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Current Events 13 February 2017



13 FEBRUARY 2017

Sr. No.





Home Ministry’s website hacked



South Kashmir seethes after 7 die in Kulgam encounter



Single-point military adviser soon?



NGT asks about method for checking fuel adulteration



‘Govt. has no objection to colonies for Kashmiri Pandits’



Multi-role chopper model to be unveiled at Aero India expo



‘Naxals possess lethal edge in using IEDs’



N. Korea test fires ballistic missile



U.S. denies visa to Pakistan Senate’s deputy chairman



Commerce Dept. special arm may drive foreign trade policy



Centre plans to invest Rs. 2,200 cr. in electronic technology start-ups



Second PSB recapitalisation plan on the anvil



Study links gut bacteria to Alzheimer’s



Comet 45 P will pass by the Earth



The hunt for ‘oscillons’ begins



Informational cascades in honeybee swarming behaviour



IIT Madras: role of mushroom spores in atmospheric bioaerosols studied


























Home Ministry′s website hacked

  •  The website of the Ministry of Home Affairs was hacked. The authorities blocked it for the rest of the day.
  •  The Ministry, however, denied that the website had been hacked, saying it was “down for repair.”
  • The website was blocked by the National Informatics Centre as soon as the hacking was noticed in the morning.
  • The hacking incident came to light when the Ministry lodged a complaint with the Delhi Police.
  • Though a case was not registered, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police initiated an enquiry. A police officer said a team had been constituted and it was looking into the hacking.
  • In January 2017, suspected Pakistan-affiliated operatives had hacked the official website of the elite National Security Guard (NSG) and defaced it with a profanity-laden message against the Prime Minister and anti-India content.
  • More than 700 websites of various Central and State government departments were hacked in the past four years and a total of 8,348 persons were arrested for their involvement in cybercrimes, according to official data.



South Kashmir seethes after 7 die in Kulgam encounter

  • Restive south Kashmir was seething again after seven people, including four militants and two soldiers, were killed in an encounter in Kulgam, 70 km from Srinagar.
  • Clashes broke out in south Kashmir after the news of the killing of the four militants spread.
  • According to figures released by two hospitals in south Kashmir, 15 civilians were treated, including 12 with bullet injuries.
  • “Two militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen and two others were associated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT),” said Brigadier Chakarwarty.


Single-point military adviser soon?

  • The government is keen on appointing a single point military adviser within the year to promote synergy among the Services.
  • The issue was discussed in detail during the recent combined commanders’ conference chaired by Prime Minster Narendra Modi.
  • While there was consensus on having a permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), who will also be a four star officer, there have been apprehensions that it would end up being another ceremonial post in the absence of a clear-cut role and authority over the Service chiefs.
  • However, discussions are still continuing on whether it should be a Permanent COSC or a five star Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with specific functions.
  • The COSC is composed of:

1.     Chief of the Army Staff (COAS);

2.     Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS);

3.     Chief of the Air Staff (CAS); and

4.     Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (non-voting member).

5.     The Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defence is invited to attend whenever needed.

  • The senior most member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) is presently appointed its Chairman.
  • There is general consensus that it is high time India had its single-point military adviser and greater coordination among the three services.
  • The government is also intent on creating theatre commands for greater interoperability within the Services, which is likely to be an “incremental step”.
  • This will integrate air, land and sea assets under one operational entity to improve efficiency as well as optimise resource utilisation.
  • Then there is the long pending issue of specialised commands for special operations, space and cyber domains.



NGT asks about method for checking fuel adulteration

  • After several laboratories across the country said they did not have facilities to test impurities in petrol and diesel, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to spell out the methodology followed to check adulteration.
  • The green panel was hearing a plea filed by Delhi resident Cherub Singla, seeking directions to inspect fuel quality at petrol pumps across the country, especially in cities facing acute air pollution.
  • The NGT had constituted a committee comprising officials from the Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and State pollution control boards to conduct an inspection at 10 petrol pumps across Delhi- NCR and analyse samples from there.



‘Govt. has no objection to colonies for Kashmiri Pandits′

  • The Narendra Modi led government at the Centre has no objection to setting up of homeland, township or colonies for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said.  
  • The Kashmiri Pandits (KP) demand implementation of the 1991 Margdarshan resolution which allows carving out of a homeland for seven lakh KPs with union territory status in Kashmir.
  • “In 2017, the KP community is entering 28th year of its exile, after having suffered persecution, genocide and ethnic cleansing resulting into their exodus from Kashmir in 1989-90.  In 1991, a Marghdarshan resolution was passed (by them) envisaging a free and full flow of Indian Constitution in territory (to be carved out) in Kashmir (for KPs) and called for action,” they said in their charter of demands.



Multi-role chopper model to be unveiled at Aero India expo

  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will reveal the mock-up of India’s first indigenous multi-role helicopter at the Aero India exhibition, beginning in Bengaluru.
  • It is planned as a twin-engine helicopter in the 10- tonne category, capable of flying at a height of 15,000 feet, and with a range of 500 km.
  • It can perform several tasks, including counter-insurgency operations, casualty evacuation and combat search and rescue.  
  • The helicopter is designed to carry 24 fully equipped military personnel or 18 persons in the VVIP role.
  • The medium-category helicopter is sought after by the services, and such helicopters have so far been imported.
  • HAL is expected to put up the initial design before the services for their response, and the “design and development will commence based on a firm demand from the Army and the Air Force.”
  • It can be a good substitute for the Russian built Mi-17, which is in use, and also fit the Navy′s requirement for medium-lift helicopters,” the sources said.
  • HAL is building the 5.5-tonne Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, which is operational in large numbers.
  • The Light Combat Helicopter is in an advanced stage of induction and a Light Utility Helicopter is under development.






‘Naxals possess lethal edge in using IEDs′

  • Naxalite groups continue to be “lethal and resolute” in terms of using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other technology devices to perpetrate bloodshed and have caused maximum deaths of security personnel and civilians in 2016.
  • According to a report prepared by the National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC) of the federal counter-terror force NSG, there was a 26% increase in IED blast incidents in 2016 as compared to 2015 and human casualties have increased by 3% in the same period.
  • The National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC) nodal post-blasts investigation organisation of the country
  • The report also reveals that in 2016, 83% of all IED blasts were triggered by the Naxals and other ultras using “high explosives,” which is a cause for concern.
  • As many as 112 deaths due to explosive blasts were reported in the country last year, with the maximum of 73 coming from the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) theatre, 14 from the insurgency- hit areas of the northeast, five from Jammu and Kashmir and 20 from the rest of the country.
  •  LWE-hit States accounted for 65% of total fatalities [73 personnel], while other States accounted for 35%.” according to the report, published.




N. Korea test fires ballistic missile

  • North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea, the first such test since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington would have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions.
  • The test was likely to have been of an intermediate range Musudan-class missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea′s military.  
  • The North attempted eight Musudan launches in 2016. Only one of those launches was considered a success by officials and experts in South Korea and the U.S.
  • Mr. Kim had said in his New Year speech that the country was close to test-launching an ICBM and state media have said such a launch could come at any time.
  • Once fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental U.S., which is about 9,000 km from North Korea. 








U.S. denies visa to Pakistan Senate′s deputy chairman

  • Pakistan’s Senate deputy-chairman and leader of one of the largest Islamic parties in the country was denied a U.S. visa, leading to the cancellation of a two member delegation’s planned visit to New York to attend a meeting of the Inter- Parliamentary Union at the UN headquarters.



Commerce Dept. special arm may drive foreign trade policy

  • India′s future trade (policy) model should have the Commerce Department at the helm, supported by ministries including External Affairs and Finance, while a ‘transformed’ Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) should be the apex body for all trade promotion activities for the country, according to a government- commissioned report.
  • India′s foreign trade strategy and policy is currently being piloted predominantly by the Prime Minister′s Office and External Affairs Ministry.
  • The report — prepared by the global consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan and submitted on December 23, 2016, to the commerce & industry ministry — also makes a strong case for a higher profile for the Indian Trade Service (ITS) in matters of trade policies & systems.
  • At present, the officials belonging to the Indian Administrative Service, Foreign Service and Revenue Service evidently have a relatively superior role over ITS cadre regarding decisions on crucial trade policy matters.
  • The report proposed that “… a dedicated ministerial arm under Department of Commerce will deal exclusively with trade-related policy inputs, their formulation and their rollout with the bulk of implementation work handled by a digital platform.”
  • The report calls for ‘DGFT 3.0’ — with DGFT pre- and post-liberalisation being the earlier two versions.
  • “For an improvement in India′s performance on the ease of doing business – currently ranked 130 out of 190 countries and particularly on the parameter of ‘trading across borders’ (where India is) currently ranked at a dismal 143 – it is imperative to deploy digital technology to transform the experience of doing trade in the country,” according to the report.



Centre plans to invest Rs. 2,200 cr. in electronic technology start-ups

  • The Centre is targeting an investment of about Rs.2,200 crore by 2019 in start-ups working on new technologies in the electronic sector under the Electronics Development Fund (EDF), a senior government official said.
  • Electronics Development Fund (EDF) is a ‘fund of funds’ that works with venture capitalists to create funds, known as ‘daughter funds,’ which provide risk capital to companies developing new technologies in the area of electronics, nanoelectronics and IT.
  • The EDF would put in 10% of the capital requirement of ‘daughter funds’ and the rest would be investment by venture capitalists.
  • Hence, a targeted investment of Rs.2,200 crore by the government will help mobilise Rs.22,000 crore for the ‘daughter funds,’ which will then invest primarily in start-ups.
  • The fund is an attempt to develop the electronics system design and manufacturing sector in the country to achieve “net zero imports” by 2020.




Second PSB recapitalisation plan on the anvil

  • The government plans to come out with ‘Indradhanush 2.0’, a comprehensive plan for recapitalisation of public sector lenders, with a view to make sure they remain solvent and fully comply with the global capital adequacy norms, Basel-III.
  • ‘Indradhanush 2.0’ will be finalised after completion of the Asset Quality Review (AQR) by the Reserve Bank. The review is likely to be completed by March-end.
  • The RBI had embarked on the AQR exercise from December 2015 and had asked banks to recognise some top defaulting accounts as non-performing assets (NPAs) and make adequate provisions for them.
  • Under ‘Indradhanush’ roadmap announced in 2015, the government had announced an infusion of Rs.70,000 crore in state-run banks over four years while they will have to raise a further Rs.1.1 lakh crore from the markets to meet their capital requirement in line with global risk norms, known as Basel-III.
  • In line with the plan, public sector banks were given Rs.25,000 crore in 2015-16, and a similar amount has been earmarked for the current fiscal.
  • The government has already announced fund infusion of Rs.22,915 crore, out of the Rs.25,000 crore earmarked for 13 PSBs for the current fiscal. Of this, 75% has already been released to them.
  • Besides, Rs.10,000 crore each would be infused in 2017-18 and 2018-19.



Basel III (or the Third Basel Accord)

  • It is a global, voluntary regulatory framework on bank capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk.
  • It was agreed upon by the members of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision based in Basel, Switzerland, in 2010–11, and was scheduled to be introduced from 2013 until 2015; however, changes from 1 April 2013 extended implementation until 31 March 2018 and again extended to 31 March 2019.
  • The third installment of the Basel Accords (see Basel I, Basel II) was developed in response to the deficiencies in financial regulation revealed by the financial crisis of 2007–08.
  • Basel III is intended to strengthen bank capital requirements by increasing bank liquidity and decreasing bank leverage.





Study links gut bacteria to Alzheimer′s

  •  The bacteria in your gut may play a major role in the development of Alzheimer′s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia, says a study that may initiate new ways for treatment and prevention of the neurodegenerative disease.
  • The researchers found that mice sufering from AD have a different composition of intestinal bacteria compared to mice that are healthy.
  • Mice without bacteria had a significantly smaller amount of beta-amyloid plaque — lumps that form at the nerve fibres in cases of AD — in the brain.
  • “Our study is unique as it shows a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer′s disease. It was striking that the mice which completely lacked bacteria developed much less plaque in the brain,” said Frida Fak Hallenius from the Lund University in Sweden.
  • “The results mean that we can now begin researching ways to prevent the disease and delay the onset,” Hallenius added.
  • Gut bacteria have a major impact on how people feel through the interaction between the immune system, the intestinal mucosa and our diet.
  • The composition of the gut microbiota depends on which bacteria we receive at birth, our genes and our diet, the researchers said.
  • In the study, the team also studied AD in mice that completely lacked bacteria to further test the relationship between intestinal bacteria and the disease.
  • They transferred intestinal bacteria from diseased mice to germ-free mice. The mice developed more beta-amyloid plaques in the brain as compared to if they had received bacteria from healthy mice, the researchers noted.



Comet 45 P will pass by the Earth

  •  Comet hunters have a chance to spot comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova in the next few days using binoculars or a telescope, NASA said on 11 FEBRUARY 2017.
  • “It’s the first of a trio of comets that will, between now and the end of 2018, pass close enough to Earth for backyard observers to try to spot and for scientists to study using ground-based instruments,” the US space agency said.
  • The recommendation for backyard astronomers is to use binoculars or a telescope to look for the comet several times during the coming days, NASA said.
  • Discovered in 1948, 45P is a short-period comet, with an orbit that takes it around the Sun and out by Jupiter about every 5-1/4 years.
  • This weekend’s encounter will be the comet’s closest with Earth, passing by at a distance of about 12.4 million kilometres, through the end of this century.
  • The comet will pass by our planet again in 2032 but will be much farther away — at a distance of nearly about 48 million kilometres.
  • Scientists have taken advantage of 45P’s approach, making observations using powerful groundbased telescopes such as NASA′s Infrared Telescope Facility to investigate the gases, dust and ice particles that are released from the comet nucleus and show up in the coma and tail.
  • By looking for water, methane and other important compounds, astronomers get clues about how the comet is put together and where it originated in the cloud of material that surrounded the young sun as the solar system formed.
  • By observing the same comet more than once, astronomers can see how the object changes over time.
  • “Observing a comet multiple times over successive orbits is like taking snapshots at different stages of life,” said Joseph Nuth, a senior scientist at NASA′s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
  • NASA said ground-based observations also are planned for comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, which will pass closest to Earth on April 1, and for comet 46P/Wirtanen, passing closest to Earth on December 16, 2018.
  • By studying this trio of comets, astronomers can learn more about the differences between comets — information they use to fill in the comet family tree.



The hunt for oscillons begins.

  • For the first time, theoretical physicists have calculated the precise frequency of specific gravitational wave signals that would have emerged fractions of a second after the Big Bang.
  • Just like we had to figure out the frequency of the Higgs boson before scientists could detect it, this means scientists can now start to track down the signals of long-lost cosmological phenomena called oscillons, allowing us to peer back further into the Universe than ever before.

 Gravitational waves

  • Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein back in 1916, but it wasn′t until 2016 that their existence was confirmed by scientists.
  • These waves are different to all other waves that emanate through space, and they give us a whole new way to study the Universe.
  • That′s because as gravitational waves travel through the Universe, they actually shrink and stretch the space-time continuum, distorting the geometry of space itself.
  • All accelerating masses are predicted to emit gravitational waves, but the waves are so hard to pick up that so far we′ve only been able to detect them when the source is extremely large - such as the merging of two massive black holes.

Present research:

  • To give scientists an idea of what they should be looking for in all the vast blips and noise of the Universe, a team of theoretical physicists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have been researching what′s known as the stochastic background of gravitational waves - the intensities and frequencies of a range of gravitational waves that would have been emitted after the Big Bang.
  • The idea is that, once we have a few signals to hunt for, they can then be tested experimentally to confirm whether they actually exist.

What do gravitational waves from the Big Bang look like?


  • To understand that, we need to understand what is thought to have happened in the very early Universe.
  • Just a few fragments of a second after the Big Bang occurred, everything in the Universe was still very small dense and hot. "Picture something about the size of a football," said lead researcher Stefan Antusch.
  • That tiny Universe only existed for an incredibly short period of time, but crammed into that tiny space, physicists think the Universe was dominated by a hypothetical particle known as the inflaton.
  • These inflatons underwent intense fluctuations, sometimes forming clumps that caused them to oscillate in localised regions of space.
  • These regions are known as oscillons, and the researchers showed that they would have blasted out such strong gravitational waves that we should still be able to detect them today.
  • "Although the oscillons have long since ceased to exist, the gravitational waves they emitted are omnipresent - and we can use them to look further into the past than ever before," said Antusch.



Informational cascades in honeybee swarming behavior

  • Honeybees′ behavioural patterns have proved to be notoriously difficult to study and there are many unique qualities to their group behaviour, such as swarming and decision making.
  • A recent study of researchers from Grinnell College, USA, has analysed the highly coordinated behaviour in honeybees (Apis mellifera ), interpreting their communication pattern as an informational cascade process.
  • Swarming behaviour in honeybees is unique and interesting because it is a flexible and distributed decision-making process.

Distributed decision making:

  • For example, when a group of bees decide to abandon their old hive, a set of scouts go out and forage for information on viable sites for a new hive.
  • They return and communicate their information on likely places by a waggle dance.
  • The rest of the bees, without apparent social pressures to conform, independently vote by a waggle dance of their own.
  •  Once a minimum number of positive votes (a quorum) is reached the bees make the decision to swarm without waiting for a unanimous endorsement. 


Information cascade

  • The present study interprets information sharing behaviour in bees as a multifractal information cascade.
  • A cascade is any sort of hierarchical structure in which different parts behave not just in response to small local events in their immediate surrounding but also in response to larger scale events and changes.
  • Such cascades have been found in human interactions as well.
  • For instance, a person responds to a particular Facebook post not just because of that post but because of the larger set of posts across the entire newsfeed.
  • Every person in a network might respond or interact with others differently because of the social or regional groups they belong to.
  • In short, social interactions are never just person-to-person, but instead, every agent interacting with another might bring her or his wider set of group memberships along into this interpersonal mixture.



IIT Madras: Role of mushroom spores in atmospheric bioaerosols studied

  • Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have for the first time, over the Indian region, attempted to demonstrate the potential role of mushroom spores in atmospheric bioaerosols.
  • The study was undertaken on IIT Madras campus, which is spread over 678 acres and has very rich vegetation.
  • It is considered an ‘ecological island’ representative of tropical dry evergreen biome.
  • Biodiversity of fungal species in the study site was studied using DNA analysis.
  • To identify the type and diversity of atmospheric fungal spores, DNA analysis of particulate matter was carried out subsequently.
  • Mushrooms grow during monsoon and when the temperature and relative humidity are favourable, spores are released into the air,” says Prof. R.S. Verma from the Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, and one of the authors of the paper.
  • Besides causing allergy in humans, spores can also damage plants and animal health.
  • It can also have an impact on regional climateBy acting as ice nuclei, the fungal spores can accelerate vapour condensing around spores and forming water droplets.
  • “Presence of specific types of bioaerosol can even advance the precipitation processes especially in convective clouds,” says Prof. Gunthe.


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