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International Current Affairs
International Current Affairs October 2nd Week 2017
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International Current Affairs October 2nd Week 2017

1. U.S. approves sale of Rs. 98,000 crore THAAD missiles to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale of a THAAD anti-missile defense system to Saudi Arabia at an estimated cost of $15 billion, the Pentagon said on Friday, citing Iran among regional threats.

The approval opens the way for Saudi Arabia to purchase 44 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launchers and 360 missiles, as well as fire control stations and radars.

“This sale furthers U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation agency said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia and the United States are highly critical of what they consider Iran’s aggressive behavior in the Middle East.

Iran also has one of the biggest ballistic missile programs in the Middle East, viewing it as an essential precautionary defense against the United States and other adversaries, primarily Gulf Arab states and Israel.

THAAD missile systems are deployed to defend against ballistic missile attacks.

Saudi-owned al Arabiya television reported on Thursday that the kingdom had agreed to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, an announcement that came as Saudi King Salman made during his visit to Russia, the first by a Saudi monarch.

U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia have come under increased scrutiny over the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.

Riyadh and its allies have been bombing the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen since the Houthis seized much of the country’s north in 2015. Riyadh says the coalition is fighting terrorists and supporting Yemen’s legitimate government but the office of the U.N. human rights chief has said Saudi-led air strikes cause the majority of civilian casualties.

Lockheed Martin Co (LMT.N) is the prime contractor for the THAAD system, with Raytheon Co (RTN.N) playing an important role in the system’s deployment.

The United States deployed THAAD to South Korea this year to guard against North Korea’s shorter-range missiles. That has drawn fierce criticism from China, which says the system’s powerful radar can probe deep into its territory.
 
2. India and European Union 14th summit, Three key pacts inked; both sides agree to strengthen trade and security ties.
India and European Union 14th summit, Three key pacts inked; both sides agree to strengthen trade and security ties
India and the European Union on Friday agreed to strengthen ties in key areas of trade and security after their 14th summit, during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the top EU leadership deliberated extensively on bilateral, regional and international issues.

After the summit, European Council President Donald Franciszek Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker talked about the much-delayed trade pact between the two sides at a joint press event with Modi.

The two sides also inked three pacts, including one on an international solar alliance, after the summit.

The 28-nation bloc is India`s largest regional trading partner with bilateral trade in goods at USD 88 billion in 2016. It is also the largest destination for Indian exports and a key source of investment and technologies

India received around USD 83 billion of foreign direct investment from Europe during 2000-17, constituting approximately 24 per cent of total FDI inflows into the country during the period, said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
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India and the EU have been strategic partners since 2004.

The 13th India-EU Summit was held in Brussels on March 30 last year during Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s visit.

The summit last year failed to make any headway on the resumption of long stalled negotiations for a free trade agreement.

Launched in June 2007, negotiations for the proposed EU-India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) have witnessed many hurdles with major differences on crucial issues like intellectual property rights, duty cut in automobile and spirits.
 
3. Nobel Prize 2017 in Economic Sciences Announced.
Nobel Prize 2017 in Economic Sciences Announced
Richard H. Thaler has incorporated psychologically realistic assumptions into analyses of economic decision-making. By exploring the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, he has shown how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes.

Limited rationality: Thaler developed the theory of mental accounting, explaining how people simplify financial decision-making by creating separate accounts in their minds, focusing on the narrow impact of each individual decision rather than its overall effect. He also showed how aversion to losses can explain why people value the same item more highly when they own it than when they don`t, a phenomenon called the endowment effect. Thaler was one of the founders of the field of behavioural finance, which studies how cognitive limitations influence financial markets.

Social preferences: Thaler`s theoretical and experimental research on fairness has been influential. He showed how consumers` fairness concerns may stop firms from raising prices in periods of high demand, but not in times of rising costs. Thaler and his colleagues devised the dictator game, an experimental tool that has been used in numerous studies to measure attitudes to fairness in different groups of people around the world.

Lack of self-control: Thaler has also shed new light on the old observation that New Year`s resolutions can be hard to keep. He showed how to analyse self-control problems using a planner-doer model, which is similar to the frameworks psychologists and neuroscientists now use to describe the internal tension between long-term planning and short-term doing. Succumbing to shortterm temptation is an important reason why our plans to save for old age, or make healthier lifestyle choices, often fail. In his applied work, Thaler demonstrated how nudging – a term he coined – may help people exercise better self-control when saving for a pension, as well in other contexts.

In total, Richard Thaler`s contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making. His empirical findings and theoretical insights have been instrumental in creating the new and rapidly expanding field of behavioural economics, which has had a profound impact on many areas of economic research and policy.
 
4. India Slips to 8th Rank in Valuable Nation Brand List.
India Slips to 8th Rank in Valuable Nation Brand List
India is ranked the eighth most valuable nation brand while the United States retained its top position and China took the second spot in the league of nations according to Brand Finance’s Nation Brands 2017.

India went down one spot over the previous year, the report said, because the economy grew at its slowest pace. India switched places with Canada and its brand value dropped by one percentage point while that of Canada’s rose 14 per cent. China, the fastest growing nation brand in 2017, saw valuation grow 44 per cent. 
The report says that China has gained because “in a virtuous circle, Chinese brands and the transformed national image of China as an emerging global power are reinforcing each other.” India, on the other hand, has taken a hit on several fronts. “Reforms must be introduced to maximise job creation, provide fiscal support and to boost economic growth. However, the less than impressive track record of implementing change renders the nation’s outlook unstable. This poses a threat to its future nation brand value,” said David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance. 

India improved its brand rating from ‘AA-’ to ‘AA’ though, but failed to make it into the top ten ‘best performing’ or ‘strongest’ brands. Brand analysts list democracy, diversity, young population and technological receptivity as the pillars of India’s brand value. Brand consultant Bharat Bambawale said that India`s strategy for GDP growth should focus on services and investment.

The report also said that India is seen stronger in attributes related to culture and weaker in attributes related to business. “India needs rapid economic growth, accelerated employment, exponential increase in infrastructure and a do-or-die spirit of enterprise,” says Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media.
 
According to Haigh, India has surpassed China and the US as the top recipient of greenfield foreign direct investment and the key task is to maintain this position. He also said that the real long-term growth of both the Chinese and the Indian economy has cooled off since last year, but the Chinese economy is still perceived as less risky. Bambawale says that India has to not only match, but exceed China`s growth rate consistently for a decade or two, if it wants to climb the Index and reliably hold a higher position. 
China is the fastest growing nation brand in absolute terms
US dominance as the most valuable nation brand threatened by Trump’s presidency
Asian nation brands boom as the West stagnates
Southern European nations show double-digit growth
Game of Thrones brings record growth to Iceland, brand value up 83% year on year
Singapore defends strongest nation brand title as it continues to invest in its citizens

Not everyone believes that India needs to pit its brand against China though. N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA, a brand insights agency says, “China has a monolithic government where all decisions are implemented without opposition. India must grow, there is no doubt about it, but our pace must be measured as under a distinct set of conditions.” Brand valuations are not the best indicator of a nation’s value or progress he believes.
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The report points out that the dynamic between American and Chinese nation brands is mirrored by the broader trends of Western stagnation and Asian advance. Established European nation brands, such as Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, record either a decline or a negligible growth of value. At the same time, Asian nation brands grew at breakneck speed.

One of the most interesting stories among nation brands in 2017 is that of Iceland. Its tourism industry is booming, post the success of Game of Thrones that was shot in the country, helping it become the fastest growing nation brand of 2017, up 83 per cent from last year.

India, on the other hand, saw a two per cent drop in tourism over the past year. Bambawale says, “The gap between advertising and on-ground experience is huge. High-ticket tourists pay prices equal to anywhere in the world, so why come here when they can do better elsewhere? Backpackers add little to revenue.”
 
5. Japan launches fourth Michibiki satellite for hi-tech GPS.
Japan launches fourth Michibiki satellite for hi-tech GPS
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched Michibiki-4 satellite (QZSS-4) onboard of H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Centre.

 

QZS-4 (Michibiki-4)
Michibiki-4 is third QZSS satellite to be launched in 2017 and once operational it will bring the constellation of QZSS to its operating capacity of four until a planned expansion to 8 satellites occurs around 2023.

Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS)
It is own version of GPS and is dubbed as Michibiki system. Michibiki means guidance in Japanese. It is intended for civilian use, with a claimed positioning accuracy down to mere centimetres. The QZSS constellation of 8 satellites will trace out a figure-8 pattern over Japan, the Western Pacific, and Australia.

The Michibiki system can cover the Asia-Oceania region and works with the US-operated GPS to provide higher level of precision than previously possible with fewer satellites in visible range. It will become operation in 2018 with four satellites focusing on country and wider region. It will provide global positioning and timing services across frequencies ranging from 1575.42 MHz to 2 GHz.

H-IIA rocket
The H-IIA rocket is Japanese large-scale launch vehicle. It was manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The vehicle stands 53 meters tall and generates 1.7 million pounds-force (7,628 kilonewtons) of thrust at liftoff.
 
6. International Day of the Girl Child is observed on 11 October.
International Day of the Girl Child is observed on 11 October
International Day of the Girl Child will be observed today (Wednesday) throughout the world. Annually October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child declared by the United Nations. It was first observed in October 2012.

The purpose is to highlight the plight of thousands of girls and provide more opportunity for them while increasing awareness of the gender inequality they face worldwide based upon their gender. This inequality includes areas such as right to and access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care and protection from discrimination, violence and forced child marriage.

While issues concerning the girl child exist all over the world especially in under developing/developing countries, in some places it is worse than in others - for instance in our own country where women are held in low esteem by many and gender inequality is rampant. Speaking generally, from the day they are born – especially if it’s a first child – there is no rejoicing but an air of gloom and disappointment, which is not only something that happens in poor, uneducated families but surprisingly in many of the so called ‘educated’ ones!

Anyway, according to some reports progress has been achieved toward gender equality in basic education but more remains to be done as today’s challenges for improving girls’ education, skills, and job prospects have changed. Attention needs to be given to what happens before and after primary school. For girls and young women to acquire the skills they need there needs to be a conducive environment, as well as encouragement, both at home and in the institutions where they study.
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In areas where there is discrimination against girls, parents need to be told repeatedly that girls are as good as boys and deserve an equal opportunity to prove their worth for the benefit of the family as well as the country. Nutrition as well as other amenities should be equal for boys and girls. Child marriages should be discouraged firmly and the law dealing with violations should be strictly enforced as they hinder girls` empowerment and are against their fundamental rights.

A number of initiatives have been taken for improvement in the life of the girl child by the private sector but the government has to play its role and make the effort to deal with inequality on a larger scale. Any attempt to improve the situation of girls and women must be supported by an improvement in the socio political aspect of their lives. It is only when girls and women are empowered with equal rights and opportunities that the country will be on the right path to success and prosperity.
 
7. Global hunger Index 2017 released: Inida ranked 100th among 119.
 
India has a “serious” hunger problem and ranks 100 among 119 developing countries, lagging behind countries such as North Korea and Iraq, said the global hunger index report released by Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on Thursday.

With a global hunger index (GHI) score of 31.4, India is at the high end of the “serious” category, the report said, adding, “given that three quarters of South Asia’s population reside in India, the situation in that country strongly influences South Asia’s regional score.”

India’s poor performance brings to the fore the disturbing reality of the country’s stubbornly high proportions of malnourished children—more than one-fifth of Indian children under five weigh too little for their height and over a third are too short for their age, IFPRI said in a statement.

Data from the report showed that India’s rank (100) was lower than all its neighbours—Nepal (72), Myanmar (77), Bangladesh (88), Sri Lanka (84) and China (29)—except Pakistan (106). Even North Korea (93) and Iraq (78) fared better in hunger parameters and GHI rankings, the report.

The report further said that India’s poor score is one of the main factors pushing South Asia to the category of the worst performing region on the GHI scale this year.

While countries like Chile, Cuba and Turkey have a GHI score of less than 5 and ranked the best among developing nations, nations like Chad and Central African Republic fare the worst with a score of 43.5 and 50.9, respectively.

The GHI score is a multidimensional index composed of four indicators—proportion of undernourished in the population, prevalence of child mortality, child stunting, and child wasting. On the severity scale, a GHI score of less than 10 means “low” prevalence of hunger while a score of more than 50 implies an “extremely alarming” situation.

Since 2000, global GHI scores have declined by 27%, yet one in nine people still go hungry around the world, the report said.

On India, the report said that the country’s top 1% own more than 50% of its wealth, India is the world’s second largest food producer, yet it is also home to the second highest population of under-nourished in the world.

“Even with the massive scale up of national nutrition-focused programs in India, drought and structural deficiencies have left a large number of poor in India at risk of malnourishment in 2017,” said P.K. Joshi, IFPRI’s South Asia director.

According to the GHI report, more than a fifth (21%) of children in India suffer from wasting (low weight for height)—up from 20% in 2005-2006. Only three other countries in this year’s GHI—Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan—show child wasting above 20%, and India’s child wasting rate has not shown any substantial improvement over the past 25 years, the report said.

By contrast, the report said, India considerably improved its child stunting rate, down 29% since 2000, but even that progress leaves India with a relatively high stunting rate of 38.4%.

“With a GHI score that is near the high end of the serious category, it is obvious that a high GDP growth rate alone is no guarantee of food and nutrition security for India’s vast majority,” said Nivedita Varshneya, India director of Welthungerhilfe, a non-profit which co-authored the GHI report with IFPRI.
 
8. US, Israel withdraw from UNESCO accusing the cultural body of `anti-Israel bias`.
US, Israel withdraw from UNESCO accusing the cultural body of `anti-Israel bias`
The US and Israel announced on Thursday they were quitting the UN’s cultural agency Unesco, after Washington accused it of anti-Israeli bias.

The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of Unesco’s funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Unesco is best known for designating World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias,” state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too, calling the US decision “brave and moral”.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova expressed her disappointment: “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack,” she said.

“This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism.”

Washington has already withheld its funding for Unesco since 2011, when the body admitted Palestine as a full member. The United States and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians. Washington’s arrears on its $80 million annual dues since then are now over $500 million.

Although Washington supports a future independent Palestinian state, it says this should emerge out of peace talks and it considers it unhelpful for international organisations to admit Palestine until negotiations are complete.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

“Today is a new day at the UN, where there is price to pay for discrimination against Israel,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said.

Netanyahu told world leaders at the UN General Assembly last month that Unesco was promoting “fake history” after it designated Hebron and the two adjoined shrines at its heart - the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque - as a “Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger.”

An Arab-backed Unesco resolution last year condemned Israeli’s policies at religious sites in East Jerusalam and the West Bank.

Under Unesco rules, the US withdrawal will become effective as of the end of December 2018. Three diplomats had told Reuters earlier on Thursday of the impending decision.

Trump effect
The organisation, which employs around 2,000 people worldwide, most of them based in Paris, has struggled for relevance as it becomes increasingly hobbled by regional rivalries and a lack of money.

Unesco, whose full name is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is in the process of selecting a new chief, whose priority will be to revive its fortunes.

The US move underscores the scepticism expressed by President Donald Trump about the need for the US to remain engaged in multi-lateral bodies. The president has touted an “America First” policy, which puts US economic and national interests ahead of international commitments.
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Since Trump took office, the United States has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and withdrawn from the Paris climate deal. Washington is also reviewing its membership of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, which it also accuses of being anti-Israel.

“The absence of the United States or any large country with a lot of power is a loss. It’s not just about money, it’s promoting ideals that are vital to countries like the United States, such as education and culture,” a Unesco-based diplomat said, warning that others could follow.

For differing reasons, Britain, Japan and Brazil are among states that have yet to pay their dues for 2017.

Russia’s former envoy to Unesco told RIA news agency the agency was better off without the Americans.

“In recent years, they’ve been of no use for this organisation,” Eleanora Mitrofanova said. “Since 2011 they have practically not been paying to the budget of this organisation... They decided to exit - this is absolutely in line with Trump’s general logic today.”

After three days of secret balloting to pick a new Unesco chief, Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and France’s Audrey Azoulay are tied in first place, with Egypt’s Moushira Khattab in third. Voting lasts over a maximum five rounds. If the two finalists end level, they draw lots.
 
9. International Day for Disaster Reduction Observed globally.
International Day for Disaster Reduction Observed globally
The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction is annually observed on the second Wednesday of October to raise the profile of disaster risk reduction. It also encourages people and governments to participate in building more resilient communities and nations. 

What Do People Do?
Activities for the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction usually include media announcements about launches for campaigns that center on the day`s theme. Governments and communities also take part in the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction through various events such as drawing, drama, essay or photography competitions that focus on making people aware of natural disaster reduction and increasing their preparedness for such situations. Other activities include: community tree planting; conferences, fairs and seminars; and street parades.

Public Life
The International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction is a global observance and not a public holiday.

Background
Many people around the world have lost their lives, homes or access to essential facilities, such as hospitals, due to natural disasters, including earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis, heavy flooding, hurricanes or cyclones. Some of these disasters have caused economic damage to some countries. The UN acknowledges that education, training, and information exchanges are effective ways to help people become better equipped in withstanding natural disasters.

On December 22, 1989, the UN General Assembly designated the second Wednesday of October as the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction. This event was to be observed annually during the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, 1990-1999. On December 20, 2001, the assembly decided to maintain the observance to promote a global culture of natural disaster reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

Symbols
The UN logo is often associated with marketing and promotional material for this event. It features a projection of a world map (less Antarctica) centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree. The olive branches symbolize peace and the world map depicts the area of concern to the UN in achieving its main purpose, peace and security. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles.
 
10. Indian Naval Ship to participate in Passage Exercise with Japanese Martine.
Indian Naval Ship to participate in Passage Exercise with Japanese Martine
Indian Naval Ships Satpura and Kadmatt will participate in Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with Japanese Marine Self Defence Force, the navy said in a statement on Friday.

INS Satpura and Kadmatt are visiting Sasebo, Japan, from October 12 to 15. After completion of the harbour phase, the ships will take part in Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the Murusame Class destroyer, JS Kirisame.
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“The visit of these ships is part the Indian government’s initiatives to strengthen the long-standing, mutually supportive and strong relationship between Japan and India,” the Indian Navy statement said.

Since the first ‘Navy to Navy Staff Talks’ between the two nations in November 2008, naval ties have reached new heights with bilateral and multilateral exercises and enhanced cooperation in information sharing, meteorology and oceanography, disaster management and military training.

“The defence and security interaction between both countries has since expanded to encompass a Defence Policy Dialogue and a Maritime Affairs Dialogue,” the statement added.

 11. Worlds First negative emissions plant starts operations in Iceland, turning carbon dioxide into stone.

In an effort to reduce the 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide humans produce each year, three companies have been working to build machines that can capture the gas directly from the air. One such machine in Iceland has begun operation. Quartz reports:

Climeworks just proved the cynics wrong. On Oct. 11, at a geothermal power plant in Iceland, the startup inaugurated the first system that does direct air capture and verifiably achieves negative carbon emissions. Although it`s still at pilot scale -- capturing only 50 metric tons CO2 from the air each year, about the same emitted by a single U.S. household -- it`s the first system to take CO2 in the air and convert the emissions into stone, thus ensuring they don`t escape back into the atmosphere for the next millions of years. Climeworks and Global Thermostat have piloted systems in which they coat plastics and ceramics, respectively, with an amine, a type of chemical that can absorb CO2. Carbon Engineering uses a liquid system, with calcium oxide and water. The companies say it`s too early in the development of these technologies to predict what costs will be at scale.
 
12. HPCL becomes first Indian Oil Marketing Company to launch lubricants in Myanmar.
 
 
State-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) has started selling lubricants in Myanmar as part of broader plans of Indian retailers to play a bigger role in the south-east Asian nation’s oil and gas sector. “Having achieved the number one position in the domestic market, HP Lubricants sought to prove itself in foreign shore by venturing into Myanmar,” the company said in a statement. HPCL is the first Indian oil company to have started marketing lubes in Myanmar and has chosen commercial hubs of Yangon and Mandalay. India is pushing for supplying fuel to Myanmar to meet rising demand. Following the lifting of sanctions, Myanmar is looking at foreign companies to cater to fuel and infrastructure requirements arising out of a dramatic surge in consumption. Its three ageing state-owned refineries with a combined capacity of around 2.5 million tonnes are running substantially below capacity and are able to meet only a part of the fuel requirement.

Indian oil companies see an opportunity in this and have been exploring supply of petroleum products, LPG, wax and petrochemicals. While Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is studying options of fuel retailing in Myanmar, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd’s (BPCL) Numaligarh refinery is keen to supply diesel to the country. Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in late February visited Myanmar to explore opportunities there to supply refined oil products as well as highlight interest of Indian upstream companies to take part in the forthcoming bidding in Myanmar’s oil and gas blocks.
 
13. India proposed to operate a Sri Lankan airport near the Hambantota seaport.
India proposed to operate a Sri Lankan airport near the Hambantota seaport
India is in advanced talks with Sri Lanka to operate an airport on the southern tip of the island, where China has invested heavily as part of its Belt and Road initiative, a Sri Lankan minister said.

Sri Lanka’s civil aviation minister, Nimal Siripala, said the country had been looking for alternative investors in the Hambantota area, where China has built a seaport and is in discussions to build an investment zone and a refinery.

“It was during this time India came up with a proposal,” Siripala said Monday. “They were ready for a joint venture with the Airport and Aviation Services Limited,” he said, referring to the state-run company that runs Sri Lanka’s main airport in the capital Colombo and the one in the south, in Mattala.

The town of Hambantota sits near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and is an important part of the Belt and Road initiative, aimed at building trade and transport links across Asia and beyond to Europe.

China runs the seaport with a 99-year lease and was planning to expand its footprint in the area with the refinery, which would be Sri Lanka’s largest, and an investment zone of about 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres).

Beijing’s projects, backed by loans extended by the Chinese government and initiated by a previous Sri Lankan government, have faced widespread opposition in Sri Lanka.

Local residents facing eviction to make way for the projects have staged numerous protests. Other critics say the Sri Lankan government signed up for unnecessary and loss-making projects, pushing the country into long-term indebtedness.

India has offered to set up a joint venture with Sri Lanka to manage and expand facilities at the loss-making Mattala airport, which sits adjacent to the Hambantota seaport, according to Siripala and an Indian government source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

There was no immediate response from the Indian foreign ministry to a request for comment on the airport deal.

The initial investment would be $293 million, of which India will provide 70 percent on a 40-year lease, according to a Sri Lankan cabinet paper reviewed by Reuters that details the Indian plan to make the airport viable.

The airport, built at a cost of $253 million by China, which also provided $230 million of funding, gets one flight a day, from Dubai, and has been dubbed the world’s emptiest airport for its long, empty corridors.

The Indian government source said India had proposed establishing a flying school and a maintenance hub at Mattala to boost airport revenues while it builds up traffic. There are also hopes the airport could be a destination for Indian tourists.

“We are trying for a large integration of the Sri Lankan and Indian eco-systems, we want to boost tourism in our two countries,” the source said.

China said it was not aware that Sri Lanka was considering allowing India to manage the airport. China also put in a bid to operate the facility, but the two sides failed to agree on financial terms.
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“China hopes the relevant country does more to play a constructive role in increasing mutual trust and cooperation between nations in the region and promoting regional peace, stability and development,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in response to an email request for comment.

OLD BONDS

India and Sri Lanka have centuries-old ethnic and cultural bonds, but these frayed amid New Delhi’s support for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority during the island’s 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009.

China was among the first countries that stepped in to help in the post-war reconstruction of Sri Lanka, building roads, power stations and ports.

By 2014, Chinese navy submarines were also docking in Colombo, raising alarm in New Delhi and prompting a push by the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to claw back influence in the region.

The Indian source said New Delhi would allow Sri Lanka to determine the size of the Indian stake in the airport venture and whether it would involve state or private companies.

However, some opposition groups are concerned that turning to India is equally fraught with risk.

Dullas Alahapperuma, an opposition member of parliament, said the government was making a mistake by handing over national assets to China and India in Hambantota.

“In the end, there could be dangerous consequences,” he said.

On Tuesday, police detained three opposition MPs protesting in Hambantota against the airport lease plan. The three included Namal Rajapaksa, the son of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president who signed the construction deal with China.

Siripala, the aviation minister, said any deal to give India the right to manage the airport was purely commercial and would not compromise Sri Lanka’s security interests.

 

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