International Current Affairs
International Current Affairs Jan 2nd Week 2018
Category : International Current Affairs
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1. Worlds Largest Ice Festival Held in China.

These photos show an 197-acre, rainbow coloured city that features iconic landmarks from all over the world - all made from ice.

It is the 34th annual Ice Festival in Harbin, north-east China and features sculptures of Moscow`s Red Square and Bangkok`s Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Last year, eighteen million revellers came to explore the stunning park, despite temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees. 

Some of this year`s work centres around Chinese President Xi Jinping`s major foreign policy is also captured in art at this festival.

The One Belt One Road policy plans to link Asia and Europe with a network of railways and ports. 

The park opened on January 5 and will run through until late February, with crowds expected to peak around Chinese New Year between February 15 and 23. 

Last year, the ice fesitval bought in 28.7 billion yuan (£3.62 billion) in tourism revenue for Harbin.

 Ice sculpture artist Han Zhenkun designed his work based on the historic Silk Road.

`Back then, through the Silk Road, exquisite art works from China like potteries were transported by camels and horses to the Western world,` Han said. 

 He added `Art has no borders.

`It`s an abstract language. We communicate with our works in this international competition. It means a lot.` 


2. Intels Mobileye will have 2 million cars on roads building HD maps this year.

Intel and Mobileye are moving forward with the latter’s REM platform, an HD mapping solution that uses data collected by REM-capable vehicles on roads to build maps that can be used as a key ingredient in ADAS and autonomous driving systems.

Mobileye, and Intel post-acquisition, have been setting the stage for REM mapping for a while now. It’s set now to turn on the styes and begin collecting the data, which will be gathered by software build into its EyeQ4 system-on-a-chip. EyeQ4 entered volume production last year, and is now in place in two million cars on the road, including vehicles from BMW, VW, Nissan and more.

Putting the fleet to use will allow it to collect data from cars on actual roads, using onboard sensors to build HD maps that can inform autonomous driving systems and ADAS software of actual conditions in near-real time, with updates provided by the cloud to reflect current road status. That could include stuff like weather data, incident reports and construction information.

It’s a crucial part of the autonomous driving experience, but more importantly, it’s information that has potential for use in the nearer term in advanced safety systems and the semi-autonomous and accident mitigation tech that cars can ship with today, without undue cost or additional research breakthroughs required.


3. South Korea and GCCI Sign MoU for Business Cooperation.

An official delegation from South Korea and the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for co-operation between industries in Gujarat and the East Asian country, with a focus on automobile, defence and textiles sectors.

The South Korean delegation was led by the country`s Consul General in Mumbai, Kim Soungeun.

The main objective of the MoU is to help Gujarat-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to explore opportunities through joint ventures with South Korean firms, especially in areas of automobile, defence and textiles, said GCCI president Shailesh Patwari.

"We import lubricants and auto parts for industry. Now that Gujarat is becoming an auto hub, JVs (joint ventures) with Korean companies will help our SMEs. Our intention is also to support our SMEs in manufacture of defence equipment with the help of Korean companies," Patwari said.

Korean companies can offer technological help to the textile industry in Gujarat to reduce costs and compete with Bangladesh and China and improve ready-made apparel trade, he said.


4. Reliance Jio planning to launch its own cryptocurrency.

After disrupting the telecom sector with its free offers and hyper-competitive tariffs, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd plans to create its own cyptocurrency, JioCoin.

With Mukesh Ambani’s elder son Akash Ambani leading the JioCoin project, Reliance Jio plans to build a 50-member team of young professionals to work on blockchain technology, which can also be used to develop applications such as smart contracts and supply chain management logistics.

“The company plans to hire 50 young professionals with average age of 25 years for Akash Ambani to lead. There are multiple applications of blockchain (for the company). The team would work on various blockchain products,” a person familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.

Blockchain is a digital ledger for storing data including, but not limited to, financial transactions. In simple terms, blockchain decentralizes information without it being copied. The information is held on blockchain through a shared database which can be accessed on a real-time basis. This database is not stored on physical servers but on the cloud, which makes it easy to store unlimited data.

The most popular application of the technology has undoubtedly been cryptocurrency, and Reliance Jio also plans to create its own version called JioCoin.

“One (application) is cryptocurrency. We can deploy smart contracts. It can be used in supply chain management logistics. Loyalty points could altogether be based on JioCoin,” the person cited above said, adding that all of this was “in proposal stage”.

An email sent to Reliance Jio seeking a response remained unanswered till press time.

“Reliance Jio also aspires to get into Internet of Things (IoT). Blockchain technology would come in handy there,” the person said.

IoT is a network of devices such as smartphones, wearable devices, home appliances and vehicles, connected to the internet, which enables these objects to connect and exchange data. Experts have also pointed out that blockchain could potentially address security risks to IoT as it provides a shield against data tampering by labelling each block of data.

Significantly, the Indian government has cautioned against cryptocurrencies, stating that virtual currencies were not backed by assets and posed risks such as money laundering. On 2 January, finance minister Arun Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha that the government was still studying the issue.

“A committee under the chairmanship of secretary, department of economic affairs, is deliberating over all issues related to cryptocurrencies to propose specific actions to be taken,” Jaitley said, adding that the government does not consider cryptocurrencies to be legal tender.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have come under the scanner of governments across the world as their soaring prices attracted speculators and unsophisticated retail investors in droves. On Thursday, Bitcoin dropped as much as 12% to $12,801, its lowest since Christmas day, as South Korea’s justice minister reiterated his proposal to ban local cryptocurrency exchanges, Bloomberg reported.


5. India Tops Domestic Air Traffic Demand at 16.4% in November: IATA.

India`s domestic air passenger traffic grew by 16.4 percent in November last year, topping the growth chart worldwide, global aviation body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday.

The IATA, comprising major air carriers, said India continued to witness double-digit growth for the 39th consecutive month.

Globally, the total revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) increased 8 percent compared to November 2016 — the fastest growth rate in five months.

The available seat kilometeres (ASKs) or capacity grew by 6.3 percent.

The ASK for India was at 10.4 percent, second only to China where capacity grew by 12.9 percent, according to the IATA`s montly data.

"The airline industry is in a good place entering 2018. November`s strong demand gives the industry momentum. The number of unique city-pair connections now tops 20,000. Passengers not only have more travel choices than ever, the cost of travel in real terms has never been cheaper," IATA`s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac said.

He said that 2018 could be the fourth year in a row where the industry`s return on invested capital will exceed the cost of capital.

Challenges, however, remained, including security threats, infrastructure constraints as well as growing fees and charges, Juniac said.


6. UN Environment and WHO Agreed to Major Collaboration on Environmental Health Risks.

UN Environment and the World Health Organization have agreed a new, wide-ranging collaboration to accelerate action to curb environmental health risks that cause an estimated 12.6 million deaths a year.

Today in Nairobi, Mr. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, signed an agreement to step up joint actions to combat air pollution, climate change and antimicrobial resistance, as well as improve coordination on waste and chemicals management, water quality, and food and nutrition issues. The collaboration also includes joint management of the BreatheLife advocacy campaign to reduce air pollution for multiple climate, environment and health benefits.

Although the two agencies cooperate in a range of areas, this represents the most significant formal agreement on joint action across the spectrum of environment and health issues in over 15 years.

“There is an urgent need for our two agencies to work more closely together to address the critical threats to environmental sustainability and climate – which are the foundations for life on this planet.  This new agreement recognizes that sober reality,” said UN Environment’s Solheim.

He added: “Most of these deaths occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where environmental pollution takes its biggest health toll.”

The new collaboration creates a more systematic framework for joint research, development of tools and guidance, capacity building, monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals, global and regional partnerships, and support to regional health and environment fora.

The two agencies will develop a joint work programme and hold an annual high-level meeting to evaluate progress and make recommendations for continued collaboration.

The WHO-UN Environment collaboration follows a Ministerial Declaration on Health, Environment and Climate Change calling for the creation of a global “Health, Environment and Climate Change” Coalition, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2016.

Just last month, under the overarching topic “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet”, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), which convenes environment ministers worldwide, adopted a resolution on Environment and Health, called for expanded partnerships with relevant UN agencies and partners, and for an implementation plan to tackle pollution.


7. Jet Airways bans smart luggage on flights from 15th January.

Jet Airways on Thursday joined major international airlines and issued rules outlining safety-related procedures on the carriage of ‘smart’ luggage by passengers from January 15.

Over the past few days, major carriers such as United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Qantas, British Airways have issued issued similar regulations. Smart bags or luggage come fitted with USB charging stations, GPS tracking and built-in hot spots.

In a statement, a Jet Airways spokesperson said in accordance with the regulations issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) towards ensuring flight safety, guests carrying Smart Bags (also called Smart Luggage), on board Jet Airways flights must follow the following safety-related procedures which will be effective January 15.

Lithium batteries powering smart bags have been known to overheat and explode. “If the batteries are fixed into the bag, airlines worry flight attendants will not be able to reach them in the overhead compartments before they do serious damage to the aircraft,” a Jet Airways official said.

Passengers will be required to uninstall the batteries of their smart luggage prior to check-in. Post uninstallation, the batteries can only be carried as spare batteries in cabin baggage.

Passengers carrying smart bags as cabin baggage will have to uninstall the batteries and can reinstall them only upon disembarkation at the destination. Smart luggage with non-removable batteries will not be permitted on board either as part of cabin baggage or as check-in baggage, on all Jet Airways flights, the statement said.

Jet Airways said that the removal of batteries from the smart baggage and to declare them to the airline’s check-in staff would be the sole responsibility of the passenger and damage or malfunction of the said baggage in any form due to un-installation and/or re-installation of the batteries would not be the airlines responsibility.

A Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) official said that smart bags were in a nascent stage in India. “It is more of a U.S. trend, where smart bags come fitted with lithium ion batteries and motors allowing it to be used as a personal transportation device, either as a stand-up scooter, or sit on vehicle. These devices do not even meet the criteria of a mobility device. Since Jet Airways has a sizeable U.S. operations, the new regulations were being effected,” the official said.