Today Current Affairs 16th November 2016

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Netherlands-based doctors have performed the first-ever brain implant on a 58-year-old woman paralysed by Lou Gehrig's disease. Doctors directly installed a device called electrocorticograph on her brain enabling her to communicate in day-to-day life via a speech computer.  The disease-caused nerve degeneration had left her with control only over her eyes. The implant enabled her to control the computer using brain signals, spelling out messages at two letters per minute. Electrocorticography : Electrocorticography (ECoG), or intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG), is a type of electrophysiological monitoring that uses electrodes placed directly on the exposed surface of the brain to record electrical activity from the cerebral cortex.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has hiked the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat and pulses to boost the output of these rabi crops and check prices. The MSP of wheat was hiked by 100 rupees per quintal for the 2016-17 rabi crop. The procurement cost of wheat will be 1,625 rupees per quintal against 1,525 rupees per quintal last year. The support price on Barley has been increased to 1,325 rupees from 1,225 rupees per quintal. Masur: It has been raised to 3,950 rupees per quintal from 3,400 rupees. Mustard and safflower: MSP have been hiked to 3,700 rupees per quintal each. Gram: It has been raised to 4,000 rupees per quintal including bonus, from 3,500 rupees per quintal. To incentivise cultivation of pulses and oilseeds, CCEA also announced a bonus on these crops over and above MSP. Minimum Support Price (MSP) :  MSP is a form of agricultural market intervention undertaken by the Union Government in order to insure agricultural producers are protected against any sharp fall in farm prices. It is announced for certain crops by the Union Government prior to the sowing season. The prices are decided by CCEA on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).

The Union Cabinet has approved constitution of ‘special committee for inter-linking of rivers’ in compliance with a 2012 Supreme Court order. Decision in this regard was taken in the Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The constitution of committee will help in monitoring precious projects to be carried out under its National Perspective Plan, 1980. The special committee will submit status-cum-progress report bi-annually to Union Cabinet to facilitate faster and appropriate decisions in the interest of the country. The Supreme Court in its final judgement dated February 2012 had given go ahead for inter-linking river project, seeking to transfer water from surplus to water deficit areas in country. The apex court had called for formation of a committee to take firm steps and fix a definite time line to lay down the guidelines for completion of feasibility reports or other reports.  Besides, it had mandated the committee ensure the completion of projects so that the benefits accrue within reasonable time and cost. The project is in the pipeline since 1980. It has been touted by the Central Government as one solution to a number of problems. It includes making water available for irrigating land, enabling full use of existing irrigation projects; generating power, flood control etc.

Over 20 countries, including India, Brazil and France have signed the framework agreement of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The framework agreement of ISA was opened for signatures on the sidelines of CoP22 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Marrakech, in Morocco. The signing of the framework agreement has to be followed by ratifications by countries.  The agreement will become operational after at least 15 countries have ratified it. International Solar Alliance (ISA) :  ISA was jointly launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande at CoP21 in Paris in November 2015. The initiative is brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is India’s first international and inter-governmental organization comprising 121 Countries. ISA is an alliance of 121 solar resource-rich tropical countries lying fully or partially between two tropics and who are also UN members. The institutional structure of ISA consists of an Assembly, a Council and a Secretariat. The secretariat of the ISA is to be located in India. Its members will take coordinated actions through programmes and activities that will aggregate demands for solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, R&D and capacity building. Objectives of ISA :  Boost global demands which will result in further reduction in prices of solar energy deployment. Boost R&D, particularly in areas of efficient storage systems. Promote standardisation in the use of equipments and processes for generating electricity. Standardisation will make the manufacturing of equipments and other hardware cheaper. Purpose of ISA :  More than 120 countries are geographically located in the tropics i.e. between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, either fully or partially. These places get ample sunlight throughout the year, making solar energy easily available resources. These countries also happen to be ones where maximum growth in energy demand in the coming years, but their current production is woefully short of requirement. Thus, the ISA will ensure that as these countries rapidly ramp up their electricity production, predominantly by using clean solar energy and avoid fossil fuels. It is also an attempt to accelerate the global demand for solar energy and gives India an opportunity to take global leadership in the fight against climate change.

Lewis Hamilton beat against all odds to secure first position at the recently concluded Brazilian Grand Prix 2016 in Interlagos circuit, Sao Paulo. Heavy downpour made the race one of the wettest ever. Poor visibility made the race even more challenging for the racers. Hamilton proved he is legendary by mastering the conditions and continuing to maintain his lead, while many of his competitors crashed out. Highlights of the Race  : Hamilton finished first, followed by his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in second position and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third position. Safety car was deployed five times and the race was red flagged twice. Romain Grosjean, Haas driver lost control of his car and crashed even before the race began. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson crashed five laps after the race began.  Race Director Charlie Whiting waved the red flag for the first time when Kimi Raikkonen suffered a frightening crash.  The race restarted after 35 minutes of stoppage time. It was however stopped for the second time on the 29th lap when Whiting saw reports of heavy rain and then was restarted after a delay of 27 minutes.  Two-time Brazilian Grand Prix winner and home hero Felipe Massa’s final race ended when he crashed near the pit entry on lap 47. In a teary moment, he received a standing ovation from the crowd. Jenson Button, McLaren-Honda driver finished last.  Though Hamilton displayed superb skills on the racetrack, it was Max Verstappen, whose performance was truly phenomenal. Verstappen, who slipped to 16th from 2nd position, made up 13 places in just 16 laps with masterful passes.   

The International Day for Tolerance was observed globally on 16 November 2016. The Day aims at educating masses about the need for tolerance in society and helping them understand the negative effects of intolerance. In order to mark the day and the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, UNESCO instituted a prize in 1995 for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence. The prize, named as the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence, rewards significant activities in the fields of scientific, artistic, cultural or communication aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence. In 2016, the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence was awarded to Federal Research and Methodological Center for Tolerance Psychology and Education (Tolerance Center) of Russia. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) by its resolution 51/95 invited UN Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on 16 November. This action came in the wake of the United Nations Year for Tolerance 1995, proclaimed by the UNGA in 1993. On 16 November 1995, the UNESCO member states adopted the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and Follow-up Plan of Action for the year.  

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum’s week kicked off at Lima, capital city of the South American country Peru. The week that began on 14 November 2016 will run on till 20 November 2016. The forum will witness participation from businessmen, investors and economic leaders of the 21 Pacific Rim countries (countries that lie on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean).  Boosting Human Capital Development  Upgrading Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) Enhancing Regional Food Market Advancing Regional Economic Integration APEC : It was created in 1989 to support growing interdependence of Asia-Pacific economies  Creation of regional trade blocs in other areas also contributed to its establishment.  It seeks to promote free trade in the Asia-Pacific region and achieve prosperity among member economies. Some of its member countries include Australia, The United States of America, Japan, China, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia and New Zealand.  Annual APEC Summit is attended by heads of government of all the APEC members.The APEC region represents 57% of the world’s GDP and 497 of global trade.  India is not a member of APEC. Though it had put in its request to join the bloc and received support as well from countries like United States, Japan, Australia and Papua New Guinea, it was finally not allowed to join, mainly because it does not lie on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. It was however, invited as an observer country for the first time in November 2011.

The Board of Tata Global Beverages has voted to remove Cyrus Mistry as the Chairman of the company. The Board voted to appoint Harish Bhat as the Chairman of the company. Bhat is the Non-Executive Director on the board of the company. This is the second time that Mistry is shown the doors out from a Tata entity. Earlier, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) had replaced him with Ishaat Hussain as the Interim Chairman. Bhat had joined the Tata Group in 1987 under Tata Administrative Services (TAS). He earlier worked as the Chief Operating Officer of Titan. He is also the author of a book titled Tata Log: Eight Modern Stories From A Timeless Institution. Tata Global Beverages :  Tata Global Beverages Limited is an Indian multinational non-alcoholic beverages company. It was formerly known as Tata Tea Limited. It is headquartered in Kolkata, West Bengal. It is the world's second-largest manufacturer and distributor of tea. It markets tea under the major brands Tata Tea, Tetley, Good Earth Teas and JEMCA. Tata Tea is the biggest-selling tea brand in India, whereas Tetley is the biggest-selling tea brand in Canada. JEMCA is the biggest-selling tea brand in the Czech Republic.Tata Global Beverages ventured into the Indian cafe market with a 50/50 joint venture with Starbucks Coffee Company.  

Maharashtra became the first state in the country to adopt the Fly Ash Utilization Policy. It was approved by state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The policy paves way for prosperity by generating wealth from waste and environment protection. The policy seeks 100% use of fly ash generated from thermal power plants and biogas plants for construction activities. Facilitates use of fly ash to make bricks, blocks, tiles, wall panels, cement and other construction materials.  The policy extends use of fly ash to 300 kms radius of power plant from earlier 100 kms radius of power plant. It will help in environment protection and save soil excavation. It also will make available raw material for construction at low cost to help ‘Housing for All’ projects. It will also help create new employment opportunities in the power plant sector and pave way for prosperity by generating Wealth from Waste. Fly ash is a fine, glass powder by-product recovered from gases of burning coal in thermal power plants during production of electricity. They are micron sized earth elements primarily consisting silica, alumina and iron. The Fly ash causes air pollution. It can also contaminate water and soil systems. The wet disposal of Fly ash results in leaching of toxic heavy metals in ground water system. Fly ash can be used as a replacement for some of the Portland cement contents of concrete. It can be used in the production of bricks for building construction. Central Government has made it mandatory for use of fly ash bricks in construction activities happening 500km around thermal power plants.  

A new global study by place branding and travel and tourism experts Resonance Consultancy reveals London, Singapore, New York and Paris as the world’s best city brands. The 2017 World’s Best City Brands report evaluates global principal cities with a metropolitan population of 2 million or more and capital cities with a population of 1 million or more. For each city, the Resonance ranking considers both statistical performance and qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors, using their evaluation of experiences on social media via the comments, images and reviews they share with family, friends and people around the world. Resonance grouped 20 areas of evaluation into the six core categories of Place, Programming, Prosperity, Product, People and Promotion. The 2017 World’s Best City Brands Report was released during a breakfast briefing by Resonance President Chris Fair at World Travel Market in London on November 8. Top ten cities : London  (1), Singapore (2),New York (3),Paris (4),Sydney (5) ,Amsterdam  (6),Los Angeles (7) ,Tokyo (8) ,San Francisco (9),Toronto (10)

A powerful earthquake hit New Zealand early morning on November 14, 2016, that triggered landslides and a small tsunami, cracked apart roads and homes, caused some damage to buildings. Two people died in the disaster while several other suffered minor injuries. According to the S. Geological Survey(USGS), the quake was centered 93 kilometers (57 miles) northeast of Christchurch, over 120 miles away in the capital, Wellington The USGS estimated the magnitude of the earthquake to be 7.8.

The Reserve Bank of India today said that no exchange or deposit facility old denomination Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes will be allowed at District Central Cooperative Banks. However the RBI clarified that DCCBs can allow existing customers to withdraw upto Rs 24,000 per week.  The Reserve Bank has also advised all banks to permit withdrawal of cash by DCCBs from their accounts based on their need. The regulator also clarified that the cash withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 per week was not applicable to withdrawal of cash by a DCCB from its account with any other bank.  The government on November 12 had said that it was looking into sudden 'popping up' of money into zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts, after an unprecedented Rs 3 lakh crore of cash flooded the banking system within four days of demonetisation of high value currency. 

Australia announced an online program for its pre-schools to learn foreign languages, including Hindi from 2017. In order to teach foreign languages in Australia a program named Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA), was launched in the 2015-16, with five languages namely Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Indonesian, French and Arabic. These were taught to the children using seven apps. Australia’s Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham, the government would extend the programme to teach Italian and Spanish in 2017 and Hindi and Modern Greek in 2018 in pre-schools.  $9.8 million has been spent on the program so far to teach as many as 10,000 students. Apart from this $5.9 million has been allotted to the programme for the 2017 rollout. (Total cost – $15.7 million)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has launched a key programme to provide free electricity connection to about 50 lakh households above the poverty line. The chief minister launched "Har Ghar Bijli Lagataar" programme, which was key development thrust for the Assembly polls, at an event here. It aims to supply power to every household in Bihar in the next two years. Providing power connection to every household is an important component of Kumars "seven resolves". The same was adopted by the grand secular alliance government in the state as "policy of good governance" for the next five years. As part of the programme, nearly 50 lakh households above the poverty line, but deprived of power will get electricity connection free. BPL families are already covered in the rural electrification programme. An amount of Rs 1857.5 crore has been set aside by the state government for this purpose, the chief minister said, adding the state was undertaking the "herculean task" on its own by drawing loan from the Asian Development Bank.

Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand clinched the 2016 Champions Showdown in St Louis, United States. Anand finished with 15 points to edge past three other grandmasters  Hikaru Nakamura, who finished second, Fabiano Caruana (third) and Veselin Topalov (fourth). The tournament saw each competitor play 24 matches, including two classical round robins, two rapid round robins and four blitz round robins. Anand won seven and drew 16. His only defeat came on the final day against Nakamura. Viswanathan : Viswanathan "Vishy" Anand is an Indian chess Grandmaster and a former World Chess Champion. Anand became India's first grandmaster in 1988. He held the FIDE World Chess Championship from 2000 to 2002. He became the undisputed World Champion in 2007 and defended his title against Vladimir Kramnik in 2008. He then defended his title in the World Chess Championship 2010 against Veselin Topalov and in the World Chess Championship 2012 Anand was also the first recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1991–92, India's highest sporting honour. In 2007, he was awarded India's second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, making him the first sportsperson to receive the award.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India on 15 November 2016 signed a 500 million US dollar loan to build a 9.8 km long road bridge across the Ganges River. This will be India’s longest river bridge. Along with ADB’s loan and 900000 US dollar in technical assistance to improve bridge operation and management, the Bihar Government will provide support equivalent to 215 million US dollar. The project is expected to be completed by the end of December 2020. Highlights of the proposed river bridge : The proposed bridge will improve transport connectivity between North and South Bihar. It will also improve the link between Patna and the surrounding areas. It will cover both channels of the Ganges River and will also serve as an alternate route to the existing Ganga Bridge. The project will also build viaducts, embankments, and toll and service facilities. It will link to national highway networks. The bridge will significantly reduce travel time to Patna from the surrounding regions, in particular north Bihar. It will eventually ease access of people to state’s administrative and social services. It is expected that the bridge will benefit over 9 million people. The bridge will also turn out to be of great help for the inhabitants of Raghopur Diara River Island who will gain year-round road access. At present, the 250000 inhabitants of the island rely on boats and a seasonal pontoon bridge as their only links to Patna. The bridge will use state-of-the-art engineering techniques and will be the first of its kind in India. The height and length of the bridge have been designed to minimize impacts on the river itself. It will also ensure that the bridge is able to withstand climate-related stresses such as a rise in the water level.

Facebook’s Connectivity Lab has set a world record transmitting at nearly 20 Gbps for 13.2 kilometers using Milli Meter Wave (MMW) technology. The Connectivity Lab achieved a data rate of nearly 20 Gbps in a point-to-point land-based test from a mountaintop in Malibu, California to a building rooftop in Woodland Hills in United States. The line-of-sight distance for the point-to-point test was of 13.2 km. With this Facebook broke the previous record set in May 2016 by German scientists of 6 Gbps data transmission over 37 km using MMW technology.  Earlier in February 2016, a team of Japanese researchers had hit 100 Gbps by batching multiple 10 Gbps signals but not in the MMW spectrum. Millimeter waves (MMW) :  Millimeter waves (MMW) is electromagnetic waves with the wavelength from 1 to 10 millimeters. This waves share the features of microwaves and far infrared waves since its wavelength ranges between these two waves. MMW application in communications : It is generally used for point-to-point transmission technology. Basically the band of radio spectrum between 30 Ghz and 300 Ghz of MMW is used for this purpose. It is mainly used for connecting internet service to distribution points. It is difficult and uneconomical to use MMW for individual residential connections.

As many as 272 products have been registered as geographical indications since September 2003, according to data of Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks. During this fiscal (2016-17), 11 products  have been registered so far as GI from states across India. 26 items had received GI status in the 2015-16 fiscal . 11 GI products added this  year are Sangli Raisins (Maharashtra), Parmigiano Reggiano (Italy), Banaras Metal Repouse Craft (Uttar Pradesh), Beed Custard Apple (Maharashtra), Jalna Sweet Orange (Maharashtra), Uttarakhand Tejpat (Uttarakhand), Waigaon Turmeric (Maharashtra), Purandar Fig (Maharashtra), Jalgaon Brinjal (Maharashtra), Solapur Pomegranate (Maharashtra) and Kashmiri Hand Knotted Carpet (Jammu & Kashmir) Geographical Indication (GI) :  Geographical Indication is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries with regards to its special quality or reputation attributes. The status to the products marks its authenticity and ensures that registered authorised users are allowed to use the popular product name. Benefits of Geographical Indication Status :  The GI registration confers: (i) Legal protection to the products (ii) Prevents unauthorised use of a GI tag products by others (iii) Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits (iv) Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demand in national and international markets. Legal Authorities associated with GI :  Geographical Indications are covered as an element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. At international level, GI is governed by World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In India, GI registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. This had come into force from September 2003. Darjeeling tea was the first product in India accorded with GI tag.

India and Israel have inked two agreements in the field of water resources management and agriculture. These agreements were signed following the delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in New Delhi.  Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is in India on a six-day official state visit. He is the first Israeli head of state to visit India in nearly 20 years. The last and first Israeli president to officially visit India was Ezer Weizman in January 1997. India-Israel Relations :  India had formally recognised Israel in September 1950. Embassies were opened in 1992 after full diplomatic relations were established. Since the upgradation of relations in 1992, defence and agriculture have been the main pillars of bilateral engagement.  In recent years, bilateral ties have expanded to areas such as education, science and technology and homeland security. The future vision of the cooperation is of a strong hi-tech partnership as both countries leading knowledge economies. Both countries have friendly political ties. The bilateral trade from $200 million in 1992 (comprising primarily trade in diamonds) has reached $5.19 billion in 2011. Since then it has stagnated around $4.5 billion. The diamonds constitutes close to 50% of bilateral trade between both countries.  In recent times trade has diversified into several sectors such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, IT and telecom and homeland security. Major exports from India to Israel include precious stones and metals, textiles and textile articles, chemical products, plants and vegetable products, and mineral products. Major imports by India from Israel include precious stones and metals, chemicals (mainly potash) and mineral products, base metals and machinery and transport equipment.