Today Current Affairs 12th March 2016

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The Arab League has declared Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a Shia political organisation a terrorist group. The move comes after the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had adopted the same stance. Decision in this regard was taken during the Arab League Foreign Ministers’ meeting at the organisation’s seat in Egypt’s capital Cairo. All-22 Arab League members supported the decision except Lebanon and Iraq expressed reservations. Hezbollah (Party of God) is a Shia political organisation created by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s. It was established with an armed wing during Lebanon’s civil war from 1975 to 1990. Currently, it is fighting in Lebanon’s neighbouring Syria to support the Government of President Bashar al-Assad. The United States, Canada and Australia already have listed Hezbollah as a terrorist group and the European Union (EU) has also blacklisted its military wing.

Union Power Ministry has announced name UJALA for the LED based Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP). UJALA is acronym for Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All. The National LED based DELP programme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 2015 for energy conservation by reducing energy consumption. The target of programme is to replace 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is implementing it and is currently running successfully in over 120 cities across India. The initiative is part of the Union Government’s efforts to spread the message of energy efficiency in the country. LED bulbs have a very long life, almost 50 times more than ordinary bulbs, and 8-10 times that of CFLs, and therefore provide both energy and cost savings in the medium term. It will help in saving of energy around 24 crore units every year.

India and United States have launched the Fulbright  Kalam Climate Fellowship enabling Indian research scholars to work with American institutions in the field of climate change.In its first year, this new program will enable up to six Indian PhD students and post-doctoral researchers to work with U.S. host institutions for a period of six to twelve months on climate research and education.The Fulbright-Kalam Climate Fellowship is part of a commitment made by President Obama and Prime Minister Modi to build long-term capacity to address climate change-related issues in both countries. The fellowship will be operated by the binational U.S.-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) under the umbrella of the prestigious Fulbright program and is named after the late Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, a scientist and statesman who long advocated for increasing ties between the people of India and the people of the United States. The fellowship is jointly funded by both governments.Applications for the inaugural class of Fellows are due July 15, 2016

The Army has appointed Lt Gen NPS Hira as Deputy Chief of Army Staff with effect from March 14."Lt Gen NPS Hira who is presently posted as Chief of Staff of Northern Command at Udhampur, has been posted to Army Headquarters at Delhi to take over as Deputy Chief of Army Staff with effect from March 14," Defence spokesman.The General has had a distinguished career spanning various Command, Staff and instructional appointments. He commanded the Battalion in Assam (Op RHINO) during the high violence period.  The unit bagged 32 gallantry awards and COAS citation under his command," said Col Goswami.Gen Hira later commanded 12 Infantry Brigade in the strategic Uri sector deployed on the Line of Control. The Brigade earned an Ashok Chakra, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra and many more gallantry awards during his command."The General commanded the 10 Infantry Division in the Jammu and Kashmir on Line of Control with distinction for which he was awarded the Ati Vishisht  Seva Medal," Col Goswami added.The General commanded 11 Corps “Defenders of Punjab” at Jalandhar.  Thereafter he was posted as Chief of Staff of the most important Northern Army battling insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, Siachin Glacier and Line of Actual Control with China in Leh-Ladakh region. He is moving to Army headquarters with an extensive on ground experience of all types of operations. The General is also the Colonel of the Regiment of the Sikh Light Infantry.

Researchers in Sweden are developing a crowdsourced speech engine in an effort to make Wikipedia more accessible to the visually impaired. Wikimedia Sweden has partnered with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden to develop the "speech synthesis platform," which will be optimized for Wikipedia but open source and free for use on sites running the MediaWiki software. Researchers will begin developing the engine for Swedish, English, and Arabic, which they aim to complete by September 2017, before expanding it to the other 280 languages in which Wikipedia is available.The hope is that the speech engine will be able to communicate content on Wikipedia for those who have difficulty reading text. Researchers at KTH will rely on users to contribute to the platform's development, in the same way that the encyclopedia has been built through its online community. According to Swedish telecommunications regulator PTS, which is financing the project, an estimated 25 percent of Wikipedia users 125 million users per month need or prefer speech to text.

The "Queen" of Bollywood Kangana Ranaut was announced as the brand ambassador of Reebok India here on Tuesday. The actress also launched the new campaign of the brand titled "Be More Human".It aims to inspire women to become better versions of themselves, not just physically but also mentally and socially. It is a tribute to the modern day Indian woman, telling her that she is fit to rise above stereotypes and carve out her own destiny.In the new campaign, Kangana will be seen challenging herself with various fitness activities including functional training, dance, yoga, kick-boxing and others, thereby communicating the overarching brand message.

Bank of America has fired at least 15 senior bankers at its investment-banking unit in Asia. As it pares jobs globally, according to people with knowledge of the matter.Wang Bing, a managing director in the China investment-banking business, and Patrick Steinemann, co-head of Asia industrials banking, are among executives leaving the bank, the people said. Most of the cuts came in Hong Kong, along with reductions in Singapore and Australia, the people said. Andrew Brown, a managing director responsible for coverage of top clients, also left, they said. Investment banks worldwide have been cutting jobs in recent months as stock-market turmoil and a slowing Chinese economy put the brakes on dealmaking and trading.Citigroup Inc. this week forecast first-quarter revenue from investment banking will tumble 25 per cent, and Deutsche Bank AG on Friday announced steep cuts in bonuses.Paul Scanlon, a spokesman for Bank of America, declined to comment.Wang rejoined Bank of America in 2009 as head of China corporate finance following a brief hiatus, after having worked there from 2004 to 2008. He was promoted to co-head of China investment banking in 2011 and ceded that position in late 2014. Steinemann, who joined Merrill Lynch & Co about a decade before its acquisition by Bank of America, was named co-head of Asia industrials investment banking in June 2012.Barclays Plc earlier this year exited its cash-equities business in Asia and also cut investment-banking jobs in the region. Mark Williams, Nomura Holdings Inc.'s head of investment banking for Asia outside Japan, is among other recent industry departures.

The Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat, in association with the Karnataka Horticulture Department, will conduct a ‘honey festival’ in Mangaluru on March 12 and 13.PI Sreevidya, Chief Executive Officer of the zilla panchayat, said horticulture crops are the mainstay of the district and the festival is aimed at encouraging apiculture among farmers in the district.Apart from increasing the productivity of horticulture crops, apiculture also provides a source of income to farmers.For the Karnataka Horticulture Department, said bee colonies of various species and materials required for bee-keeping would be on display at the festival.The Dakshina Kannada Bee-Keepers’ Cooperative Society will make arrangements for the sale of honey at the festival. The organisers will also conduct a bee-keeping training programme as part of the honey festival on March 13.

India will supply 18 metre-gauge diesel-electric locomotives to Myanmar to help the country bolster its rail transportation system. A contract to this effect was signed on March 4, 2016 at Naypyitaw, Myanmar, between RITES, an Indian public sector undertaking under the railway ministry and Myanmar Railways. Minister of Myanmar rail transportation, U Nyan Than Aung, and Indian ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhaya were present on the occasion. The supply contract is a vital project being funded under an existing line of credit extended to Myanmar by India. These locomotives will be manufactured by Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi, with several modern features like microprocessor controls, fuel-efficient engine and ergonomic cab design. RITES chairman Rajeev Mehrotra said the organisation is making all efforts to augment export of rolling stock manufactured at railway production units. 

Union Cabinet on 11 March 2016 approved the proposal to remove the criteria of minimum capacity utilisation for Single Super Phosphate (SSP) units that are eligible for subsidy, under the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Scheme.The decision, which comes into effect immediately, will enable small units to avail the subsidy and resulting in availability of cheaper fertilizers for farmers.This new policy will put the SSP units on the same footing as other fertilisers, and they will be eligible for subsidy irrespective of quantity of SSP produced and sold for agriculture purposes. It will also help revive smaller SSP units and encourage new SSP units to come up.From 1 October 2009, it was mandatory for the SSP units to utilize minimum 50% of their recognised production capacity or to produce 40000 MT, whichever is less, per year to become eligible for subsidy. There was some capacity addition in the beginning, but the production and consumption of SSP in the country had become stagnant in the last four years.The decision would also encourage the evolution of a robust mixed fertilizer market with diversified micro-nutrients to promote balanced fertilization of the soil. This new policy would be uniformly applicable to all fertilizers and provide a level playing field.SSP is a phosphatic multi-nutrient fertilizer, which contains 16% phosphate, 11% sulphur, 16% calcium and some other essential micro-nutrients.Because of the simple production technique, it is one of the cheapest chemical fertiliser available. It is more suited for crops like oilseeds, pulses, horticulture, vegetables, sugarcane, and others.

A 250 km-long protest march against plans to build Rampal Power Station, Indo-Bangladesh coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans, was kick-started on 10 March 2016.The protest march calls for scrapping the project that supposedly will harm the ecosystem of the world's largest mangrove forest.Environmentalists, cultural and political activists, and eminent individuals began the four-day march from Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka to persuade the Bangladeshi Government to drop its backing for construction of the plants near the Sundarbans, an area of rice paddies, shrimp farms and vast mangrove forests.The Rampal Power Station is a proposed 1320 megawatt coal-fired power station at Rampal Upazila of Bagerhat District in Khulna, Bangladesh.It is a joint partnership between India's state owned National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh Power Development Board.The joint venture company is known as Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC).The proposed project, on an area of over 1834 acres of land, is situated 14 kilometres north of the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans which is a UNESCO world heritage site.When constructed, it will be Bangladesh’s largest power plant.The Sundarbans is a natural region comprising southern Bangladesh and a small part in Eastern India.It is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.It covers approximately 10000 square kilometres most of which is in Bangladesh with the remainder in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Sundarbans South, East and West are three protected forests in Bangladesh. This region is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger.

HDFC Bank has chosen five start-ups it will work with to strengthen their web, mobile and payment offerings.The company shortlisted these five from 30 applications at its maiden Digital Innovation Summit.The final five are Senseforth Technologies, into AI customer response; Tagnpin, a marketing and customer engagement company; Safe 2 Pay, a point of sale-free payment system; Bugclipper, an in-app feedback tool, and Taptis Technology, a biometric payment company.The bank previously tied up with Chillr to enable its customers pay without a wallet Senseforth, based in Bengaluru, has developed a machine learning tool to help chat with customers to resolve their queries.The platform has been developed for the web, Android and iOS.Tagnpin, a start-up from Gurgaon, is a marketing and customer engagement tool, meant to help banks use customised marketing campaignsSafe 2 Pay has developed an app which allows offline payments. It is a replacement for cash or an electronic cheque. The app is your cheque, the pin is your signature and validation is done by the bank Bugclipper, also from Mumbai, has developed an in-house tool, which sends back reports to the development team about why an app crashed and describes customer behaviour.Taptis Technology, from Indore, has developed a biometric point of sale machine which is synced with Aadhaar and helps customers pay without a credit card by using their fingerprint, a camera and PIN-based system