms loosen domestic supply bottlenecks and increase productivity. Pakistan’s growth is projected to accelerate to 5.5 per cent, at factor cost, in FY2018, reflecting improvements in agriculture and infrastructure spending. Sub-Saharan Africa: The report for the region suggests that Sub-Saharan African growth will pick up modestly to 2.9 per cent in 2017 as the region continues to adjust to lower commodity prices. Growth in South Africa and oil exporters is expected to be weaker, while growth in economies that are not natural-resource intensive should remain robust. Growth in South Africa is expected to edge up to a 1.1 per cent pace in 2017. Nigeria will rebind from the recession and grow at a 1 per cent pace, while Angola will expand at a 1.2 per cent pace.

The FIFA Council on 10 January 2017 unanimously voted to expand the FIFA World Cup to a 48-team competition. At the 3rd meeting at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on 9 and 10 January 2017, the council decided on a new tournament format with the 48 national teams split into 16 groups of three teams. The top two teams from each group will then move forward to a 32-team knockout stage. Highlights : The new format is set to be introduced in the year 2026.  There will be no reduction in the overall number of rest days and a guaranteed maximum of seven matches for the teams reaching the final. The council zeroed in on the decision following a thorough analysis, based on a report that included four different format options. The study looked onto factors such as sporting balance, competition quality, infrastructure, impact on football development, the consequences for event delivery and the projections on financial position.The FIFA Council had already discussed the scenarios to expand the competition format of the FIFA World Cup at its meeting in October 2016. The council had also set out a set of principles for countries to bid for the right to host the 2026 edition. At present, the process is scheduled to culminate in May 2020. FIFA : The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the international governing body of association football, futsal and beach soccer. It is responsible for the organisation of football's major international tournaments. It organises notably the World Cup and the Women's World Cup.  It was founded in 1904. Its aim is to oversee international competition among the national associations of Switzerland, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium.  It is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.

Air India has launched Fly For Sure scheme under which passengers will be offered one-time flight change facility on the same day. The facility is available for the flight's operation from domestic airports within India. The facility was launched with an aim to end the worries of missing or rescheduling the flight by paying a hefty last-minute fare to reach their destination. Till date, in such cases of change passengers were supposed to pay both change fee as well as fare difference. Features  :  Passengers can change the schedule (prepone or postpone) of the flight by paying Rs 2000 (including taxes) and board any other Air India flight on the same sector. This facility of re-scheduling the time of travelling will be available on the same day. To avail the facility the passenger will have to make an advance payment through e-Flight Change Facility by making an advance payment of a nominal fee of INR 2000 (including taxes) per sector up through Electronic Miscellaneous Document (EMD) at the time of purchase of the ticket. It is applicable for passengers travelling in the business or economy class on Air India flights. The service is available only in the sector where alternate flights are available on the same day. Limits of the ‘Fly For Sure’ scheme  : The scheme is not applicable for Alliance Air and Code share flights. It is not applicable on award/redemption tickets. It is not applicable for passengers who travel on group bookings as also unaccompanied minors. The notification issued by Air India says that these advance payment for availing the service is non-refundable in case the facility is not availed by the passenger but refundable if Air India fails to offer seats on the alternate flight. The notification also reads, “all business rules of the original Reservation Booking Designator (RBD) will be applicable’. RBD means the booking class of a flight and it is the code used in reservation transactions to identify the booking class.

The former President of Germany Roman Herzog, who pioneered remembrance of the Holocaust, passed away on 10 January 2017 in Bad Mergentheim, Germany. He was 82. Herzog used the presidency to serve as a moral guardian for liberal and democratic values. He often talked about Germany’s moral responsibility for the crimes of its past. Roman Herzog  : Roman Herzog served as the President of Germany from 1994 to 1999. He was elected as the President by the Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung) on 23 May 1994.He was a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In 1994, he participated in the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising during the Nazi occupation of Poland. He was the first President of Germany to be elected to office after the reunification of Germany. Before being elected as the President of the country, he served as a judge of the Federal Constitutional Court. He also served as the President of the Constitutional Court. Between December 1999 and October 2000, he chaired the European Convention. The Convention had drafted the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.  He, along with former central bank President Hans Tietmeyer and former federal judge Paul Kirchhof, led an independent commission to investigate a financing scandal plaguing the CDU.

Akhada is the authorized biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat, a former wrestler and a coach. The book is written by sports journalist Sourabh Duggal and was released on 21 December 2016 at the Chandigarh Press Club. This book tells the story of a man of tremendous fortitude, of a father who fought against all odds to give his daughters Olympians Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari

An eight-year old boy from Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri has won gold medal in Thai Boxing Championship at the national level. Abbu Ammaz, a class 2 student was felicitated by the district authorities and the civil administration as well as by the police. The locals were proud of this little boy's achievement and lauded the boxing champ.

Four Indian-American scientists have been chosen among 102 researchers who will receive the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) the highest honour given by the US government to science and engineering professionals.  Pankaj Lal from Montclair State University ( Department of Agriculture); Kaushik Chowdhury from Northeastern University (Department of Defense), Manish Arora, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Department of Health and Human Services) and Aradhna Tripati, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (National Science Foundation).  Lal, who earned his Master's from Delhi School of Economics, is an associate professor in the department of earth and environmental studies at Montclair.  Undertaking interdisciplinary research that explores interconnections among society and the environment, he has been working on environmental economics and economic geography, human dimensions of ecosystem management, natural resource conservation and policy and climate change.  Chowdhury, who received his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology, directs the Next Generation Networks and Systems (GENESYS) Lab. He is the winner of the "NSF CAREER" award in 2015 and the Office of Naval Research Director of Research Early Career Award in 2016.  An environmental epidemiologist and exposure biologist, Arora's research focuses on effects of prenatal and early childhood chemical exposures on life-long health trajectories.  He is known for his work on biomarkers that utilise human deciduous and permanent teeth to reconstruct the timing of exposure to various harmful chemicals and essential nutrients.  At UCLA, Tripati's lab uses the chemistry of natural compounds as well as models as tools to understand how the Earth works to understand climate change, the oceans, and the transfer of carbon between the biosphere, atmosphere and oceans.  The awards, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the US president.  Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach. 

Lufthansa has become the first carrier to launch commercial operations with Airbus A350 to India after it announced that the first flight to Delhi from Munich on this aircraft will be operated on February 11, 2017.  With this flight, India will become the first country in Lufthansa’s network to receive commercial operations by Airbus A350.  Over the last 50 years, we at Lufthansa have always looked to provide the very best and latest in air travel for the Indian consumer. Reiterating our commitment, we are very proud to share that on February 11, 2017, we will be launching Airbus A350 between Delhi and Munich. This will make India the very first country to initiate the commercial operations of Lufthansa's Airbus A350-900 fleet,” Wolfgang Will, Director, South Asia, Lufthansa German Airlines told ET.  Our passengers on this route will now enjoy a higher level of comfort with improved components such as a newly designed self-service area in Business Class, new seats with ergonomically designed cushions in Economy Class, larger screens in all classes and improved broadband internet services . While Lufthansa will be the first to launch commercial operations, Qatar Airways had brought the aircraft first to India. They had displayed it during the Hyderabad Air Show held last year.  Lufthansa, which got it first Airbus 350 last month, has ordered 25 such aircraft and these aircraft will replace Airbus 340 in its fleet. 

The private sector lender Axis Bank has also joined the group as the third bank to use block chain solutions in its operations. Third largest Private sector bank led by Shikha Sharma has tied up with fintech firm Ripple to offer the solution. Blockchain is a secured way of conducting online transactions. It is a decentralized digital ledger that records transactions on thousands of computers globally in such a way that the registered transactions cannot be altered retrospectively.   The use of a blockchain removes the characteristic of infinite reproducibility from a digital asset. The Block-Chain technology would be used for cross border remittances which is a key area of concern for the banks. Use of the new technology would enable instant transfer of money as against the current system that takes about a week for the same.

Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu on January 10, 2017 launched a Non Fare Revenue Policy to boost up additional revenue and reduce its dependence on traditional revenue system such as passenger and freight traffic. Under the policy Railway has decided to sell outdoor spaces at railway stations to media agencies for installing advertising hoardings and billboards, provide radio and video content through wifi on stations and trains, lease out spaces at platforms to set up over 2000 ATMs and sell branding of rights of trains and stations to FMCG and other companies. The railway expects that the policy would boost the railway non-fare revenues within a year by nearly six times from Rs. 300 crore to nearly Rs. 18000 crore.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has  inaugurated the Coffee table book and policy document of the 8th edition on Vibrant Gujarat Summit at Gandhinagar, Gujarat.  The inauguration ceremony saw address of various business leaders including Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, and Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani. The ceremony  also marked the presence of various head of states and representatives of world powers.  Earlier in the day, PM Modi held talks with various dignitaries who have arrived in Gujarat for the summit.  The PM held delegation level talks with leaders of Rwanda, Serbia, Japan and Denmark. The Prime Minister is expected to hold similar meetings with other heads of state.

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