Daily Current Affairs – 18th May, 2016, Wednesday

1. Govt launches Swachh Office drive across India

a) The government has launched a 15-day Swachh Office drive In order to improve cleanliness across government offices.

b) The Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu directed senior-level officials to ensure sanitation and hygiene.

c) Swachh Office manual was also issued giving suggestions regarding standard office procedures to all the Union and state ministries to ensure sanitation.

d)  Norms suggested in the manual include ensuring water supply at 45 litres per head per day, one toilet for every 25 persons, urinals to be provided based on employee strength, removal of stains every week, checking electrical fittings twice a week, acid cleaning and scrubbing of toilets daily, schedule of inspections, etc.

2. RBI asks assessees to settle I-T dues in advance; allows 29 banks to accept payments

a) The Reserve Bank of India has appealed to income tax assessees to pay dues in advance of the due date and to use alternate channels of authorised banks.

b) The central bank has made this announcement noting the heavy rush in the end of March for remitting the I-T dues, which makes it difficult for the RBI to cope with the burden of issuing receipts despite having additional counters.

c) To tackle the problem, 29 agency banks have been authorised to accept payments of I-T dues. These include-SBI and its five associate banks, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis, Bank, Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, and Indian Overseas Bank, among others.

3. NASA launches super pressure balloon to conduct near-space scientific investigations

a) NASA has successfully launched a super pressure balloon from New Zealand’s South Island Wanaka airport in order to conduct near-space scientific investigations.

b) The 532,000 cubic metres balloon is likely to remain airborne for over a 100 days.

c) The balloon will circumnavigate once every one to three weeks about the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes depending on the wind speeds in the stratosphere.

d) The balloon will be visible from the ground and have an operational float altitude of 33.5 km. Experts at NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, will control balloon flight operations throughout the mission.

4. China launches Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite

a) China’s Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite was recently sent into space from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gobi desert in north-western China. It was carried by a Long March-2D rocket. This is the 227th mission for the Long March rocket family.

b) The satellite was built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). It is part of the second generation of the Yaogan series inaugurated in 2008. The first Yaogan satellite was launched in 2006.

c) It has two deployable solar arrays along with batteries. It employs CAST-2000 platform which has a dry mass of about one metric ton.

d) Its applications include land surveys, crop yield estimates, experiments and disaster relief purposes.

5. British royals launch “Heads Together” campaign to change views on mental health

a) On 16th May, Prince William, Princess Kate and Prince Harry launched “The Heads Together” campaign to transform the national narrative on mental health and well-being.

b) The campaign will be executed by the Royal Foundation in collaboration with eight charities that have decades of experience in tackling stigma and raising awareness.

c) Prince William will target young men at risk of suicide and Kate will focus on childhood mental health. Prince Harry will focus on military members and veterans and help them cope with their mental health challenges.

6. Pfizer to buy Anacor Pharma in $5.2 bn deal

a) Pfizer is set to acquire Anacor Pharma in a $5.2 billion deal to add the latter’s topical eczema gel (crisaborole) to its portfolio. This acquisition will give Pfizer access to the non-steroidal gel crisaborole, which is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration.

b) As per Pfizer’s estimates, crisaborole had the potential to touch or exceed peak sales of $2 billion.

7. NTPC forms joint venture with Coal India

a) Mining giant Coal India Ltd. (CIL) and power producer National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. NTPC have forged a joint venture to help Fertilizer Corp. of India Ltd. in its revival.

b) The JV will enable establishment of production facilities for the most common fertilizer, urea, at FCIL units in Sindri in Bihar & Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

c) NTPC & CIL will have equal equity in this JV.

8. UNICEF, EU launch #EmergencyLessons campaign on education in crisis zones

a) #EmergencyLessons campaign was recently announced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union (EU). This public awareness campaign aims to emphasise the importance of education for children in crisis zones.

b) The campaign targets people 25 years old and younger across Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. It aims to inspire them to raise their voices on behalf of children whose education is at stake due to the crisis. Real life experiences and stories of children from countries like Guinea, Iraq, Nepal and Ukraine, among others will be shared on social media platforms for the next seven months.

c) Celebrities like Samantha Cristoforetti, Italian European Space Agency astronaut; Bostjan Nachbar, Slovenian basketball player; Kriszta D. Toth, Hungarian news presenter and media personality; and Jaro Bekr, Slovakian dancer are lending their support to this campaign.

9. Discoverer of Neptune’s rings dies

a) French astrophysicist, Andre Brahic, who was credited with the discovery of planet Neptune’s rings, recently passed away at the age of 73.

b) His expertise in the solar system along with the American astronomer William Hubbard led to the discovery of the gaseous planet’s rings in 1984.

c) He worked as an astrophysicist at the Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA) and was a professor at the University of Paris.

d) In 1990, an asteroid number 3488 was named Brahic in his honour.

10. World Hypertension Day observed

a) World Hypertension Day was observed on 17th May. The theme this year was “Know Your Numbers” as the goal is to increase awareness about high blood pressure (BP) within populations around the world.

b) This day was initiated by the World Hypertension League (WHL), an umbrella organisation of 85 such hypertension-related organisations and leagues in the world.

c) The WHL launched the first WHD on May 14, 2005. Since 2006, May 17 has been observed as WHD.

11. NK Singh committee formed to review and give recommendations on FRBM roadmap

a) Finance Ministry has formed a five-membered committee to suggest a roadmap for fiscal consolidation by 31 October. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has announced the formation of a panel to amend Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) act.

b) Former revenue and expenditure secretary N K Singh will head the committee, which will have former finance secretary Sumit Bose, chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, RBI deputy governor Urjit Patel and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy director Rathin Roy, as members.

c) The committee will examine the need and viability of aligning fiscal expansion or contraction with credit contraction or expansion, respectively, in the economy. It will also study the need and feasibility of having a ‘fiscal deficit range’ by replacing the current fixed portion of GDP as a fiscal deficit target.

d) The panel will also review the working of the FRBM Act over the last 12 years and suggest changes for its implementation in the coming years.

e) As of now, the Finance Ministry has decided to follow its fiscal consolidation roadmap and set the fiscal deficit target for 2016-17 at 3.5% as against 3.9% in the previous year.

12. US law firm BakerHostetler hires world’s first robot lawyer ROSS

a) A US-based law firm ‘BakerHostetler’ has hired the world’s first artificial intelligence lawyer to assist the firm in legal research.

b) This robot is known as ‘ROSS’ and it is built with IBM’s cognitive computer known as Watson.

c) ROSS will help lawyers to read through the law, gather evidence, draw inferences and provide highly relevant evidence-based answers using Watson’s cognitive computing and language processing capabilities.

d) ROSS was built by a company named ROSS Intelligence at the University of Toronto in 2014.

13. Australian researchers build world’s first scanning helium microscope

a) Australian researcher, Paul Dastoor has successfully built the world’s first Scanning Helium microscope (SHeM) after 20 years of effort.

b) This microscope could pave the way for many discoveries by enabling scientists to study human, animal and plant samples as well as computer chips and pharmaceutical formulations without changing or damaging them.

c) Light microscopes analyse samples with the help of light which can damage the sample whereas, with the SHeM, the samples will be viewed in their real state for the first time.

14. Government unveils National Draft Policy for Women 2016

a) The National Draft Policy for Woman 2016 was recently unveiled for comments by the Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.

b) This policy will replace the National Policy for Empowerment of Women, 2001 and provide a comprehensive action plan to tackle the women issues for next 15-20 years.

c) This policy aims at creating a society based on gender equality where women can attain their full potential and have equal participation rights in all the spheres.

d) The policy also exemplifies the need for an effective framework for further creation of policies and programmes for the development of women.

e) The policy emphasises the need to cater to emergency issues like making cyberspace safe for women, redistribution of gender roles for reducing unpaid care work, review of personal and customary laws in accordance with the Constitutional provisions, etc.

f) The policy seeks to review criminalisation of marital rape within the framework of women’s human rights, etc.

g) It focuses on priority areas like health including food security and nutrition, education, economy, governance & decision-making, violence against women, enabling environment and environment and climate change.

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