August 6, 2018

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NATIONAL NEWS

  1. The central government announced that PM Modi will launch India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) on August 21 with a focus on rural areas.
    • Two branches of the bank are already operational. 648 branches will be launched across country in every district.
    • The government would also launch the IPPB app.
    • IPPB will leverage reach of 55 lakh post office branches to provide banking and financial service to people in rural area.
    • IPPB was the third entity to receive payments bank permit after Bharti Airtel and Paytm.
    • Payments banks can accept deposits up to ₹ 1 lakh per account from individuals and small businesses.
    • IPPB has permit to carry RTGS, NEFT, IMPS transaction that will enable IPPB customers to transfer and receive money from any bank account.

 

  1. Indian-origin U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams is among the 9 astronauts selected by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to fly the first missions into space on commercial spacecraft, starting in 2019.
    • These nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by the Boeing Company and SpaceX.
    • The astronauts will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragon capsules to the International Space Station starting in 2019.

 

  1. India has made a final plea for continuation of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits currently under review before the US Trade Representative (USTR), arguing that the cheaper imports of intermediary products from India enable availability of cost-effective and price-competitive inputs to the US downstream industries and helps the US firms remain domestically and internationally competitive.
    • The GSP programme allows duty-free entry of 1,937 products worth $5.6 billion from India into the US, benefitting exporters of textiles, engineering, gems and jewellery and chemical products.

 

  1. In the list of top 500 educational institutes in the world compiled by the UK-based agency Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), many more universities from China find a place compared with those from India.
    • As per the latest rankings, 22 Chinese universities found a place in the top 500 list as compared to 9 from India.
    • One of the reasons why Indian institutes often don’t make it to the list of top-ranked ones is the low level of research output, which is often an important metric in most university rankings.
    • The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 shows that most of India’s rural youth lack such skills.
    • More than half of rural youth in India, aged 14-18, struggles with basic arithmetic, the survey showed.

 

  1. While the government’s decision to impose a safeguard duty on the import of solar cells from China and Malaysia could benefit domestic manufacturers, it will do a lot of damage to existing solar projects that have already factored in the cheaper imports into their pricing.
    • End users to bear cost – The increased tariffs will be ultimately passed on to the customers, hampering the adoption of clean energy.
    • Dilemma in SEZs
    • Hamper development of Solar Power
    • Short duration of imposition of safeguard duty
    • One alternative method to promote the domestic industry, is for the government to procure at competitive rates solar power generated from units only using domestically manufactured panels.

 

  1. An additional 180 days could be provided for resolution of 34 stressed power projects with a view to avoiding potential value erosion of operating plants.
    • As per the current RBI norms, banks need to restructure stressed assets within 180 days or six months.
    • The report pointed out that the commissioned power plants with capacity of about 40,000 MW need to be considered differently to avoid potential value erosion and unreasonable haircut for banks.
  1. In possibly the first-of-its-kind move, the Uttar Pradesh government has given its in-principle approval to bring man-animal conflict under listed disasters in the State Disaster Response Fund.
    • The move will enable faster relief, creating awareness, ensuring police support in areas when such conflicts are reported, and proper guidelines to handle situations when wild animals venture in human in-habitation.

 

  1. The launch of India’s second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, may be delayed till January 2019.
    • The postponement comes in the wake of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facing quick setbacks.
    • Earlier this year, the ISRO had launched GSAT-6A, a military communication satellite, but lost communication with it.
    • Following this, the ISRO also recalled the launch of GSAT-11 from Kourou, French Guiana, for additional technical checks.
    • Last September, the PSLV- C39 mission, carrying the IRNSS-1H navigation satellite, failed after the heat shield refused to open and release the satellite.
    • The ISRO is treading a cautious path after these two setbacks as Chandrayaan-2 is one of the crucial launches for the space agency, particularly after Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission).
    • Chandrayaan-2 will be ISRO’s first time attempt to land a rover, on the moon.
    • The rover, costing nearly ₹800 crore, will be made to land near the yet-unexplored south pole of the moon.

 

  1. Steady water flow in the Cauvery has caused extensive damage to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, near Srirangapatna in Mandya district, Karnataka.
    • Hundreds of plants on the islands have been swept away and many trees have been uprooted.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  1. According to Bloomberg’s data Japan is now the world’s second-largest stock market.
    • It has overthrown China as its total equity is $6.17 trillion and that of China’s is $6.09 trillion.
    • The United States is the world’s biggest market for stocks, with total worth just over $31 trillion.
  1. Tebori’-style tattooing, the century-old traditional Japanese method of tattooing by hand with a needled rod.
  1. Chinese scientists have developed skin-like electronic tattoos, that can be used to monitor health parameters such as blood pressure and body temperature in real time.
    • The graphene-based electronic tattoo, developed by scientists from the Tsinghua University in China, can be easily transferred onto various surfaces such as the human skin, leaves and silk.
    • Graphene, a super thin material with excellent flexibility and conductivity, is an ideal material for electronic skin.
    • It could also be attached to masks and throats to measure body signals such as breathing, heartbeat and voice.
  1. Scientists have unveiled details about the people who built the Stonehenge in the U.K., by analysing the human remains found at the site.
    • Stonehengeis a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury.
    • Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.
    • One of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, Stonehenge is regarded as a British cultural icon.
    • A study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that a number of people who were buried at the Wessex site had moved with and likely transported the bluestones used in the early stages of the monument’s construction, sourced from the Preseli Mountains of west Wales.
    • Research suggest that West Wales are the most likely origin of at least some of these people.
    • Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon.

 

  1. The K. government announced new plans to change the law for organ and tissue donation to address the urgent need for organs within Indian-origin community in the country.
    • The proposed new system of consent for organ and tissue donation, which will presume that people have agreed to transplants unless they have specifically opted out, is expected to come into effect in England in 2020 as part of a drive to help Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people.
    • According to NHS records, only 7% of donors last year were from BAME backgrounds, with Indians accounting for just 9%.
    • Further, 21% of people who died on the organ donation waiting list in the U.K. last year were from a BAME background.


 

BANKING AND ECONOMY

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed non-fund-based Umbrella organisations (UO)at State levels to revive India’s co-operative banking sector.
    • It would conduct non-fund activities in the areas of training, capacity building and IT infrastructure and research.
    • Gujarat is the first State in the country to have an UO for the UCB sector.

 

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed that banks meet their priority sector lending targets through co-origination of loans with Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs).
    • Rather than hold on to the convenience of lending to micro lenders and other NBFCs who in turn would give loans to small borrowers, the central bank believes banks should directly underwrite loans along with other lenders to meet their priority sector requirements.
    • In short, attend to the customer together rather than just pay your way to get the label of a small-borrower-friendly bank.
    • Banks get to underwrite risk without spending much on setting up shop in a remote village to chase small customers.
    • A micro lender or NBFC saves the cost of borrowing money from a bank and then charging a spread on it while giving out loans. Thus, for the end borrower, the cost could be lower.

 

  1. The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) Industrial Outlook Survey for the manufacturing sector indicates that the Business Expectations Index, or BEI, for the quarter ahead fell from 8 for the March 2018 quarter to 114.1 for the June 2018 quarter.
    • The Business Expectations Index is a composite indicator calculated as a weighted (share of gross value added, or GVA, of different industry groups) net response of nine business indicators:
      1. Overall business situation
      2. Production
      3. Order books
      4. Inventory of raw material
      5. Inventory of finished goods
      6. Profit margins
      7. Employment
      8. Exports
      9. Capacity utilization.
  • It gives a snapshot of the business outlook in every quarter. A reading above 100 indicates expansion while one below 100 signals contraction.

 

 

SPORTS

  1. India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar won his first European Tour title at the Fiji International, at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, in Fiji.

 

  1. Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli reached number 1 position in the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen, as per the latest ICC ranking released on 5th August 2018.
  2. Bryce Carlson from Cincinnati, Ohio, has rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean, setting a record for a west-to-east crossing.
  3. Ace Indian shuttler P V Sindhu finishes second-best winning-silver medal at World Championships 2018 of Badminton in women’s singles category held at Nanjing, China.
    • It makes Sindhu only Indian to have four world championships podium finishes.
    • Carolina Marin claimed a slice of history as the Spaniard became the first woman to win three badminton World titles with an emphatic victory over P.V. Sindhu of India.