The Hindu – September 19, 2018

/The Hindu – September 19, 2018
The Hindu – September 19, 2018 2018-09-20T18:28:15+00:00

1. U.S., China step up trade war, slap tit-for-tat tariffs

The U.S. has announced 10% tariff on $200 billion of imports from China, whose retaliatory tariffs between 5% and 10% will apply to $60 billion of imports from the U.S. The new tariffs on both sides will go into effect on September 24.

Around 5,000 American items are expected to face the new measures, including aircraft, soya bean oil, smoked beef, coffee and flour, according to a provisional list released last month.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that Washington’s decision to levy fresh tariffs was “deeply regrettable.” “We deeply regret the decision. China will be forced to take synchronous counter-measures to safeguard our legitimate rights … as well as the global free trade order,” a spokesperson said.

 

2. India targets slight increase in 2018-19 foodgrain output

Despite patchy rainfall in some parts, the Agriculture Ministry has set a foodgrain production target of 285.2 million tonnes for 2018-19, a marginal increase from the previous year’s harvest of 284.8 million tonnes.

Rainfall deficit during the current monsoon season is now at 10%, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

The 2018-19 targets for rice, at 113 million tonnes, and wheat, at 100 million tonnes, are marginally higher than last year’s harvest. However, the targets for pulses, coarse cereals and maize are slightly lower.

 

3. ISRO to tap small cities for innovations

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched a space technology incubation centre in Tripura capital Agartala on Tuesday. It is the first of six such centres planned nationally to build capacity in new locations.

More such space research activities will be splashed in a big way across small cities to tap their talent and include them in the space footprint, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan, said.

The incubation centre will be located in the National Institute of Technology, Agartala. Inaugurating it from Bengaluru, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said it was time high technology programmes reached the remote northeast India.

The space agency’s new Capacity Building Programme directorate will invest ₹2 crore in incubation facilities in Jalandhar, Bhubaneswar, Tiruchi, Nagpur and Indore.

 

4. BARC head made Atomic Energy Commission chief

Renowned scientist Kamlesh Nilakanth Vyas, director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, has been appointed the secretary of Department of Atomic Energy, and chairman of Atomic Energy Commission till May 2021. In another top appointment, a 1985-batch IAS officer, Anindo Majumdar, has been appointed as secretary, Central Vigilance Commission.

 

5. Celestial misfit

After years of arguing over whether Pluto is a planet, in 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to remove Pluto’s planetary status. Now some researchers are challenging this decision, citing the manner in which scientific tradition has dealt with the taxonomy of planets. The IAU, in 2006, designated Pluto a ‘dwarf planet’ along with Ceres in the asteroid belt and Xena, an object in the Kuiper belt, which is an icy ring of frozen objects that circle the solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit. It was a bid to overcome sentiment and go by scientific rationale. The meeting defined three conditions for a celestial object to be called a planet: one, it must orbit the Sun; two, it should be massive enough to acquire an approximately spherical shape; three, it has to ‘clear its orbit’, that is, be the object that exerts the maximum gravitational pull within its orbit. Owing to this third property, if an object ventures close to a planet’s orbit, it will either collide with it and be accreted, or be ejected out. However, Pluto is affected by Neptune’s gravity. It also shares its orbit with the frozen objects in the Kuiper belt. Based on this, the IAU deemed that Pluto did not ‘clear its orbit’. Dwarf planets, on the other hand, need only satisfy the first two conditions.

This rationale has been questioned by Philip Metzger, a planetary physicist who has worked with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and others who have studied the history of classifying planets and come up with several exceptions to the third rule. In a paper published in the journal Icarus, they point out that the only work in history that used this rule to classify planets was an article by William Herschel in 1802. They also argue that this work was based on reasoning and observations that have since been disproved.

If Pluto were to be re-designated a planet, many more complications would arise. For one thing, Charon, Pluto’s moon, is much too large to be called a satellite. Judging by this, the Charon-Pluto system should then rightly be called a binary planet system. This would then lead to classifying several other sets of bodies as binary planets. Recent research shows that both the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud, a shell of objects that surrounds the entire solar system far beyond the Kuiper belt, contain objects that can then be called planets, thereby complicating the issue. Denying planetary status to Pluto is then nothing less than a sweep of Occam’s razor, and Pluto remains a dwarf planet, albeit an exceptional one.

 

6. ‘India’s challenge will be fighting non-communicable diseases’

In 2017, the size of the Indian health-care sector was estimated at $160 billion, and is projected to grow to $372 billion by 2023. The hospital sector alone was worth $62 billion in 2017, and is expected to grow to $133 billion by 2023, with the private sector accounting for about 74%. There are around 40-45 million admissions per year in private hospitals in India.

The biggest challenge for India is going to be the imminent explosion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — they are going to kill. By 2020, diabetes will raise its ugly head; as of now, China has the highest number of diabetics in the world, but at the rate at which we are going, we are bound to catch up in a few years.

Data show that by 2020, NCDs will have disastrous implications, and by 2030, it will be just catastrophic.

There is a World Economic Forum study that says the world will spend $30 trillion by that time [2030] and India’s share of that would be $4.8 trillion. Here, we are battling to raise the health allocation to at least 3% of the GDP from about 1.5%.

 

7. Monetary offset

Economics

This refers to changes in the monetary policy of a central bank in response to changes in the fiscal policy of the government. A major responsibility of a central bank is to keep inflation under control and prevent the economy from overshooting its potential growth. However, deficit spending by governments, which is financed through the creation of fresh money by the central bank, can increase the overall money supply and lead to an increase in prices across the economy. In such cases, the central bank can choose to offset the inflationary impact of high government spending by contracting the overall supply of money in the economy.

 

8. Modi gifts his constituency projects worth ₹550 crore

Among the projects launched on the day were the Atal Incubation Centre at BHU, the Integrated Power Development Scheme for old Kashi and the Regional Ophthalmology Centre, also at BHU.

 

9. B.C. Khanduri removed as defence panel chairman

In the latest round of reshuffle of Parliamentary panels, BJP MP and former Minister Major General B.C. Khanduri was on Tuesday removed as Chairman of the standing committee on Defence.

Mr. Khanduri has been replaced by former Union Minister Kalraj Mishra who resigned from the post in September last year as he had crossed the 75 years age-limit set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for public office.

The other change is replacing Madhya Pradesh MP Rakesh Singh as Chairman of Coal and Steel panel with another BJP MP from the same State, Chintamani Malviya. There are no changes in Finance Committee and External Affairs Committee, both headed by Congress leaders. Finance Committee is headed by Veerappa Moily. The External Affairs Committee is headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and has Congress president Rahul Gandhi among its members.

 

10. Modi App now has volunteer platform

One of the main campaign devices of the BJP in the 2014 general election was the volunteer platform of 272+ (the half-way mark in the Lok Sabha), harnessed under various constituency-specific websites.

Kicking off the last-mile campaign outreach for 2019, the Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi app has created that volunteer platform for itself, and it was quietly put on the app on Monday. The app now has close to 10 million installs, and this outreach is targeted to reach at least 20 million before the election.

“People can volunteer for online and ground tasks, and to make it more engaging, we have gamification of these in the form of points, badges and leader-boards,” a source said. Tasks could include sharing some positive news about the government or sending suggestions for policy initiatives, joining the BJP’s booth-level dialogue or even organising some activity related to campaigning for Mr. Modi. All these activities lead to points, with incentives including meeting senior leaders or participating in the constituency-specific video-conferencing Mera Booth Sabse Mazboot held by Mr. Modi.

 

11. Kabul seeks support for peace

Afghanistan is seeking India’s support for its peace process, as well as for military hardware like helicopters, says Ambassador to IndiaDr. Shaida Abdali, ahead of President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Delhi and talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

President Ghani arrives in Delhi for just a day, what are the outcomes expected from the visit?

Afghanistan and India are strategic partners and according to the SPA, there is a particular clause on regular strategic consultations between the two countries. Afghanistan is currently facing a very critical time in all respects, and we certainly need to sit down with all our friends and strategic partners like India to discuss how to deal with terrorism and security issues that ultimately affect all of us. This is a day-long visit, but we expect it to be productive.

 

12. New Akash missiles get green light

The Army, which is inducting the indigenously developed Akash short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) system, will get an upgraded variant. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave its procedural approval to the variant on Tuesday.

The Army has already inducted two Akash regiments, and ordered two more last year after a global tender for the SRSAM was cancelled. The Akash system has since been upgraded, and the DAC has now approved an upgraded variant for the third and fourth regiments.

Advanced features

“The upgraded version will include the seeker technology and possess a 360-degree coverage, and will be of compact configuration. It is an operationally critical equipment, which will provide protection to vital assets,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) developed Akash as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme initiated in 1984. It is made by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). Akash has a range of 25 km and can engage multiple targets at a time in all-weather conditions. It has a large operational envelope, from 30 metre to a maximum of 20 km. Each regiment consists of six launchers, each having three missiles.

The DAC also gave approval for the development of an individual under-water breathing apparatus for the T-90 tank. The apparatus is used by the tank crew for emergency escape.

 

13. New pipeline to take diesel to Bangladesh

India and Bangladesh on Tuesday began construction of the first bilateral energy pipeline project that will take refined diesel from Assam’s Numaligarh refinery to Parbatipur across the border. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the work on the 130-km line through a videolink at a teleconference with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina.

 

14. India-Germany pact to benefit jobseekers

India and Germany have signed a memorandum of association, under which students who complete specific skill training courses in India will get a certificate that is recognised in both the countries. “They can apply for jobs in companies in India and much more easily for jobs in Germany,” said a release from the German Embassy.

 

15. Plan to reduce mules on Vaishno Devi shrine route

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that mules will be slowly phased out of service — from the present 4,600 to 2,500 over a period of 10 years — from the annual pilgrimage to the Katra-Vaishno Devi shrine.

 

16. Moon lands in Pyongyang, meets Kim

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said on Tuesday that his “historic” summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore stabilised regional security, and that he expected further progress at an inter-Korean summit aimed at reviving stalled nuclear diplomacy.

Mr. Kim thanked South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in for bringing about the Singapore meeting in June as the two leaders began their third round of talks in Pyongyang. The Kim-Moon summit will be a litmus test for another meeting Mr. Kim has recently proposed to Mr. Trump, with the South Korean President seeking to engineer a proposal that combines a framework for the North’s denuclearisation and a joint declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

 

17. ‘Nepal’s no to drills is not a snub to India’

Nepal’s decision not to participate in the India-proposed military exercise of the Bay of Bengal group of countries is not a a snub to New Delhi, but rather it signals that a new set of rules need to be evolved that will meld the collective interests of India, Nepal and China, an official source said.

A diplomatic source from Nepal, who did not want to be named, told The Hindu that there are certain decisions, such as conduct of bilateral military exercises, that are easier to take. “We have no problem of holding a bilateral military exercise with India, China or a third country. Thus, we are going ahead with a standalone military exercise with China.” India and Nepal also hold regular military exercises called Surya Kiran.

 

18. Pay ₹38 cr. fine, CCI tells 18 sugar mills

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Tuesday imposed a penalty of ₹38 crore on 18 sugar mills and two associations for rigging the bids in respect of a joint tender floated by oil marketing companies for procurement of ethanol for blending with petrol.

“A total penalty of ₹38.05 crore was imposed upon 18 sugar mills and their trade associations (ISMA/ EMAI). Besides, a cease and desist order was also issued against them,” the CCI said in a statement.

 

19. Samsung unveils LED TVs starting at ₹1 crore

Samsung Electronics has rolled out large modular LED television screens for homes, targeting high networth individuals and ultra high networth individuals in India. Prices start from ₹1 crore for a 110-inch screen and go up to ₹3.5 crore for a 260-inch screen. Named Active LED, this range, branded as ‘LED for Home’, is aimed at providing ‘sophisticated and intense visual experience’ for buyers.

 

20. Track Asia Cup cycling from Friday

India will field a 17-member team

Australia will be the runaway favourite when the three-day fifth Track Asia Cup kicks off at the Indira Gandhi Velodrome in New Delhi on Friday even as Indian cyclists hope to put behind a disappointing outing at the Asian Games.

The event, a qualifying tournament for the World Cup, World Championship and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is a UCI (International Cycle Union) Class I accredited competition.

India will be fielding a 17-member team including both seniors and juniors, besides a separate team from SAINCA, the joint Sports Authority of India-CFI Academy to groom talented youngsters.

While the likes of Deborah Harold and Sonali Chanuwill helm the senior category, the juniors will be led by Esow Alben, the reigning junior World No. 1 in Keirin and No. 2 in Sprint. Alben had won three gold at the Asian track championships earlier this year and Keirin silver at the World junior championships.

 

21. SpaceX names first passenger to moon

A Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon, Yusaku Maezawa, will be the first man to fly on a monster SpaceX rocket around the moon as early as 2023, and he plans to bring six to eight artists along.

Mr. Maezawa, 42, will be the first lunar traveller since the last U.S. Apollo mission in 1972. He paid an unspecified amount of money for the privilege.

Mr. Maezawa is chief executive of Japan’s largest online fashion mall, and is the 18th richest person in Japan with a fortune of $3 billion, according to the business magazine Forbes.

Mr. Maezawa’s other hobby is amassing valuable works of modern art and last year, he announced the acquisition of a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece worth $110.5 million.

Until now, Americans are the only ones who have left the earth’s orbit. A total of 24 NASA astronauts — all white men — voyaged to the moon during the Apollo era of the 1960s and ‘70s. Twelve walked on the lunar surface.

The first space tourist was Dennis Tito, an American businessman who in 2001 paid some $20 million to fly on a Russian spaceship to the International Space Station.

 

22. Bob Seger hangs up guitar after a long career

Heartland rocker Bob Seger said on Tuesday that he was retiring from touring, announcing final dates after a half-century career. The 73-year-old songwriter — best known for his hit Old Time Rock and Roll— will tour across North America starting in November with a final date on May 2 in Houston

 

23. Abbreviations:

India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA)
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
BARC – Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

 

24. Things to Remember:

ISRO Chairman – K. Sivan
Goa Governor – Mridula Sinha
Prime Minister of Nepal – K.P. Oli
DDCA president – Rajat Sharma

 

25. Improve your Vocabulary:

vagary

Meaning – An unexpected and inexplicable change in a situation or in someone’s behaviour.

Example – ‘the vagaries of the weather’
Synonyms – quirk, idiosyncrasy, peculiarity, oddity, eccentricity, unpredictability, fluctuation, foible, whim, whimsy, notion, conceit, caprice, fancy, kink, crotchet