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Current Affairs - 09 August 2018

NATION

Alarm over deadly pest in Karnataka
  • The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has sounded the alarm after the invasive agricultural pest, Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), was discovered in Karnataka this July.
  • A major maize pest in North America, the Fall Armyworm arrived in Africa in 2016. Since then, it has threatened the continent’s maize crop, a staple which feeds 300 million people.
  • The Karnataka finding is the first report of the pest in Asia. The discovery is more worrisome because the pest feeds on around 100 different crops, such as vegetables, rice, and sugarcane.
Ban on intoxicants while rafting, kayaking
  • The Uttarakhand Cabinet on Wednesday approved a revised policy on adventure sports, imposing a total ban on the use of intoxicants by enthusiasts while rafting, kayaking or canoeing in the State.
  • The revised policy, which also fixes a minimum qualification for raft operators, got the Cabinet’s nod at a meeting.
New breastfeeding policy comes into effect in Rajasthan
  • A new breastfeeding policy has come into effect in Rajasthan for encouraging the rural communities to promote exclusive breastfeeding along with its early initiation. 
  • The initiative has been taken as part of the National Nutrition Mission-2022 on conclusion of the World Breastfeeding Week observed between August 1 and 7.
  • The new policy stipulates initiation of breastfeeding within an hour inside the labour room, supporting mothers to ensure the continued exclusive breastfeeding and counselling till two years of the child's age.
  • According to National Family Health Survey-4, stating that the early initiation of breastfeeding in the State was only at 28.4%, while only 58% infants were able to exclusively breastfeed during the first six months of their lives.
Haryana launches portal For grant-­in-­aid transfers to depts
  • Finance Minister Capt. Abhimanyu, who launched the online portal by transferring ₹84.58 crore to the Health Department, said that the initiative was in sync with the vision of ‘Digital India’ to assure transparent financial management.
SC constitutes panel to look into issues plaguing jails in country
  • Justice Madan Lokur and Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal sparred on whether the Supreme Court’s orders on PIL pleas, such as those on better facilities for undertrial prisoners, amounted to unreasonable expenditure on the public exchequer.
  • Justice Lokur, heading a three-judge Bench, said the court was trying to resolve issues plaguing the nation and expects to utilise available funds wisely.
  • Justice Lokur said the orders of this court focussed on issues like prison conditions, child rights, women rights. The government has been able to receive several crore of revenue from the Supreme Court's orders in cases like mining, etc.
  • The court said it could not abandon its duty to protect the citizens’ fundamental right to life and dignity. Justice Lokur said the court and the government were not adversaries.
Editors Guild slams government interference
  • The Editors Guild of India on Wednesday journalism. The Guild’s statement follows the recent exit of senior journalists from two electronic media channels, with at least one of them blaming the government for exerting pressure on proprietors for his exit.
  • Last month, at least two senior journalists of the Hindi television channel ABP News — its managing editor Milind Khandekar and senior anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai — left the channel. While Mr. Khandekar has not spoken about the reasons for his exit, Mr. Bajpai, in a long piece published online, said he was told to drop certain references to the government from his programmes and the pressure had been building up for days.
  • The Editor’s Guild of India has also decried the “cease and desist” notice served by a large corporate group on some newspapers, including The Hindu, in an effort to block the coverage of the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. 
WORLD

Gokhale in U.S. ahead of 2+2 talks
  • Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale arrived in the American capital for talks with senior U.S. officials ahead of the first India-U.S. 2+2 dialogue in Delhi in September.
  •  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis are scheduled to travel to India for the 2+2 dialogue with their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, respectively.
  • The conversations will cover a broad range of issues, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump’s summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July.
  • India has been granted the Strategic Trade Authorisation, or STA-1, status that placed it with a group of 36 countries, mostly NATO allies. Japan and South Korea are the only Asian countries in this group. The status allows for sale of more sensitive technologies to India than was earlier permitted. 
  • Indian Navy also participated in the Rim of Pacific Multinational Naval exercise last week.
  • But trade negotiations between the two countries remain the Achilles Heel for bilateral ties. The mid-July talks between India and the U.S. on outstanding trade disputes did not produce a deal as expected by observers. India had offered to amend its price control regime for medical equipment in return for America retaining India’s Generalised System of Preferences status in trade.
ECONOMY 

CCI approves Walmart, Flipkart deal
  • The Competition Commission approved U.S. retail giant Walmart’s proposed acquisition of Flipkart.
  • In May, Walmart announced the acquisition of 77% stake in Flipkart, the biggest takeover by the U.S. company till date.
  • The transaction values the 11-year-old Indian e-commerce company at $20.8 billion.
  • Deals beyond a certain threshold are required to get clearance from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
  • The regulator keeps a tab on unfair business practices in the market place.
Chinese exports accelerate even as Trump escalates trade war with further tariffs
  • In the latest move by President Donald Trump to put pressure on Beijing to negotiate trade concessions, Washington is set to begin collecting 25% tariffs on another $16 billion in Chinese goods on August 23.
  • In a statement, China’s commerce ministry criticised the U.S. move as being ”unreasonable”, saying it had no choice but to adopt the same measure on an equal amount of American goods.
  • China’s exports for July rose a bigger-than-expected 12.2% year-on-year, showing little tariff impact for now and beating June’s 11.2% rise and analysts’ expectations for 10% growth.
  • Of more direct consequence in the Sino-U.S. trade war, China’s surplus with the U.S. shrank only marginally to $28.09 billion last month from a record $28.97 billion in June. 
Fonterra, Future Group form dairy JV
  • Fonterra, a leading global dairy exporter based in New Zealand, has partnered with Kishore Biyani-promoted Future Group to unveil a range of consumer and food service dairy products to help meet the growing demand for high-quality dairy nutrition in India.
  • Fonterra’s joint venture (JV) with Future Consumer Ltd., which will be known as Fonterra Future Dairy Partners, will enable Fonterra to establish a presence in India.
  • The JV plans to unveil the first range of consumer products by mid-2019, using both locally sourced milk and dairy products from New Zealand.
  • Future Consumer is part of the Future Group which plans to unveil 1,100 stores this year.
  • Future Group has presence in 26 Indian states and has a nationwide cold-chain and ambient distribution network, the company said.

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