2012 - August 20 - 26    Current Affairs                        



International Affairs
  • Russia became the 156th member of the World Trade Organization on 21 August, following nearly two decades of negotiations. Russia was one of the world's last major economies to join the Geneva-based institution, having previously expressed concerns about the potential influx of Western goods and services. As part of its membership, Russia has agreed to lower import tariffs to less than 8 percent from a current average of around 10 percent. As part of the agreement, Russia has also made commitments to open trade in several sectors, including the banking, automotive and insurance industries. Some analysts expect this will be to the benefit of Russian consumers by making it cheaper for them to purchase imported products while allowing them to save more and invest back into the local economy. Russia joins the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which will become the WTO s 157th member on 21 August. Pascal Lamy is the present Director-General of WTO. 

  • Meles Zenawi (57), Ethiopia’s Prime Minister since 1995, died on 20 August, in a hospital in Brussels. Sources said, Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn would head a transitional government while the ruling party chooses Mr. Meles successor, adding that the Constitution allowed his government to appoint a successor without holding elections. Mr. Meles’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front seized power in 1991 following the collapse of the dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. He headed the transitional government and won elections in 1995, 2000, 2005 and most recently in 2010, in a landslide election whose validity was questioned by Western observers and human rights groups. Mr. Meles is credited with resurrecting the ruined economy he inherited in 1991. In the last seven years, the economy has grown by an average 11 per cent annually due to investments in agriculture and infrastructure. Adis Ababa is the capital for Ethiopia.

  • Miss China , Wenxia Yu, was crowned the 62nd Miss World with Miss Wales Sophie Elizabeth Moulds as the 1st runner-up and Miss Australia Jessica Michele Kahawaty as the 2nd runner-up. This event was held at Ordos, in China on 18 august.Miss India Vanya Mishra stood at sixth place. While Vanyamishra got the coveted titles of Miss World Beauty with a Purpose and also went on to win the Multimedia Award at the Miss World pageant. Miss china was also awarded Miss Talent 2012, Miss World 2012 Beach Beauty was Miss Wales. While South Sudan took away the Miss World 2012 Top Model award.Finally, Miss World Sports Woman 2012 was awarded to Miss Sweden.

  • Myanmar abolished direct media censorship on 20 August, the latest dramatic reform by its quasi-civilian regime, but journalists face other formidable restrictions including a ban on private daily newspapers and a pervasive culture of self-censorship. Under the new rules, journalists no longer have to submit reports to state censors before publication, ending a practice strictly enforced during nearly half a century of military rule that ended in March last year. Previously, every song, book, cartoon, news report and planned piece of art required approval by teams of censors rooting out political messages and criticisms of one of Asia’s most repressive governments. Privately run daily newspapers are still not permitted, leaving a monopoly to state-run papers

  • Anti-Japanese protests rocked Chinese cities on 19 August, as nationalists from Japan landed on an East China Sea island at the heart of a territorial dispute between the two nations. In several Chinese cities, thousands took to the streets shouted slogans agaist Japan’s claim over the islands. Tokyo and Beijing have been feuding for decades over the island chain, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, near potentially huge maritime gas fields. On 19 August, 10 Japanese made an unauthorised landing on Uotsuri island, the largest in a small archipelago known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as the Diaoyu Islands. Of the 10 who visited the island, five were conservative local assembly members.

National Affairs
  • India's ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi has been ranked sixth, in the Forbes magazine list of 100 powerful women. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is ranked the most powerful in the world for the second year in a row. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is placed second, followed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, making the top three spots unchanged from that of last year. US first lady Michelle Obama, who had topped the list in 2010, was ranked No.7. Also in the top five were Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, and Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times. Besides Sonia Gandhi, the list released on 21 august features three other Indians. Padmasree Warrior, chief technology and strategy officer, Cisco Systems, and Chanda Kochhar, managing director and CEO, ICICI Bank, are ranked 58th and 59th, while Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder and chair, Biocon Ltd, is placed 80th. PepsiCo's Indian-American chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi is ranked 12th. The list named women involved in policymaking, entertainment, technology and nonprofit organisations, among other fields. They were ranked according to influence, the amount of money they control or earn, and media presence.

  • Government has given an ultimatum on 21 August, to social networking site Twitter to block nearly 30 of its webpages which continue to host morphed and inflammatory contents or face punitive action.The move comes after Union Home Secretary RK Singh asked the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEIT) to serve the ultimatum on Twitter as it failed to comply with the government order to block 28 WebPages in its site. Government had already ordered blocking of 310 webpages where morphed and inflammatory contents were uploaded with the aim to incite Muslims in India leading to the mass exodus of people of the northeastern region from places in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

Economic Affairs
  • Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has been appointed as India's Governor on the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank and African Development Fund in place of Pranab Mukherjee.Likewise, Department of Economic Affairs Secretary Arvind Mayaram has been appointed as India's alternate Governor.

  • SEBI has allowed seven Alternative Investment Funds (AIF) to set up shop in the country under a newly formulated route, which allows pooling of funds for investments in areas such as real estate, private equity and hedge funds. The approval has been given to all the seven AIFs by the Securities and Exchange Board of India in a period of less than one month, as per the information available with the market regulator. SEBI had notified its guidelines in May for AIFs, which are funds established or incorporated in India for the purpose of pooling in of capital from Indian and foreign investors for investing as per a pre-decided policy. As per SEBI data, six AIFs registered with the regulator during August 2012, while one was granted registration on July 23.

  • India on 26 August, extended the ban on milk and milk products from China for another year till June 2013. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said in a notification that, Prohibition on import of milk and milk products (including chocolates and chocolate products and candies/confectionary/ food preparations with milk or milk solids as an ingredient) from China is further extended till June 2013, or until further orders. The ban had ended on June 24 this year. Imports of milk and milk products from China have been prohibited since September 24, 2008. Though the DGFT has not cited any reason for the ban, it is understood it was over fears of Chinese milk containing melamine, a deadly chemical. 

  • The Finance Ministry has approved foreign direct investment in insurance and pension sectors up to 49%. The Insurance and Pension Bills will now need Cabinet approval before coming up before Parliament. These Bills have already made one trip to the Cabinet, but at the time it was for 26% FDI. When Pranab Mukherjee was the Finance Minister, they had gone to the Cabinet but they had deferred the decision. With P Chidambaram now headed the finance portfolio, these bills were relooked and now the FDI limit stands at 49%. Whether the bills will come up for Cabinet approval or not, or what decision the Cabinet takes will be a political decision. Both these bills have seen strong opposition from the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress. But if the Cabinet clears these two bills, they will be introduced in the winter session of Parliament.

  • Parliament's Public Accounts Committee on 23 August 2012 decided to bring the three latest CAG reports on coal allocations, GMR-run Delhi airport and Reliance Power, onto its agenda for the year 2012. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its meeting on 23 August 2012 called for deterrent penal provisions against units in Special Economic Zones which default duty payments to the exchequer. PAC in a report adopted in the meeting recommended an oversight mechanism which would ensure no misuse of the SEZ policy. The PAC panel based its findings on a sample of 22 SEZ units. The panel found that out of an overall export of Rs 7149.23 crore made by 22 SEZ units, the actual export content was only Rs 1999.27 crore (28%) and the remaining Rs 5149.96 crores (72%) related to Domestic Tariff Area earnings. The committee recommended that all SEZs undertake physical export of at least 51% of their product, and even import tax waivers raw material for goods falling under the Domestic Tariff Area (DTA) is to be considered on the credit account of the SEZ firms. It was noted that SEZ units could sell their goods, including by products, and services in DTA on payment of applicable duty including at nil rate with no requirement to payback the duty foregone on inputs used in the clearance of products. This policy will put SEZ units at a distinctly advantageous position compared to similar units in the DTA.

Science and Technology
  • India’s indigenously developed, micro-light pilot-less target aircraft ‘Lakshya-1’ was successfully test flown from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur,Odisha on 23 August. The test was carried out to check the validity of its engine and duration enhancement. The aircraft is remote-controlled from the ground and designed to provide training to both airborne and air defence pilots. Lakshya-1, fitted with an advanced digitally controlled engine and is a sub-sonic, re-usable aerial target system.

  • India on 17 august, made a major breakthrough in mounting an electronic eye in the sky,taking delivery in Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil, of the first Embraer 145 Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft, built with Indian technology. The first of the three AEW&C aircraft comes equipped with India’s first-ever airborne Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar, giving it the capability to detect missiles and hostile fighters at all angles.The aircraft was delivered at an official ceremony held at Embraer’s headquarters in Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil in the presence of top Indian and Brazilian defence officials. The new aircraft would give the Indian Air Force capability of operating both the longer range Israeli-made IL-76 Phalcon AWACS as well as the shorter range Brazilian EMB 145. India already has acquired three Israeli AWACS and is in the process of getting two more.India and Brazil signed a deal reportedly worth $ 210 million for the supply of three aircraft by 2014. This includes a comprehensive logistic package that entails training, technical support, supply of spare parts and ground support equipment. Embraer is the world’s third largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, behind American Boeing and Europe’s Airbus. The Indian Air Force already operates four Embraer Legacy 600 jets to transport government officials and foreign dignitaries. A fifth one is operated by India’s Border Security Force.

Awards
  • Physics professor of Johns Hopkins University, Charles L Bennett, was awarded with the Gruber Cosmology Prize 2012 in Beijing at the opening ceremony of the 28th Conference of the International Astronomical Union on 22 August 2012. This award was given to him acknowledging his immense contribution to the world of physics. Bennett, a prominent physicist, led a 26-member team that worked on NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. The findings of the study helped astronomers refine their understanding of the age, shape and makeup of the universe.

Sports
  • The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) erased 14 years of Lance Armstrong’s career on 24 august, including his record seven Tour de France titles, and banned him for life from the sport that made him the hero of millions of cancer survivors, after concluding he used banned substances. The USADA said it expected cycling’s governing body to take similar action, but the International Cycling Union (ICU) was measured in its response, saying it first wanted a full explanation on why Armstrong should relinquish the Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005.Armstrong, who retired a year ago, said on that he would no longer challenge USADA and declined to exercise his option of entering arbitration. While announcing the decision, he again denied taking banned substances during his career and called the USADA’s investigation a “witch hunt” .The International Olympic Committee said it would await the USADA’s and the ICU’s decisions before taking any step against Armstrong, who won a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.

  • Veteran Indian batsman VVS Laxman announced on 18 August that he would be retiring from international cricket with immediate effect."It's been 16 years since I have made my international debut for India and I think it is the right time to move on," said an emotional Laxman after announcing his retirement in Hyderabad. Laxman was also picked for the forthcoming India-New Zealand two-Test series but the stylish Hyderabadi stunned the cricket fraternity by calling it quits with immediate effect. Laxman has played 134 Tests, amassing 8,781 runs at an average of 45.97 and hitting 17 hundreds. The Hyderabadi has pouched 135 Test catches too.
  • Test debut: vs South Africa at Ahmedabad, 1996 M - 134; Runs - 8,781; Avg - 45.97; 100s - 17; Top Score - 281
  • ODI debut: vs Zimbabwe at Cuttack, 1998 M - 81; Runs - 2,338; Avg - 30.76; 100s - 6; Top Score – 131

  • Union government announced the Arjuna awards on 19 August in New Delhi.25 sportsperson will be awarded Arjuna Awards this year, while Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna will be jointly given to vijay kumar and yogeshwar dutt.President of India will grant them awards at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29. Selection committee was headed by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Vijay Kumar won a silver in the 25m rapid fire event and Yogeshwar won a bronze in 60kg free style event. They both will be awarded with cash prize of Rs. 7.5 lakh each along with medal and a citation. Yuvraj Singh will be awarded with the Arjuna Award.Arjuna Awardees will receive statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh each.Normally only 1 Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award is given every year to an individual sportsperson and for the Arjuna Awards not more than 15 awards are to be given in any calendar year.However in certain conditions the rules can be relaxed. 25 sportsperson for Arjuna Awards 2012 are: Deepika Kumari (Archery), Laishram Bombayla Devi (Archery), Sudha Singh (Athletics),Kavita Ramdas Raut (Athletics), Ashwani Ponnappa (Badminton), Parupalli Kashyap (Badminton), Aditya S Mehta (Billiards and Snooker), Vikas Krishan (Boxing), Yuvraj Singh (cricket),Sardar Singh (Hockey), Yashpal Solanki (Judo), Anup Kumar (Kabaddi), Samir Suhag (Polo), Annu Raj Singh (Shooting), Omkar Singh (Shooting), Joydeep Karmakar (Shooting), Dipika Pallikal (Squash), Sandeep Sejwal (Swimming), Ng. Sonia Chanu (Weightlifting), Narsingh Yadav (Wrestling), Rajinder Kumar (Wrestling), Geeta Phogat (Wrestling), M. Bimoljit Singh (Wushu), Deepa Mallick (Athletics Paralympics), Ramkaran Singh (Athletics Paralympics).

  • Six sporting coaches were recommended for the Dronacharya Awards 2012. Wrestling coach Yashvir Singh, Boxing Coach BI Fernandez, Athletics Coach Virender Poonia, Kabaddi Coach Sunil Davas, Parathletics Coach Dr. Satyapaul and Hockey Coach Harinder Singh are the six names who have been selected for the coveted award.The Dronacharya Award was instituted by the government of India in 1985. The award carries five lakh rupees and a citation and is conferred to coaches of different sports for their noteworthy contribution. The awards will be presented by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 29 August 2012, the National Sports Day.

  • World number one Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0 7-6 to win his sixth ATP Cincinnati Msters title of the year. In the women’s singles China's Li Na defeated German Angelique Kerber 1-6 6-3 6-1 to win the title.The sixth seeded Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna lost in the finals by Sweden's Robert Lindstedt and Romania's Horia Tecau 4-6, 4-6 in straight sets.

  • South Africa stood as the World’s Number One Test Cricket team replacing England. The feat was achieved after its 2-0 victory over England in the three Test-match series, which ended at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on 21 August 2012. Australia and Pakistan stood at third and forth positions. India stands on fifth position.

Persons
  • Kapu Rajaiah(87)- Famous folklore artist, passed away on 20 august, at his residence at Siddipet,Medak dt, A.P. Rajaiah rose to fame by focusing his paintings on the idiom of Telangana culture, pastoral life and simple village folks. His works were often compared with those of Jamini Roy.He won several awards and these include Lalit Kala Academy’s national award, Kala Vibhushana by All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, gold medal at All India Art Exhibition, Patna and Kerala Buddha Jayanthi festival, first prize in Dussehara exhibition, Mysore and awards at All India Exhibitions at Gwalior and Bangalore. The Andhra Pradesh Government felicitated him with “Rajata Patra” in 1966.He also earned the title of “Chitra Kala Prapurna” in 1975. He received an honorary doctorate from the JNTU, Hyderabad.Lalita Kala Samithi etablished by him in Siddipet trained several budding artists.

  • Karl Mehta- Indian-American entrepreneur has been selected among the 18 ‘Presidential Innovation Fellows’ who will work on five ‘high-impact’ projects in the US capital. Selected from an applicant pool of nearly 700 innovators from across the country, the “Fellows” would spend six months in Washington DC to work on five high-impact projects aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses and the economy, while significantly improving how the Federal Government serves the American people. Mr. Mehta, the only Indian-American to be present in this list of 18 fellows, would work on “The 20 per cent Initiative” programme. “The 20 per cent Initiative will work to transition ‘the last mile’ of international development assistance payments from cash to electronic methods - lowering administrative costs, promoting financial inclusion, and reducing theft, fraud, and violence,” the White House said. A member of TiE Silicon Valley, Mr Mehta is founder & CEO of PlaySpan, which was acquired by Visa in March 2011.He won the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year 2010’ Award from Ernst & Young for Northern California. The fellows - the first of its kind initiative of the White House - was announced by the US Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park.

  • Poonam Kishore Saxena –The Union Finanace Ministry appointed, P.K.Saxena, a 1975 batch IRS officer, as Chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on 21 August 2012. Prior to her appointment as CBDT Chairman, Saxena worked as Director General (Investigation) in Jaipur for three years. CBDT is responsible for administration of direct tax laws through the Income Tax Department and also provides essential inputs for policy and planning of direct taxes.

  • PJ Kurien- Congress leader, was unanimously elected as the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha. Kurien has been the M.P for the last three decades representing Idukki, and Mavelikkara Lok Sabha constituencies. Since 2005 he is a member of the Rajya Sabha.The Deputy Chairman is elected in the meeting of the Rajya Sabha as decided by Chairman of the Rajya Sabha from amongst the members of the Rajya Sabha. He is supposed to resign from his original party because as a Deputy Speaker, he has to remain impartial.Deputy Chaiman of Rajya Sabha acts as the Presiding Officer in case of leave or absence of the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, the Vice-President of India.

  • Vayalar Ravi- assumed charge as the Union Minister for Science and Technology on 21 August 2012. He was allocated the charge after Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was holding the portfolio passed away on 14 August 2012.Vayalar Ravi is also holding the portfolio of Union Ministry of Overseas Affairs. Besides he also holds the charge of Ministry of Earth Sciences and Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.


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