International Current Affairs
1. NASA honored Katherine by renaming its IV&V facility in West Virginia
NASA has honored Katherine Johnson by renaming its Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) facility in West Virginia in her name. She is a person who defied racism at the U.S. space agency and became a legendary mathematician.
- Johnson, who turned 100 in August last year, is an African-American woman who led a distinguished career at the agency during a time when the race tensions were high and when important roles with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a precursor to NASA, were dominated mainly by men.
- The facility’s programme contributes to the safety and success of NASA’s highest-profile missions by assuring that mission software performs correctly.
2. OECD reduced the world economic growth forecasts for 2019 to 3.3 percent
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reduced the world economic growth forecasts for the year 2019. OECD has cut its 2019 forecast for global economic growth to 3.3% for the current year, down from 3.5% it predicted earlier.
The report notes that trade tensions and political uncertainty, including Brexit and erosion of business and consumer confidence are weighing on the world’s economy thereby contributing to the slowdown. The 19-nation eurozone was particularly hard to hit, with predicted growth dropping from 1.8% to 1% which was contributed to policy uncertainty including those over Brexit.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
- Formed on: 16 April 1948
- Headquarters: Paris, France
- Membership: 36 States
- Official languages: English, French
- Secretary-General: Jose Angel Gurria
3. Malaysia to join the International Criminal Court
Malaysia has ratified the Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UN released a depositary notification indicating Malaysia’s accession to the ICC.
- The ICC is a court of last resort meant for the prosecution of serious international crimes. The Rome Statute conferred jurisdiction to the ICC in 2002, allowing the court to consider cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
- The ICC has territorial jurisdiction over nations that are party to the Rome Statute or have accepted the court’s jurisdiction. Malaysia will officially be the 124th member of the court on June 1, 2019.
- Supreme head: Abdullah al-Haj
- Prime Minister: Mahathir Mohamad
- Capital: Kuala Lumpur
- Official language: Malay
- Currency: Malaysian ringgit (RM)
4. Macky Sall re-elected as the President of Senegal
Macky Sall has been re-elected as the President of Senegal. He won the re-election with 58.27% of votes cast. Under the election system of Senegal if a candidate wins more than 50% votes there would be no second round voting and he would be announced the winner.
It lies on the west coast of Africa. Senegal was the colony of Portuguese and later the French. Senegal gained independence from France in 1960. Diplomatic relations between India and Senegal was established at the ambassadorial level with the establishment of a resident Indian mission in Dakar in 1962.
- Capital: Darkar
- President: Macky Sall
- Prime Minister: Mohammed Dionne
- Currency: West African CFA franc (XOF)
5. Russia, China blocked a US resolution on Venezuela in the UN
Russia and China vetoed a US resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on addressing the crisis in Venezuela.
- Russia’s draft resolution — which urged a settlement “through peaceful means” and insisted that all humanitarian aid be agreed by Maduro’s government — won only four votes: Russia, China, South Africa, and Equatorial Guinea.
- Seven countries including the United States, European countries and Peru opposed the Russian measure and there were four abstentions.
6. Bernard Arnault overtakes Warren Buffett as world’s third-richest person
On the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault has overtaken Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett as the world’s third-richest person.
Arnault is now worth $83.1 billion, while Warren Buffett has a net worth of $83 billion.
The Bloomberg Billionaire Index 2019:
- 1 Jeff Bezos $140 billion
- 2 Bill Gates $98.3 billion
- 3 Bernard Arnault $83.1 billion
- 4 Warren Buffett $83 billion
- 5 Amancio Ortega $67.9 billion
7. Trump notified to terminate trade benefits for both India and Turkey
President Trump notified the Congress his intent to terminate trade benefits for both India and Turkey under the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) eligibility criteria.
- About 2,000 products, including auto components and textiles, can enter the US duty-free if the beneficiary developing country meet the eligibility criteria. India was the largest beneficiary of the GSP programme in 2017 with $5.7 billion in imports to the US given duty-free status.
- President Trump has accused India of failing to ensure the US of equitable and reasonable access to its markets. The US is pressing India to reduce US trade deficits and has repeatedly called out India for high tariffs. India has sought talks with the US to avoid the withdrawal of the trade benefits under the GSP.
- India has offered a trade package to the US which promises of about Rs. 35,000 crores annually in oil and gas imports from the US and another Rs.1,00,000 crore in defense orders in the coming years.
8. ICC rejected BCCIs appeal to isolate Pakistan from nations that raised terrorism
International Cricket Council (ICC) rejected the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) appeal to isolate Pakistan from the list of nations that supports terrorism.
- The announcement was made at the ICC board meeting in Dubai. The BCCI had made the appeal following the Pulwama terror attack, which left 40 CRPF personnel dead on February 14.
- Since Pakistan was a permanent member of the ICC, it would not be possible to isolate it unless it is supported by all Test-playing countries. India has been raising the issue of terror emanating from Pakistan at various international forums for a long time.
9. South Korea to help the US and North Korea reach a deal
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in announced that South Korea will work with the U.S. and North Korea to ensure they reach agreement on denuclearisation, a day after talks between the U.S. and North Korean leaders collapsed over sanctions.
- A second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Vietnam, was cut short after they failed to reach a deal on the extent of sanctions relief North Korea would get in exchange for steps to give up its nuclear programme.
- South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has been an active supporter of efforts to end confrontation on the Korean peninsula, meeting Mr. Kim three times last year and trying to facilitate his nuclear negotiations with the U.S.
10. Tik Tok to pay a penalty of USD 5.7 million to U.S. FTC
TikTok, the fast-growing, Chinese-owned video sharing network, agreed to pay a penalty of $5.7 million to U.S. authorities to settle charges that it illegally collected personal information from children.
- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the penalty by the social network was the largest ever in a children’s privacy investigation. The company required users to provide an email address, phone number, user name, first and last name, a short biography, and a profile picture.
- Officials said the company knew that many of its users were under 13 and should have taken greater precautions. TikTok said in a statement it would create a “separate app experience” for younger users with additional privacy protections as part of its agreement with regulators.
National Current Affairs
1. RBI Eases Business Guidelines for White Label ATMs
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has eased business guidelines for white label ATMs. These new guidelines increase the avenues of revenue earning for the white label ATMs.
What are White Label ATMs?
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) set up, owned and operated by non-bank entities are called White Label ATMs. These White Label ATMs provide banking services to the customers of banks on the basis of the cards (debit/credit/prepaid) issued by banks.
- The non-bank entities which set up, own and operate ATMs are called White Label ATM Operators. Their role is confined to enabling the transactions of all banks customers by establishing technical connectivity with the existing authorized, shared ATM Network Operators or Card Payment Network Operators.
- These White Label ATM operators are entitled to receive a fee from the banks for the use of ATM resources by the bank’s customers and they are not permitted to charge bank customer directly for the use of WLAs.
2. India, a Key Hub for Illicit Drug Trade: UNODC
The latest report released by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has referred to India as a Key Hub for Illicit Drug Trade.
Findings of the UNODC Report
- India is one of the major hubs of illicit drug trade ranging from age-old cannabis to newer prescription drugs like tramadol, and designer drugs like methamphetamine.
- The global trend of purchasing drugs over the internet, particularly on darknet trading platforms using cryptocurrencies has spread across South Asia and it is particularly rampant in India.
- The study has found more than 1,000 drug listings from India published across 50 online crypto-market platforms. The report also states that in 2017 Indian authorities have dismantled two illicit Internet pharmacies, seizing close to 130,000 tablets containing psychotropic substances.
- India has also become a transit country for illicitly produced opiates, in particular, heroin. The route being used by traffickers to smuggle opiates through South Asia is an alternative part of the southern route, which runs through Pakistan or the Islamic Republic of Iran, via the Gulf countries, continues to East Africa and on to destination countries.
3. CISF Created a New Guinness World Record
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) created a new Guinness World Record for the longest single moving line bicycle parade at the Yamuna Expressway.
New World Record
- The world record was attempted to commemorate the 50 years of the paramilitary force CISF. For creating the World Record the personnel of the central force rode 1,327 bicycles non-stop with a uniform distance between bicycles in a single line.
- The bicycle parade covered 3.2 km distance non-stop. The CISF personnel displayed a high degree of discipline as entire formation had to keep moving, keeping in mind that the distance between two cycles should not exceed the length of three, for the world record to be broken.
4. Centre Banned Jamaat-e-Islami (Jammu and Kashmir)
The Central Government has banned the Jamaat-e-Islami (Jammu and Kashmir) for a period of 5 years due to the outfit’s ‘close touch’ with the militants. The decision of banning the outfit was taken to avoid escalation of the secessionist movement in J&K.
- Jamaat-e-Islami is a socio-political and religious organization founded in 1945 by Islamic theologian and socio-political philosopher Abul Ala Maududi. After the partition, the organization broke into two groups, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
- Jamaat-e-Islami (Jammu and Kashmir) is a drift away organization of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. The drift was due to the difference in political ideology.
- Jamaat-e-Islami (Jammu and Kashmir) showed pro-Pakistan leaning when militancy was rising in J&K.
5. Supreme Court approved mediation in Ayodhya land dispute case
On 8 March 2019, the Supreme Court of India decided to refer the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid title dispute case for mediation. The apex court has formed a panel of mediators to resolve the issue, which will be headed by Supreme Court judge, Justice F M Kalifullah. The other members of the panel include spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Sankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.
- The mediation will be held in Faizabad, newly renamed as Ayodhya and its status report will have to be submitted to the court within the time of four weeks. The mediation proceedings are to be held confidentially and the court has banned the media from reporting it.
- Earlier on March 6, 2019, the Supreme Court had reserved its order on resolving the long-standing Ayodhya land dispute case by court-monitored mediation. The five-judge constitution bench, headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer, had appeared divided on whether mediation between the disputing parties was the best way to resolve the decades-old dispute.
- Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had then asked the petitioners to suggest names for a “mediator or panel of mediators” and said “we intend to pass the order very shortly”.
6. Top CCEA Approvals: 8 March 2019
Union Cabinet approved setting up of 50 new Kendriya Vidyalayas under civil, defense sector.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the setting up of 50 new Kendriya Vidyalayas under civil, defense sector all over the country.
- Once they are fully functional, the schools will provide quality education to approximately 50,000 students.
- The ‘Challenge Method‘ Committee had submitted a consolidated list of 50 proposals for opening of the new Kendriya Vidyalayas.
- Cabinet approved maintenance of National AIDS Control Programme-IV beyond 12th five-year plan.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for the continuation of National AIDS Control Programme-IV beyond 12th five-year plan for a period of three years from April 2017 to March 2020. The total outlay will be Rs 6434.76 crore. The major benefit of the programme is that more than 99 percent of the population will be kept HIV free, more and more than 70 lakh of key population will be covered annually through a comprehensive HIV prevention programme.
- Around 15 crores of the vulnerable population including five crore pregnant women will be tested for HIV in three years of project and about two crore 32 lakh units of blood will be collected at NACO’s supported blood banks during the three years of the project.
7. PM Modi released a new series of visually impaired friendly coins; 12-edged Rs 20 coin launched
On 7 March 2019, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the new series of visually impaired friendly circulation coins of Rs 1, Rs 2, Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 20.
The coins were released at a function in New Delhi where visually impaired children were specially invited.
The new circulation coins with various differentiating features will greatly aid the visually impaired. The coins will facilitate the visually impaired Divyang community and will instill them with confidence.