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World in Focus (February – March 2017)

World in Focus (February - March 2017)

 NATIONAL

Feb 16: One of the world’s biggest booksellers, Barnes & Noble, introduced “The Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction” to honour Nobel Prize winner Dr Abdus Salam of Pakistan.

The Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction

  1. The Salam Award seeks to encourage aspiring speculative fiction writers of Pakistani origin.
  2. The annual short fiction award will be judged by a rotating jury of three speculative fiction professionals.
  3. While three finalists will receive an agent and editorial reviews, the winner will also take home an award of US$500.
  4. This year’s judges will be Jeff Vandermeer, Mahvesh Murad and Usman Malik.

Feb 16: The No. 14 Air Superiority Squadron was re-equipped with the indigenously manufactured JF-17 Thunder aircraft.

Feb 16: A suicide attacker set off explosives at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, leaving at least 76 devotees dead.

Feb 16: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) banned protest gatherings and rallies anywhere in Islamabad except at the Democracy Park and Speech Corner (DPSC) at Parade Ground.

Feb 17: Pakistan was ranked 141st out of 186 economies on the annual Index of Economic Freedom 2017 that measures the degree of economic freedom in the countries of the world.

Feb 17: Nine Pakistani students – Umar Saif, Amna Zamir, Usman Qamar, Ahmed Daniyal Siddiqui, Nousheen Zakaria, Muhammad Sibtain Jiwani, Abia Akram, Muhammad Kamran Siddiqui and Moneeza Burney – were selected, from more than a global total of 1200 applicants, in the categories of entrepreneurial, professional achievement, and social impact for Professional Achievement Awards

Feb 17: Pakistan and China signed a revised priority list of energy projects to be completed in the next two years under the CPEC programme.

Feb 17: PTI disqualification reference against CM Shahbaz Sharif was dismissed by Punjab Assembly Speaker.

Feb 17: The Punjab government included names of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Qazi Kashif in the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

Feb 19: The Punjab Apex Committee decided that the provincial government would seek help from the Rangers.

Feb 19: Pakistan qualified for the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup to be played in England from 24 June to 23 July.

Feb 20: Brigadier Imran Mushtaq became in charge of the Joint Directorate of Intelligence (JID) — a key department that will work in close liaison with ISI and Nacta.

Feb 20: Senate Standing Committee on Finance proposed to raise the minimum annual maintenance allowance for former rulers of states that acceded to Pakistan to Rs. 500,000.

Feb 20: Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Ibrahim Zia was appointed Chief Justice of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Supreme Court w.e.f. February 25.

About AJK Chief Justice

  1. The CJ is appointed by the AJK president on the advice of the AJK Council headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  2. The AJK apex court comprises 3 judges, including the CJ.
  3. Unlike Pakistan, judges in the AJK Supreme Court can also be directly appointed apart from elevation from high court.
  4. All three sitting judges, including the incumbent CJ, are direct appointees.
  5. Justice Zia was initially inducted into the apex court as an ad hoc judge on April 2, 2010, an office he held until Dec 15, 2011, a day before his appointment as a permanent judge.
  6. Prior to that, he had served as AJK’s Advocate General from December 2009 to April 2010.
  7. He had also served as Chief Prosecutor Ehtesab Bureau.
  8. Justice Zia will continue as AJK CJ till 2020.

Feb 20: Ex-Senator and former President of Lahore High Court Bar Association, Muhammad Kazim Khan died.

World in Focus (February - March 2017)

Feb 20: The KP government signed an MOU with the Canadian government for an investment in solar power projects up to 1000 megawatts for providing cheaper and uninterrupted power supply to 17 industrial zones in the province.

Feb 20: Pakistan shipped the first consignment of vegetables to Dubai via sea route, under the Agricultural Market Development (AMD) project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Feb 20: World’s third largest smart-phone maker, Xiaomi, launched in Pakistan.

About Xiaomi

  1. Xiaomi is a privately owned Chinese electronics company.
  2. It is the world’s 4th largest smartphone maker.
  3. The company’s founder and CEO is Lei Jun, China’s 23rd richest person.
  4. In October 2014, Xiaomi was the third largest smartphone maker in the world, following Samsung and Apple Inc.
  5. Xiaomi is the Chinese word for “millet”.

Founded: 6 April 2010         Founder: Lei Jun
Headquarters: Beijing, China

Feb 20: Three antique cast-iron shells of a 1,000-year-old catapult (manjanik) were discovered from the debris of a wall of Derawar Fort in Cholistan located 70km from Bahawalpur.

Feb 21: Hasnat Qureshi was appointed the chairman of Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira).

Feb 21: Five senators participated in a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), for the first time.

Feb 22: Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri announced the restoration of the status of Gwadar as the winter capital of the province.

Former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani had, in 2011, declared Gwadar as the winter capital of Balochistan.

Feb 22: The KP government launched its Sehat Sahulat Card.

Feb 23: Veteran TV actor Farooq Zameer died. He was 76.

About Farooq Zameer

  1.  A businessman by profession, Farooq Zameer started his artistic career from PTV in 60s and shot to fame for his roles in various television serials and plays, including Guriya, Shamail and Suragh-i-Zindagi.
  2. He also worked in Khandan-i-Shughlia, another hit drama serial. He also acted in Tum Bhi Kaho and Kaghaz Ki Nao, two hit serials aired by PTV and ATV.
  3. He was conferred Presidential Pride of Performance Award in 2001.

Feb 23: The 5th meeting of the High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) of Pakistan and Turkey was held at the Turkey’s Prime Minister House. It was co-chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Turkish counterpart.

Feb 24: Nigar Ahmed, known for her immense contribution to women’s rights, passed away. She was 72.

About Nigar Ahmed

  1. Nigar Ahmed had specialised in development economics from Cambridge.
  2. She was informally known in activist circles as ‘Nigar Apa’.
  3. She came to the forefront with her activism, especially during the Zia period.
  4. She helped form the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) in Lahore in 1982.
  5. She is also known for founding the Aurat Foundation in Lahore in 1985.
  6. She was the recipient of many national awards for her work.

Feb 24: The Pride of Punjab Award, which was turned down by Seraiki poet Riffat Abbas, was conferred on Shakir Shujabadi.

Feb 24: The 5th edition of Lahore Literary Festival kicked off.

Feb 26: Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Member Mohammad Ali Sheikh died. He was 48.

Feb 26: Veteran MQM loyalist M. Ahmed Jalil, the husband of prominent MQM-Pakistan leader Nasreen Jalil, died.

Feb 26: President of the Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) Shamim Ahmad Hashmi died.

Feb 28: The meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers of ECO was held in Islamabad to approve the Islamabad Deceleration to be adopted in the 13th ECO Summit.

Feb 27: Former Pakistan U-23 mid-fielder Mohammad Tauseef Ahmed died at 24.

Feb 28: Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) suspended basic membership of its Chairman Maulana Tahir Ashrafi and appointed Maulana Zahid Mehmood Qasmi its new chairman.

Feb 28: Google featured a doodle commemorating the life of Abdul Sattar Edhi on his 89th birthday.

Mar 01: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif conferred the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Awards of Excellence on eight prominent figures from different countries. From Pakistan, Jamal Shah won the Award.

March 01: The 13th Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Summit was held in Islamabad.

Highlights

  1. The summit was attended by all 10 ECO members, although Afghanistan was represented at a lower level because of tensions with Pakistan over terrorism sanctuaries.
  2. Summit adopted Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025.
  3. The declaration calls for development of transport and communication infrastructure, facilitation of trade and investment, promotion of connectivity with other regions, effective use of energy resources and undertaking measures for making the ECO effective and efficient.
  4. Vision 2025 underscores promotion of cooperation among member states.

Mar 01: Amjad Hussain B. Sial, a senior Pakistani diplomat, assumed the office of Secretary General of the Saarc, replacing Nepal’s Arjun Bahadur Thapa.

Points to Note

  1. Mr Sial is the 13th secretary general of the regional bloc which was established in 1985.
  2. This is the second time that a Pakistani diplomat has been appointed to the post.
  3. Earlier in the mid-90s Naeem U. Hasan from Pakistan served as the sixth Secretary General of Saarc.

Mar 01: Sri Lanka lifted the 13th West Asia Baseball Cup defeating Pakistan in the final.

Mar 02: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed PMLN-UK President Zubair Gull as PM’s Coordinator/Commissioner for Overseas Pakistanis.

World in Focus (February - March 2017)

Mar 02: The government approved a set of steps to be taken for proposed merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and a 10-year reform package to bring the tribal region on a par with other developing areas of the country.

Mar 03: The parliamentary committee on judges’ appointment approved a recommendation of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan for the elevation of SHC Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah as a judge of the Supreme Court.

Mar 04: The federal government appointed Shoaib Mir Chief Secretary Balochistan.

Mar 04: Eminent golfer Mohammad Munir clinched the 36th Chief of Air Staff Open Golf Championship.

Mar 05: Pakistan emerged as 20th most powerful country in the world in a new global ranking of “Best Countries”.

Mar 05: The final of the second edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) was played between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.

Mar 05: Peshawar Zalmi defeated Quetta Gladiators to clinch the Pakistan Super League title.

Man of the Match: Kamran Akmal
Man of the Tournament: Kamran Akmal

Mar 06: Transparency International, Berlin’s Global Corruption Barometer survey for Asia Pacific countries for 2016 showed that around 70% of the Pakistanis who came into contact with either the police or the courts had to pay bribe. Overall bribery rate was 40%.

Mar 07: The World Bank, in partnership with the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), launched a series of new solar maps for Pakistan in support of the efforts to increase the deployment of renewable energy in Pakistan.

Mar 08: India deployed US-manufactured drones along the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir region against Pakistan in a development strategic and defence experts warn will destabilise the region.

Mar 08: The Ministry of Education released the Pakistan Education Statistics 2015-16 showing that 49 percent of girls in the country are out of school as compared to 40 percent of boys. Collectively, 44 per cent of the children in the country are not attending schools.

Mar 08: Administrative control of Punjab Emergency Services (Rescue 1122) was given to the Services and General Administration Department.

Mar 08: Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the government to block blasphemous content from social media.

Mar 08: The Senate passed the Commission of Inquiry Bill with four amendments.

Mar 08: The government awarded Rs180 billion contracts to a Chinese firm for carrying out main civil works in the first stage of the Dasu hydropower project.

Mar 08: The Sindh Assembly adopted a government bill to establish a food authority in the province.

Mar 08: Maheen Khan, one of the pioneers of Pakistan fashion, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sindh government, an award whose last recipient was Bilquis Edhi.

Mar 09: The NA unanimously adopted the Hindu Marriage Bill, 2017.

Highlights

  1. With the Bill, the process of legislation for a personal law for the country’s Hindu community has now come to an end.
  2. The bill was approved by the Senate in February this year with an amendment.
  3. It was first approved by the National Assembly in September last year.
  4. It has now been approved with the inclusion of Shadi Parath — a document similar to Nikahnama.
  5. The Shadi Parath, titled as ‘Schedule A’ in the bill, will require to be signed by a pundit and will be registered with the relevant government department.

Mar 09: The Haj quota for Pakistan has been increased to 179,210 applications for 2017.

Mar 10: A monument in remembrance of ‘unsung heroes of democracy’ was established in the lawns of Parliament House.

Mar 10: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar launched first-ever registered premium prize bond of Rs. 40,000.

Mar 10: Former national table tennis champion Tayyaba Gill died. She was 48.

Mar 12: Pak Army inducted Chinese-built air defence system the Low to Medium Altitude Air Defence System (LOMADS) — LY-80 — into its air defence system.

Mar 12: Fancied colt Big Bravo won the Pakistan Derby victory in a brilliant style.

Mar 12: British Pakistani educationist and former Mayor of Rugby Councillor Dr James Shera was selected for conferment of the honour of “Freedom of the Borough of Rugby”.

Mar 13: The Supreme Court ordered the Sindh government to appoint “a person of integrity and competence” as chairman of the Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC), in place of the incumbent Mohammad Saleem Bhounr.

The apex court also directed the provincial government to immediately hold fresh written tests for the combined competitive examinations 2013 (CCE 2013) following the appointment of a new chairman and members of the commission.

Mar 13: President Mamnoon Hussain approved the appointment of Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh as Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court (SHC).

Mar 14: Karachi and Lahore were listed among the worst cities to live in the world.

Mar 15: Pakistan’s largest-ever population census kicked off in 63 districts of the country after a delay of 19 years.

World in Focus (February - March 2017)

INTERNATIONAL

Feb 17: Robert Michel, who championed civility in Washington as House Republican leader, died.

Feb 17: The 53rd Munich Security Conference started in Muncih, Germany.

About MSC

  1. The Munich Security Conference was established in 1963.
  2. It was originally called “Internationale Wehrkunde-Begegnung,” which roughly translates as “international meeting for defence experts.”
  3. The founding fathers were a German publisher, Ewald von Kleist – a member of the resistance movement against Adolf Hitler during the Nazi period – and physicist Edward Teller.
  4. The Hungarian-born physicist of Jewish descent, Edward Teller, was one of the inventors of America’s hydrogen bomb.
  5. The Conference changed to a very similar name in German, before going global and calling itself the “Munich Security Conference.”
  6. It’s a unique global platform for int’l elite to discuss security policy.
  7. In its latest ranking, the University of Pennsylvania in the US, has, for the fourth time in a row, named it the “Best Think Tank Conference” in the world.

Feb 17: Scientists found that New Zealand sits atop a previously unknown continent — mostly submerged beneath the South Pacific — that should be recognised with the name Zealandia.

Feb 18: Omar Abdel-Rahman, the cleric known as “the blind sheikh” convicted in a New York court of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing died. He was 78.

Feb 18: Scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have made world’s strongest material graphene commercially more viable by using soybean.

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a carbon material that is one-atom thick. It is the world’s strongest and lightest known material derived from carbon. It has high conductivity and excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties. It is used in many applications ranging from miniaturized electronics to biomedical devices, water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalized healthcare and medicine, etc. It is also used to improve battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.
Feb 19: SpaceX blasted off its Falcon 9 rocket carrying the unmanned Dragon cargo ship, packed with food and supplies for the six astronauts living at the International Space Station. The mission was the first to take off from NASA’s historic launchpad 39A, the origin of the pioneering US spaceflights that took astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the space shuttle missions that ran from 1981 to 2011.
Feb 19: Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated David Goffin to win a first career title at the World Tennis Tournament.

Feb 19: Kaci Kullmann Five, a former Norwegian political leader who was the chairwoman of the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize, died at 65.

Feb 19: Sri Lanka defeated Australia and clinched the Twenty20 International series.

Feb 20: Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney, writers for the films Moonlight and Arrival, respectively, won top Writers Guild of America awards.

Feb 20: Worldwide arms trade has risen to its highest level since the Cold War in the last five years, driven by a demand from the Middle East and Asia, a study by SIPRI revealed. India was the world’s largest arms importer during 2012-16.

Feb 20: Rania Nashar was named chief executive of Samba Financial Group, becoming the first female CEO of a listed Saudi commercial bank.

Feb 20: Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly in New York.

Feb 21: Kenneth J. Arrow, the Nobel-winning economist and mathematician, died at 95. To date, he is the youngest person ever to have received Nobel Prize for Economics, at 51.

Feb 21: Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as first vice-president.

Feb 22: Cressida Dick was appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, becoming the first woman to lead the force in its 188-year history.

Feb 22: A South African court ruled that the government’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court without parliament’s approval was unconstitutional.

Feb 22: The four-day International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), one of the largest arms fairs in the Middle East, concluded in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Feb 22: The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the first multilateral deal concluded in the 21 year history of the World Trade Organization, entered into force.

About TFA

  1. The TFA is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that aims to simplify customs regulations for the cross-border movement of goods.
  2. It was outcome of WTO’s 9th Bali (Indonesia) ministerial package of 2013.
  3. The agreement includes provisions for:

Lowering import tariffs and agricultural subsidies: It will make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets.

Abolish hard import quotas: Developed countries would abolish hard import quotas on agricultural products from the developing world and instead would only be allowed to charge tariffs on amount of agricultural imports exceeding specific limits.

Reduction in red tape at international borders: It aims to reduce red-tapism to facilitate trade by reforming customs bureaucracies and formalities.

Feb 23: Rihanna, world famous R&B superstar, was named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year for her charity work.

Feb 23: The first Strategic Dialogue between India and China was held in Beijing.

Feb 23: Spain’s National Court, which deals with corruption and financial crime cases, handed a jail sentence of four years and six months to former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato for misusing funds when he was the boss of two Spanish banks.

Feb 24: China for the first time became Germany’s most important trading partner in 2016, overtaking the US which fell back to third place behind France.

Feb 26: Iran launched naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean amidst tensions with the United States after US President Donald Trump put Tehran “on notice”.

Feb 26: The 87th Academy Awards ceremony, commonly known as Oscars 2017, was held in Los Angeles.

Feb 28: World Trade Organisation Chief Roberto Azevedo secured a second term.

Mar 01: Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank, reported that Islam will overtake Christianity as world’s most popular religion shortly after 2050.

Mar 01: All Syrian sides that fought in the battle for Aleppo committed war crimes and the deal to evacuate civilians following the rebel defeat was a “crime of forced displacement’, a UN probe said.

Mar 02: Egypt’s top appeals court acquitted ex-president Hosni Mubarak of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 revolt.

Mar 02: Indian Navy successfully test-fired an anti-ship missile for the first time from an indigenously built INS Kalvari submarine.

Mar 02: Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry, concluded in Barcelona, Spain.

Mar 03: German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a new agreement with Tunisia on tackling illegal migration.

Mar 04: The World Bank approved a $100-million loan to help Nepal accelerate its medium-term reform programme for the financial sector and to reduce the vulnerability of the banking sector and increase its transparency.

Mar 04: The pro-British Democratic Unionist Party narrowly remained the Northern Ireland’s largest party after edging Irish nationalists Sinn Fein by a single seat in snap elections.

Mar 05: Harvard University awarded the 2017 Artist of the Year Award to famous Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis.

Mar 05: Bahrain’s parliament approved a constitutional change allowing military courts to try civilians.

Mar 06: North Korea launched four ballistic missiles with three landing provocatively close to America’s ally Japan.

The missiles travelled around 1,000 kilometres and reached an altitude of 260 kilometres.

World in Focus (February - March 2017)

Mar 06: Scientists have claimed that they have discovered oldest fossils on Earth in rocks from Quebec, Canada. Carbon dating techniques suggest that these rocks are at least 3.8 billion years old and might even be 4.3 billion years old.

Mar 06: The world’s longest serving warship INS Viraat was decommissioned by the Indian Navy.

Mar 06: US President Donald Trump signed a new executive order, banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, but excluded Iraq from his previous list of seven banned nations.

Mar 06: Christopher Ross, the UN envoy for Western Sahara, resigned after leading efforts for eight years to settle the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front.

Mar 07: Hungary’s parliament approved the systematic detention of all asylum-seekers in container camps.

Mar 07: The 3-day, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Leaders’ Summit concluded in Jakarta, Indonesia.

About Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

  1. The IORA is an international organisation consisting of coastal states that border the Indian Ocean.
  2. Established in 1997, the IOR is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of government, academia and business for promoting cooperation and closer interaction among them.
  3. It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
  4. IORA comprises 21 member states and 7 dialogue partners. Besides, Indian Ocean Research Group and the Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation have observer status.

Mar 06: Europe launched a fourth satellite for its Copernicus Earth-monitoring project to track changes in forest cover and air pollution.

Mar 08: The joint military exercise Al-Nagah-II 2017 between India and Oman began in Himachal Pradesh.

Mar 08: The Commonwealth of Nations launched “Peace in the Home” programme to help member states tackle domestic violence which still remains a “stubborn stain” on communities, disproportionately impacting women.

Key Features of the Programme

  1. It will build a coalition of governments, businesses, human rights institutions, civil society and individual citizens to put in choral efforts to address domestic violence.
  2. It will include toolkits to help governments across Commonwealth involve multiple agencies such as schools, hospitals and doctors as well as government and law enforcement agencies to work together effectively.
  3. It will help countries highlight and share details of initiatives that had been particularly successful at dealing with domestic violence.
  4. It will also be a mentoring programme for women and an initiative to address the issue of violence around elections and politics.

About Commonwealth of Nations

  1. It is an international intergovernmental organisation of 52 countries that were mostly former territories of the British Empire and dependencies.
  2. It was established by the London Declaration in 1949.
  3. Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth.
  4. She is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth, known as Commonwealth realms.

Mar 08: A Colorado-based Christian charity, Compassion International, which is one of India’s biggest donors, closed its operations in India after 48 years.

Mar 08: A new initiative was adopted in Dubai to ensure that minor court cases are resolved within one day. The move is part of Dubai Plan 2021’s objectives of improving the efficiency of the judicial system and fast-tracking the litigation process in Dubai.

Mar 09: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps successfully test-fired a naval missile, called the Hormuz 2. The missile could destroy moving targets at sea at ranges up to 300 km (180 miles).

Mar 09: Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, won a second term as European Council President for a second term, lasting two and a half years ­– till 2019.

Mar 09: South Africa revoked its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, citing in a letter submitted to the United Nations a recent court ruling that declared the withdrawal “unconstitutional and invalid.”

Mar 10: South Korea’s Constitutional Court removed President Park Geun-hye from office over a graft scandal involving the country’s conglomerates. Park is South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

Mar 10: England routed West Indies to clinch a 3-0 sweep of their One-day International series.

Mar 11: Great Barrier Reef in Australia’s eastern coast is experiencing an unprecedented second straight year of mass coral bleaching. This is for the first time Great Barrier Reef has bleached two years in sequence. Earlier in March and April 2016, 2,300-km reef had its most severe bleaching on record due to warming sea temperatures.

About the Great Barrier Reef

  1. It is the biggest coral reef system in the world composed of over 2,900 individual reefs.
  2. It was recorded as a World Heritage site in 1981.
  3. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, north east of Australia and covers an area of approximately 348,000 sq km.
  4. It is credited as the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms and is visible from the outer space.

Mar 13: India test-fired the land-attack version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with an extended range increased from 290 km to 450 km.

About BrahMos

  1. BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has been developed by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture of India and Russia.
  2. It name has been derived from the names of two rivers, India’s Brahmaputra River and Russia’s Moskva River.

Features: It has top supersonic speed of Mach 2.  It’s a two-stage missile, the first one being solid and the second one ramjet liquid propellant. It is capable of carrying a warhead of 300 kgs, both conventional and nuclear.

Range: Its earlier strike range was 290 km. But after India’s induction into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016, missile’s range has been increased beyond 300km in the same configuration.

Note: Another version of the missile with a strike range of 800 km is under development.

Deployment: It has already been inducted into the Indian Army and Navy, while the Air Force version is in the final stage of trials. Navy’s first version was inducted in 2005 on INS Rajput.

Note: The Indian Army is already equipped with three regiments of Block III version of BrahMos missiles. Now, it is fully operational with two regiments of the Army.

Mar 13: Banking giant HSBC announced the appointment of Mark Tucker as its new chairman.

Mar 13: Senior BJP leader Manohar Parrikar quit as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handpicked defence minister to take over as the Chief Minister of Goa.

Mar 13: Hungarian lawmakers reelected ruling Fidesz party veteran Janos Ader as president for another five years.

Mar 14: The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that employers are entitled to ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols, a decision Muslims said was a direct attack on women wearing hijab at work.

Mar 14: British Prime Minister Theresa May won the right to launch divorce proceedings with the European Union and begin two years of talks that will shape the future of Britain and Europe.

Mar 15: The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) accused Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people.

Mar 15: The Standing Committee on Creation of Asian Parliament agreed to establish a house for the continent.

Mar 15: Scientists discovered polka dot tree frog (Hypsiboas punctatus), the world’s first fluorescent frog in Argentina.

About the Frog

  1. The newly-discovered amphibian sports a muted palette of greens, reds and yellows under normal light, but in the dark gives off a bright blue and green glow.
  2. The polka dot tree frog uses fluorescent molecules totally unlike those found in other animals.
  3. Scientists expect to find red fluorescence in these frogs from a pigment called biliverdin.
  4. In some insects, proteins bound to biliverdin emit a faint red fluorescence. However, in the polka dot tree frog, biliverdin turned out to be a red herring.
  5. In ultraviolet flashlight (or black light), polka dot tree frogs gave off an intense greenish-blue glow instead of a faint red.
  6. Three molecules hyloin-L1, hyloin-L2 and hyloin-G1 were responsible for green fluorescence.
  7. These molecules contain a ring structure and a chain of hydrocarbons, and are unique among the known fluorescent molecules in animals.

What is Fluorescence?

Fluorescence is the ability to absorb light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths. It is rare in terrestrial animals. Many ocean creatures exhibit fluorescence, including corals, fish, sharks and one species of sea turtle. But, until now, it was unheard of in amphibians. On land, fluorescence was previously known in only parrots and some species of scorpions. But it is still unclear why animals have this ability. Scientists believe that fluorescence may be shown by animals for the purpose communication, camouflage and mate attraction.

World in Focus (February - March 2017)

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