Today Current Affairs 9th June 2016

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Former Kerala Assembly Speaker T S John passed away on 9 June 2016. John (74) passed away due to old age related ailments. John, who was a leader of a faction of the Kerala Congress (Secular), had also served as a minister in the A K Antony cabinet. An active member of students movements while at SB College, Changanachery, he subsequently became a Member of Kaviyoor Panchayat.  A lawyer by profession, John, one of the founder members of Kerala Congress, was elected to the assembly from Kalooppara constituency four times. He became a Member of the Assembly for the first time as a Kerala Congress Member.  John, who was Speaker of the fourth Kerala Assembly for a short period from February 17, 1976 to March 25, 1977, had also served as the Minister for Food & Civil Supplies from October 19, 1978 to October 27, 1978 in the Antony Ministry.  In the reconstituted Ministry that followed under the leadership of P K Vasudevan Nair, he continued to be the Minister for Food & Civil Supplies, from October 29, 1978 to October 7 1979.

Tamil Nadu government has appointed P Rama Mohana Rao as State Chief Secretary on 8 June 2016.  Incumbent Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan has been transferred as Additional Chief Secretary, Chairman and Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). A 1985 batch officer, 58-year-old Rao was additional Chief Secretary/Secretary-I to the Chief Minister before he was named Chief Secretary. Rao would also hold full additional charge of Vigilance Commissioner and Commissioner for Administrative reforms. According to the government order, K N Venkataramanan (retired IAS official), Shiv Das Meena, S Vijayakumar and A Ramalingam have been designated Secretary-I, Secretary-II, Secretary-III and Secretary-IV to the Chief Minister. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree awarding the Order of Friendship to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 8 June 2016. The officially published decree said that the decoration was awarded to Ban for special merits in strengthening peace, friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding between peoples. Among those awarded are Prince Michael of Kent, Oscar Niemeyer, the architect of the Brazilian capital, and former President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge. The order, set up in 1994, is meant to reward Russian citizens and foreign nationals for outstanding accomplishments in strengthening peace and cooperation with Russia, as well as for charity activities. Ban Ki-moon :  He took office and became the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations on 1 January 2007 In June 2011, he was re-elected and will continue to serve as the UN chief until 31 December 2016. Before becoming Secretary-General, he was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations.He entered diplomatic service the year he graduated from university, accepting his first post in New Delhi, India. Ban was the foreign minister of South Korea from January 2004 to November 2006.  

Internet search engine Google and Tata Trusts’ joint initiative Internet Saathi was launched on 8 June 2016 in Kolkata, West Bengal. The initiative aims at reducing the digital gender gap in rural areas of India such as Purulia, where girls have now been trained to use the Internet and teach others in turn.Internet Saathi had been successfully launched in five states. In July 2015, it began in four more states including West Bengal. Internet Saathi : Internet Saathi aims at empowering women and their communities by providing basic training on the usage and benefits of the internet.The programme is driving a meaningful impact in improving the lives of women and their communities in rural India.  It focuses on training women in rural India to explore the various uses of Internet, who then impart training to the larger rural community in their own and neighbouring villages.Google helps in training the Saathi’s and provides data enabled devices along with the training material.On ground training classes is conducted by involving self help group federations and local NGO members who are supported by Tata Trusts on-ground network. In the last ten months, the initiative has been active in villages across five states in India, namely Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

India and the United States (US) has  signed/finalized eight agreements/ Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) in various fields including exchange of Terrorist Screening Information, cooperation on Energy Security, Clean Energy and Climate Change among others on 8 June 2016. The agreements were inked after meet of Prime Minster Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama in the White House. Modi was on a two day visit to the United States from 6 June to 8 June 2016. Arrangement for the exchange of Terrorist Screening Information : As per this Arrangement, the two countries shall provide each other access to terrorism screening information through the designated contact points, subject to domestic laws and regulations. The Arrangement would enhance the counter terrorism cooperation between India and the US. It was inked between the Multi-Agency Centre/Intelligence Bureau of India and the Terrorist Screening Center of the US. MoU to enhance cooperation on Energy Security, Clean Energy and Climate Change : The objective of the MoU is to enhance cooperation between India and the US on energy security, clean energy and climate change through increased bilateral engagement and further joint initiatives for promoting sustainable growth. MoU to enhance co-operation on Wildlife Conservation, management and Combating Wildlife Trafficking : It seeks cooperation between the two countries in areas such as a) Wildlife Forensics and Conservation Genetics b) Natural World Heritage Conservation and Nature Interpretation c) Conservation Awareness MoU for the Development of an International Expedited Traveler Initiative (the Global Entry Programme) : The Global Entry is a US Customs and Border Protection programme, which allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. After joint scrutiny and clearance by both countries, the approved Indian travelers will be extended the facility of expedited entry into the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports. This MoU was inked between Consular, Passport and Visa Division of the Ministry of External Affairs and US Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security of the United States. Technical Arrangement concerning Unclassified Maritime Information Sharing : The arrangement would allow sharing of unclassified information on White Shipping between India and the US as permitted by respective national laws, regulations and policies, and provides a framework for mutually beneficial maritime information. It was inked between the Indian Navy and the United States Navy. MoU for Cooperation in Gas Hydrates : The MOU aims to increase the understanding of the geologic occurrence, distribution, and production of natural gas hydrates along the continental margin of India and in the US. It was inked between the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Department of Energy of the United States. Information Exchange Annex (IEA) to the Master Information Exchange Agreement concerning Aircraft Carrier Technologies : IEA is aimed to enhance data and information sharing specific to aircraft carriers technology between India and the US. It was finalised between the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Defense of the United States. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement : The agreement is aimed at facilitating mutual logistic support between India and the US for authorized port visits, joint exercises, joint training and HA-DR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief).It was finalised between the Ministry of Defence, Government of India and the Department of Defense of the United States. Apart from signing of the MoUs/agreements, the two leaders, Modi and Obama also issued a joint statement in which US recognised India as a major defence partner. Under this, US will allow India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies. This move will also complement India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). MTCR is an exclusive club that restricts trade in sensitive defence technologies. The US also declared that it will be its “strong objective to have India voted as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), another export control regime, later in June 2016.  

Multilateral lending agency Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $100 million (around Rs 660 crore) loan to strengthen a key irrigation system and improve water management in the Vennar sub-basin of Cauvery Delta in Tamil Nadu. The Vennar irrigation network is no longer able to meet the needs of many of its poorest farmers particularly in coastal areas and the climate extremes that have been battering the country and are expected to worsen mean there is a pressing need to upgrade it.This project will support both physical improvements and stronger water management, giving a significant boost to the lives of coastal communities who often go without sufficient irrigation water. The statement noted that the project will strengthen the embankments of six major irrigation water channels in Vennar system to make them more resilient to floods and upgrade water regulators, sluices and pump stations. To boost management, more community members will be tapped to take part in planning and delivery of water services, training will given to state water resource department officers. The Cauvery delta, on the east coast of Tamil Nadu, is known as the 'rice bowl' of the state, with over 70% of the delta population engaged in farming and fishing, but access to water is unreliable and flooding common during the monsoon season.. This is expected to worsen as climate change intensifies with projections that storm rainfall could increase by 19%, the sea level could rise by up to 0.87 meters by 2100, and maximum temperatures could increase by as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.

The Union Government has decided to introduce International Yoga Award Scheme. The award will be introduced with an aim to promote yoga on 8 June 2016. At present, the AYUSH ministry is working on the scheme and it will start giving the award from 2017. Minister of State for AYUSH, Shripad Yesso Naik announced the plan in New Delhi while inaugurating the National Health Editors' Conference. National Health Editors' Conference : The theme of the conference was Yoga for Holistic Health - Recent Researches.The conference aims at ensuring wider dissemination of benefits of Yoga to the public through the media. The conference had been organised by Ministry of AYUSH in association with Press Information Bureau and is a part of the series of planned events leading to the International Day of Yoga - 2016.

Scientist G Kalyanakrishnan has taken charge as Chief Executive for the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) on 8 June 2016.He took over the charge in place of Dr N Saibaba, who had retired on completion of two years of extended period of service.  Kalyanakrishnan will also be the Chairman of the NFC Board.  Prior to this assignment, Kalyanakrishnan was holding the position of Deputy Chief Executive, NFC. Kalyanakrishnan has a vast experience in erection and commissioning and operation of heavy water plants. He made several pioneering contributions in streamlining various activities and operations of the heavy water plants. He has played a key role in supply of reactor components for the forthcoming 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), being constructed at Kalpakkam.  After obtaining the bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering from the-then Regional Engineering College, Warangal in 1980, Kalyanakrishan joined Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).   

Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal has been re-elected to IATA's Board of Governors. This would be the fifth successive tenure for Goyal at the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) Board of Governors, the airline said in a release.  Goyal is the only representative from India on this board.As a member of the board of governors, Goyal will participate in providing policy directives and guidance to IATA industry committees and to their subsidiary bodies.  Goyal will serve a three-year term, lasting until the close of IATA's 75th AGM in 2019.IATA represents more than 260 member airlines, and plays a key role in helping formulate global policy on critical aviation issues.  Goyal was first elected to the board in 2004. Jet Airways flies to 68 destinations and currently has a fleet of 116 aircraft.  

Veteran journalist KK Katyal passed away on 8 June 2016 following a brief illness in Delhi. He was 88. He is survived by his wife and daughters. He was a former Delhi Chief of Bureau of The Hindu, who led the newspaper’s wide-ranging coverage from the National Capital during a particularly eventful phase of political change. KK Katyal : Originally from Jhang in Pakistan, he was founder of the India chapter of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA).He started his career by working in the News Chronicle soon after Independence. Katyal spent 28 years at The Hindu and built his work on access to a wide body of political and diplomatic sources.In the 1980s and 1990s when The Hindu expanded its reach and presence in the national capital, he led the growing team in Delhi. During this period, The Hindu launched its edition in Delhi in 1986.  He has earlier worked with The Statesman and Hindustan Times as well.

The World Bank in its report on global economic prospects has cut global growth forecast to 2.4% in 2016 and at 2.8% in 2017. The growth rate was lower than its earlier forecast of 2.9% and 3.1% respectively, mainly on account of a slower than expected recovery in advanced economies. The cut in global forecast was due to mediocre growth experienced by advanced economies, while low commodity prices, weak global trade and stilted capital flows also impacted. India will remain one of the fastest growing major economies, ahead of China, for the next three years. India’s growth projections have been marginally lowered by 0.2% to 7.6% for 2016-17 and 7.7% in 2017-18 due to downfall of exports. India has benefitted from the fall in oil prices through a reduction in the import bill, but its exports also have shrunk for 17 consecutive months as of April 2016. India’s domestic risks such as slow progress in structural reform agenda including power sector reforms, land reforms and tax reforms and vulnerabilities in corporate and banking sector balance sheets could impact the economy. Global slowdown and fall in commodity prices have shrunk world trade projections. China’s growth projections are at 6.7% and 6.5% for 2016 and 2017, respectively.  

According to recently released BP Statistical Review of World Energy India has surpassed Japan to become the world’s third-largest oil consumer. With demand of 4.1 million barrels a day (bpd), India is the third-largest consumer behind the United States (19.39 million bpd) and China (11.96 million bpd). India accounted for 4.5% of world oil consumption in 2015 and its oil demand galloped 8.1% in 2015. India’s oil demand growth had surpassed China’s 6.3 per cent expansion. The US oil consumption has grown by 1.6% in 2015 and it demand share accounts for 19.7% of the total world demand of 95 million bpd in 2015. Japan slipped to the fourth spot after its oil usage contracted 3.9% to 4.15 million bpd in 2015.  In 2014, Japan had used 4.3 million bpd, ahead of India’s 3.84 million bpd. Oil remained the world’s leading fuel, accounting for 32.9% of global energy consumption. It is gaining market share for the first time since 1999. Coal is the second-largest fuel by market share (29.2%).  Natural gas’ market share of primary energy consumption stood at 23.8%. In 2015, the global demand for primary energy grew only 1% which is significantly slower than the 10-year average. It reflected continued weakness in the global economy and lower growth in Chinese energy consumption as the country shifts from an industrial to a service-driven economy.

Pakistan has topped in the list of 19 countries figuring in the 2016 Malware Infection Index (MII) in the Asia-Pacific region. The index for the Asia-Pacific region was released by technology giant Microsoft in which India was placed at 8th position. The index identifies the key malware threats in the Asia-Pacific region and ranks markets in Asia-Pacific according to how much they are affected. More than 40% of computers in the 19 countries in Asia-Pacific region are infected against the global average being around 20%. Top 10 Countries : Pakistan (1st), Indonesia (2nd), Bangladesh (3rd), Nepal (4th), Philippines (5th), Cambodia (6th), India (8th), Sri Lanka (9th) and Thailand (10th). The index has also identified the top three most encountered malware in this region. They are Gamarue, a malicious computer worm that is commonly distributed via exploit kits and social engineering. Gamarue was prevalent in the ASEAN region and it was the third most commonly encountered malware family worldwide in 2H 2015.  Trojans Skeeyah and These trojans can steal personal information, give hackers access to your PC or download more malware. The findings in the index were based on data from the Microsoft Malware Protection Centre (MMPC) and the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv20).

The United States has recognised India as a major defence partner which will pave way to bring it closest US allies for defence related trade and technology transfer. Announcement in this regard was made in the joint statement issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington. US will work towards facilitating defence related trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners. India will receive license-free access to a wide range of dual-use defence technologies in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives.  US will continue to facilitate the export of goods and technologies, consistent with the US laws in support of official US-India defence cooperation. It will support of India’s ambitious ‘Make In India’ initiative and also support the development of robust defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has banned former Russian World No. 1 tennis player Maria Sharapova for two years over doping charges The ban was imposed on her Independent Tribunal of ITF appointed under Tennis Anti-Doping Programme found that she had committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation. It will commence on 26 January 2016. In January 2016 during the Australian Open she was tested positive for banned drug meldonium, a substance that has been added in the forbidden list by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on 1 January 2016. Since then she was provisionally banned.  So far in her career, Maria Sharapova has won total 35 singles titles and five Grand Slam titles, two at the French Open and one each title at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. Meldonium : It is a medical drug (also known as Mildronate) given to patients suffering from heart and circulatory conditions for enhancing their physical capacity and mental function. Its use mainly leads to production more red blood cells (RBCs) in the body in order to increase oxygen supply to muscles for enhancing endurance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the joint session of the US Congress on 8 June 2016. Earlier PM Modi was invited to speak at the joint session by House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. He addressed the congress during his second official bilateral visit to the US after his trip in September, 2014. This was PM Modi’s fourth visit to the US since he assumed office in May 2014.  With this PM Narendra Modi became the fifth Indian Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of Congress, and the first since 2005. Earlier, Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi (July 13, 1985), P V Narasimha Rao (May 18, 1994), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (September 14, 2000) and Manmohan Singh (July 19, 2005) had addressed the joint meeting of the US Congress.  It should be noted that the tradition of foreign leaders and dignitaries addressing US Congress began with the Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer. He had addressed the House Chamber on December 10, 1824.

India was  ranked low at 141st place on a Global Peace Index making it less peaceful than countries like Burundi, Serbia and Burkina Faso with violence taking a USD 680-billion toll on its economy in 2015.  In a ranking of 163 countries, compiled by global think tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Syria has been named as the least peaceful, followed by South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. On the other hand, Iceland was ranked as the world's most peaceful country, followed by Denmark and Austria.  India has moved up two position, from 141st last year, but the study said the country's peace score has "deteriorated" over the past year  which means the slight rise in ranking could be due to worse performance of others.  India's position has deteriorated when it comes to peace "by 5 per cent largely due to deteriorations in the indicators measuring UN peacekeeping funding and the level of political terror.Within South Asia, Bhutan was ranked best (13th overall rank), while India was fifth followed by Pakistan at sixth (overall 153rd) and Afghanistan at sixth place (global 160th).  India's scores for ongoing domestic and international conflict and militarisation have deteriorated slightly. The country remains vulnerable to acts of terror and security threats at its shared border with Pakistan.  At the same time, Sri Lanka saw the greatest upswing in its score in the region and the report attributed the country's increased peacefulness to "better relations with neighbouring countries, particularly India.The GPI 2016 ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.  The economic impact of violence on the global economy touched USD 13.6 trillion or 13.3 per cent of gross world product. The amount is also equivalent to 11 times the size of global foreign direct investment. According to the report, world became a less peaceful in 2016, mainly on account of increased terrorism and higher levels of political instability. Rankings of 81 countries have improved but the deterioration in another 79 outweighed these gains. IEP Founder and Executive Chairman Steve Killelea said increasing internationalisation of internal conflicts has coincided with UN peacekeeping funding reaching record highs in 2016.  However, peace building and peacekeeping spending remains proportionately small compared to the economic impact of violence, representing just two per cent of global losses from armed conflict.In 2015, violence containment expenditure in India totalled USD 679.8 billion PPP, an increase of 7 per cent from 2008. At 9 per cent of GDP this was ranked 65th in the world. As per the report, addressing the global disparity in peace and achieving an overall 10 per cent decrease in the economic impact of violence would produce a peace dividend of USD 1.36 trillion. This is approximately equivalent to the size of world food exports.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Thailand has become the first Asian country to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission.  In this regard, Thailand’s Minister of Health was presented with the certificate of validation during a ceremony, which took place on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in New York.  The mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Thailand has been reduced to less than 2% and all pregnant women living with HIV have access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy to reduce transmission of virus from mother to child during pergrency. Under Thailand’s Universal Health Coverage framework routine screening and universal free medication for pregnant women with HIV was crucial in stopping the virus being passed to new generations.  Previously, Cuba was the only other country and first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission under the WHO’s criteria back in July 2015. The chances of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to their children during pregnancy are 15-45% if they are untreated. The risk of transmission of virus in the new born can reduced with the medication of antiretroviral medicines.  

LISA Pathfinder Mission successfully tested a key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves. The Mission was led by the European Space Agency (ESA) scientists with the contribution of NASA. This research was published in Physical Review Letters on 7 June 2016. Key finding of the Research : The Mission demonstrated that two test masses can be put in free fall with a relative acceleration sufficiently free of noise to meet the requirements needed for space-based gravitational-wave detection.These tiny ripples in the fabric of space were first seen in 2015 by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). These ripples were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago.The frequency of the Seismic, thermal and other noise sources limit LIGO to higher-frequency gravitational waves was around 100 cycles per second (hertz). But finding signals from mergers of supermassive black holes in colliding galaxies requires the ability to see frequencies at 1 hertz or less.A space-based observatory would work by tracking test masses that move only under the influence of gravity. Each spacecraft would gently fly around its test masses without disturbing them, a process called drag-free flight.The primary goal of ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission is to test current technology by flying around an identical pair of 1.8-inch (46 millimeter) cubes made of a gold-platinum alloy, a material chosen for its high density and insensitivity to magnetic fields. LISA Pathfinder mission : LISA Pathfinder was launched on  3 December 2015, and began orbiting a point called Earth-sun L1, roughly 930000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth in the sun's direction since late January 2016. LISA stands for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, a space-based gravitational wave observatory concept that has been studied in great detail by both NASA and ESA.The mission was always intended as a stepping stone to the level of performance needed for a full-scale gravitational wave observatory, but these results tell us we’ve nearly made the full jumpThe Mission reduced non-gravitational forces on the test masses to a level five times better than the mission required and within 25 percent of the requirement for a future space-based gravitational wave detector. LISA Pathfinder also carries a NASA experiment called the ST-7 Disturbance Reduction System. Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the experiment combines novel electrospray thrusters with drag-free control software provided by Goddard on a dedicated computer. LISA Technology Package (LTP) : The test masses are housed in an experiment called the LISA Technology Package (LTP).It was built by a consortium of European national space agencies and ESA.The LTP uses a high-resolution laser interferometer to determine the positions of the test masses and relays the information to the spacecraft's Drag-Free and Attitude Control System, which then applies minute bursts from microthrusters.  In this way, the spacecraft flies in formation with the cubes and isolates them from external forces. The results show that LISA Pathfinder reduced non-gravitational forces on the test masses to a level about 10000 times smaller than drag-free control technologies used on previous science missions. At frequencies between 1 and 60 million hertz, control over the test masses is affected by a small number of gas molecules bouncing off the cubes.The effect became less prominent over time as molecules escaped into space, and it is expected to improve further in the following months.