Current Affairs August 2013
Time magazine chose Pope Francis as its person of the year. The magazine gave this honor to Pope Francis for changing the perception of the Roman Catholic church in an extraordinary way in a short time. The Argentine pontiff, who as archbishop of Buenos Aires was known as the slum cardinal for his visits to the poor and penchant for subway travel, beat former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and gay rights activist Edith Windsor for the award.
Note: This is the third time the magazine has selected a Pope as its Person of the Year. Time gave that honor to Pope John Paul II in 1994 and to Pope John XXIII in 1963.
Pakistan and Russia initiate Strategic Dialogue
Pakistan and the Russia held their first ever Foreign Secretary level interaction on the Strategic Dialogue in Moscow. Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Jalil Abbas Jilani and First Deputy Minister Vladimir Gennadievich Titov of the Russia participated in the talks. The discussion focused on regional and international issues, besides expanding trade and investment relations and cooperation in the field of energy and power generation.
Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney passed away
Legendary Irish poet and winner of Nobel Prize in literature 1995, Seamus Heaney (74) passed away. Heaney’s award winning work focused on themes including his rural nurturing, the problems in Northern Ireland and the sense of community in his native Ireland. His notable works include Death of a Naturalist, District and Circle, the Spirit Level, and Beowulf.
Government to bar its employees from using Gmail
The government plans to release a notification to nearly 5 lakh employees prohibiting them from using email services such as Gmail that have their servers in the US, and instead directing them to use the official email service provided by India’s National Informatics Centre. The step comes in the wake of revelation of widespread electronic surveillance programmes for spying being run by various countries including the US. Former NIA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden recently revealed that through the surveillance programme PRISM the US government had been directly accessing vast amounts of personal data on the Internet such as emails and chat messages from companies like Google, Facebook and Apple.
India’s fiscal deficit is around 63% of target
As per government data, India’s fiscal deficit during the April-July period was Rs 3.41 trillion ($50.91 billion), or 62.8% of the full-year target. Net tax receipts for the first 4 months of the current fiscal year to March 2014 touched Rs 1.45 trillion, while total expenditure was Rs 5.21 trillion. India’s fiscal deficit during the 2012-13 fiscal year ending March decreased to 4.9% of the country’s GDP, compared to 5.8% in 2011-12. The fiscal deficit target is 4.8% of GDP for the current fiscal year.
India registers 4.4% GDP growth in Q1 slowest in 4 years
The first quarter of the current fiscal has been slowest in over 4 years with GDP growth of 4.4%. The decline implies a deepening slowdown and aggravating the widespread negative sentiment brought on by the sharp depreciation of rupee depreciation and plunging stock markets.
Exclusive satellite for Indian Navy GSAT-7 launched
The European Ariane 5 rocket put it space India’s first military communication satellite GSAT-7 which was launched from the Kourou space port of French Guiana space in South America. The satellite will serve exclusively to Indian Navy. The satellite is expected to enhance the country’s maritime security and intelligence collection by covering a wide region on either coasts of the Indian Ocean region.
7000 tickets/min will be the booking speed of IRCTC website
The Centre for Railway Information System is developing ‘next generation’ e-ticketing system for IRCTC’s website which will have an efficiency to book 7200 tickets e-tickets per minute. It will render the website to perform faster and hassle free access even at peak time and have high availability and business continuity, scalability to meet the needs of future growth and security to prevent frauds and unauthorized access.
‘Mars One’: 8,000 Indians register for one-way trip to the Red Planet
So far 8,107 Indians have registered for the one-way trip to Mars and to live on the red planet, as ‘Mars One’ project is planning to set up a colony there in the next 10 years. A not-for-profit initiative, ‘Mars One’, intends to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023 and is signing up those inclined to fly there. India has fourth highest number of participants among other nations of the world.
The top 10 nations to register are the USA (37,852), China (13,124), Brazil (8,686), India (8,107), Russia (7,138), Britain (6,999), Mexico (6,771), Canada (6,593), Spain (3,621) and Philippines (3,516).
RBI permits premature encashment of 8% Savings (Taxable) Bonds
As per a atetment released by the Reserve Bank of India, individual investors who are 60 years are allowed to avail premature encashment of 8% Savings (Taxable) Bonds. This facility is available after a minimum lock-in period of 3 years from the date of issue. Those desiring to avail of the facility will have to submit documentary evidence in support of his/her date of birth to satisfaction of the agency bank.
Saudi Arabia makes domestic violence a criminal offence
The cabinet of Saudi Arabia approved a new law that criminalizes domestic violence, usually targeting women and children. The Protection from Abuse law is meant for protecting people from all forms of abuse and providing them shelter as well as social, psychological, and medical help.
With rupee declining to record lows impacting the import bill and Current Account Deficit (CAD) severely, the Oil Ministry has formulated a plan to save $22 billion in the oil import bill from Iran thus helping slash the CAD. Due to sanctions on Iran, India has not been buying crude petroleum from the country for past few months.
The step, if taken, would significantly save Indian foreign exchange as India pays Iran in rupees. Keeping in view the current depreciation of the rupee against the dollar, India is negotiating with Iraq the possibility of trade in local currencies, which would help insulate India’s oil imports from Iraq also.
In a latest development in the field of Bioscience, scientists have grown mini human brains in test tubes, which will serve as a tool for them watch the development of brain in embryonic stage. They are hopeful that it will enhance their understanding of neurological and mental problems.
These miniature human brains are the “cerebral organoids” which are a few millimetres across and are composed of layers of brain cells with defined regions that is similar to those seen in immature embryonic brains.
How would growing brain cells in test tube be useful?
The organoids grown in test tubes would aid scientists who want to analyze how disorder such as schizophrenia or autism occurs in the brain; though these are usually found in elderly people some of the underlying defects occur during the embryonic stage of brain’s development. These organoids are expected also to be useful in the development and testing of drugs.