Ecology & Environment

2015 was earth’s warmest year since 1880: NOAA : 2015 was not just the Earth’s hottest year on record, it left a century of high temperature marks in the dust as well. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA announced on January 20, 2016 that 2015 was by far the hottest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880. The NOAA said 2015’s temperature was 58.62°F (14.79°C), passing 2014 by a record margin of 0.29°F. That is 1.62°F above the 20-century average. NASA, which measures differently, said that 2015 was 0.23°F warmer than the record set in 2014. Because of the wide margin over 2014, NASA calculated that 2015 was a record with 94 percent certainty, about double-the certainty it had last year when announcing 2014 as a record. Although 2015 is now the hottest on record, it was the fourth time in 11 years that the Earth broke annual marks for high temperature. Scientists blame a combination of El Nino and increasing man-made global warming.

Union Government decides to shift to BS-VI emission norms directly from BS-IV in 2020 : The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on January 7, 2016 decided to implement the Bharat Stage (BS) VI norms from April 1, 2020 to curb vehicular pollution. The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Mr. Nitin Gadkari. At present, BSTV emission norms are in progress and they would be switched over to BS-VI emission norms by skipping BS-V emission norms altogether. Currently, BS-IV petrol and diesel are being supplied in whole of Northern India covering J&K, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and parts of Rajasthan and western UP. The rest of the country has BS-III grade fuel. From April 1, 2016, all of Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Odisha, Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Andaman & Nicobar will get BS-IV fuel. The rest of the country is scheduled to get supplies of BS-IV from April 1, 2017. In BS-V, vehicles have to be fitted with a diesel particulate filter, which needs to be optimised for Indian road conditions. In stage VI, selective catalytic reduction technology has to be optimised. At each stage, the technology would have to be validated over 6 lakh to 7 lakh kilometres. Further, to meet cleaner BS (Euro)-IV/ V fuel specifications by 2020, oil refineries will need to invest a huge amount of Rs. 80,000 crore in upgrading petrol and diesel quality. This mentioned amount is needed for BS-V norms, ever, though there is technologically not much difference between BS-V and VI. It is in the light of this huge investment required to transit to BS-VI norms, that the automobile industry is resisting the move as it will increase the cost for them.

Endangered Snow Leopard spotted for the first time in North Sikkim WWF-India on January 27, 2016 claimec that they had spotted the endangere: snow leopards for the first time in the North Sikkim Plateau. The elusive snov leopard was found during its pilot projec: in which they installed camera traps k the region to understand the occurrence of snow leopards in the region. The

camera traps helped them to yield results with the first photos of the species at four different locations in North Sikkim. Earlier, the presence of snow leopards in the high altitudes of North Sikkim area were provided only by the yak herders, known as ‘Dokpas’, but these pictures have provided the first tangible evidence of their existence. Besides capturing the snow leopard, the pilot project also helped in capturing other mountain wildlife like rare pallas cat, blue sheep and the Tibetan argali. It has also provided visual documentation on free- ranging dogs and the areas they move in.

To understand the snow leopard’s status and distribution in India, WWF- India has been working in Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim since 2006.

Health & Fitness

Scientists claim breakthrough in cell treatment : British scientists have achieved a remarkable breakthrough in the transformation of human cells that paves the way for a new range of treatments for a variety of medical conditions. They demonstrated creation of a system that predicts how to create any human cell type from another cell type directly, without the need for experimental trial and error. The ability to produce numerous types of human cells will lead directly to tissue therapies of all kinds, to treat conditions from arthritis to macular degeneration, to heart disease, the findings revealed.

Mr. Julian Gough, professor at the University of Bristol said that this represents a significant breakthrough in regenerative medicine and paves the way for life-changing medical advances within a few years from now and the possibility in the longer term of improving the quality of longer lives as well as making them longer. The fuller understanding, at the molecular level of cell production leading on from this, may allow the researchers to grow whole organs from somebody’s own cells, the findings, published in Nature Genetics, showed. Pluripotent stem cells, that can give rise to all of the cell types that make up the body, can be used to treat many different medical conditions and diseases. The researchers tested two new human cell conversions, and succeeded first time for both. The speed with which this was achieved suggests Mogrify, a system that
predicts how to create any human cell type from any other cell type directly, will enable the creation of a great number of human cell types in the lab.

Scientists find new method to deliver Anaesthesia : The US scientists have found a new method to’ deliver anaesthesia using a tiny electric current instead of a needle. The advance could help improve dental procedures and avoid contamination and infection, researchers said. Renata Fonseca Vianna Lopez, from the University of Sao Paulo said that needle-free administration could save costs, improve patient compliance, facilitate application and decrease the risks of intoxication and contamination. Dentists often have to carry out invasive and painful procedures in the mouth and use anaesthetics to minimise their discomfort. However, many patients are extremely afraid of these injections, resulting in them postponing and even cancelling visits to the dentist.

Honours & Awards


Gallantry Awards 2016 : Hon’ble President Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, on January 26, 2016, awarded India’s highest peacetime gallantry award Ashoka Chakra, posthumously to Lance Naik

Mohan Nath Goswami of 9 Para (Special Forces) of the Rashtriya Rifles. The President has approved 365 Gallantry awards and other Defence decorations to Armed Forces personnel and others. It includes one Ashoka Chakra, 4 Kirti Chakras and 11 Shaurya Chakras.

2016 Padma Awards : Union Ministry of Home Affairs on January 25, 2016 announced the winners of the Padma Awards 2016. The list comprises 10 Padma Vibhushan, 19 Padma Bhushan and 83 Padma Shri awardees. 19 of the awardees in the list are women and the list also includes 10 persons in the category of foreigners, NRIs, PIOs and 4 posthumous awardees. Prominent awardees are as follows:

Padma Vibhushan : Ms. Yamini Krishnamurthi (Art); Mr. Rajinikanth (Art); Ms. Girija Devi (Art); Mr. Ramoji

Rao (Literature & Education); Dr. Viswanathan Shanta (Medicine); Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Others); Mr. Jagmohan (Public Affairs); Dr. Vasudev Kalkunte Aatre (S&T); Mr. Avinash Dixit (Foreigner) (Literature & Education); Dhiru Bhai Ambani (Posthumous) (Trade & Industry).

Padma Bhushan: Mr. Anupam Kher (Art); Mr. Udit Narayan Jha (Art); Mr. Ram V. Sutar (Art); Mr. Heisnam Kanhailal (Art); Mr. Vinod Rai (Civil Service); Dr. Yarlagadda Lakshmi Prasad (Literature & Education); Prof. N. S. Ramanuja Tatacharya (Literature & Education); Dr. Barjinder Singh Hamdard (Literature & Education); Prof. D. Nageshwar Reddy (Medicine); Swami Tejomayananda (Others); Mr. Hafeez Contractor (Others); Mr. Ravindra Chandra Bhargava (Public Affairs); Dr. Venkata Rama Rao Alla (S&T); Ms. Saina Nehwal (Sports); Ms. Sania Mirza (Sports); Ms. Indu Jain (Trade & Industry); Swami Dayanand Saraswati (Posthumous) (Others); Mr. Robert Blackwill (Foreigner) (Public Affairs); Mr. Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry (NRI/PIO) (Trade & Industry).

Padma Shri: Ms. Prathibha Prahlad (Art); Mr. Ajay Devgn (Art); Ms. Priyanka Chopra (Art); Mr. Nila Madhab Panda (Art); Mr. Madhur Bhandarkar (Art); Prof. M. Venkatesh Kumar (Art); Ms. Gulabi Sapera (Art); Mr. Bhalchandra Dattatray Mondhe (Art); Mr. Dhirendra Nath Bezbaruah (Literature & Education); Mr. Prahlad Chandra Tasa (Literature & Education); Dr. Ravindra Nagar (Literature & Education); Dr. Santeshivara Bhyrappa (Literature & Education); Prof. Pushpesh Pant (Literature & Education); Mr. Jawaharlal Kaul (Literature & Education); Prof. Ravi Kant (Medicine); Prof. Ram Harsh Singh (Medicine); Dr. Sabya Sachi Sarkar (Medicine); Prof. (Dr.) John Ebnezar (Medicine); Mr. Simon Oraon (Others); Mr. Ravinder Kulnar Sinha (Others); Dr. Satish Kumar (S&T); Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai (S&T); Prof. (Dr.) Ganapati Dadasaheb Yadav (S&T); Ms. Madeleine Herman de Blic (Social Work); Mr. Sudhakar Olwe (Social Work); Dr. T.V. Narayana (Social Work); Ms. Deepika Kumari (Sports); Mr. Sushil Doshi (Sports); Mr. Saurabh Srivastava (Trade & Industry); Mr. Dilip Sanghvi (Trade & Industry).

National Bravery Awards 2015 : Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi on January 24, 2016 presented the National Bravery Awards to 25 children. This award scheme, initiated by the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), gives due recognition to the children who distinguish themselves by performing outstanding deeds of bravery and meritorious service and to inspire other children to emulate their examples.

Jeevan Raksha Padak Awards 2015 :

Hon’ble President Mr. Pranab Mukherjee on January 25, 2016 approved the conferment of Jeevan Raksha Padak Series of Awards 2015 on 50 persons. These series of gallantry awards, instituted in the year 1961, are given to persons for meritorious act of saving the life of a person in cases like drowning in water, accidents, fire incidents, electrocution, natural calamities, rescue operation in mines, etc.

Rakshamantri Award for Excellence 2012-13 and 2013-14 : Defence Minister Mr. Manohar Parrikar on January 27, 2016 presented the Raksha Mantri awards for excellence for the years 2012-13 and 2013-14 in New Delhi. The awards are presented in recognition of exemplary performance amongst Ordnance Factories and the nine Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs).

Prof. M.V. Pylee Award : Dr. Jancy James, the first woman Vice Chancellor of Kerala, was on January 15, 2016 selected for the Prof. M.V. Pylee Award for the Distinguished Academician of India. The award was instituted by Cochin University of Science and Technology in the name of Mr. M.V Pylee, an Indian scholar and educationist and is widely regarded as the father of management education in Kerala.

61st Filmfare Awards : The 61st Filmfare Awards were presented on January 15, 2016 in Mumbai. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s historical romance drama swept up nine awards, including best actor (male), best director, best film, besides awards in technical categories. ‘Piku’, Shoojit Sircar’s adorable feature about the connection between motions and emotions, came a close second with five awards. The list of prominent winners in different categories is as follows :

Best Actor (Male): Ranveer Singh – Bajirao Mastani

Best Actor (Female): Deepika Padukone – Piku

Best Film: Bajirao Mastani

Best Film (Critics): Piku

Best Male Actor (Critics): Amitabh Bachchan – Piku

Best Female Actor (Critics): Kangana Ranaut – Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Best Editing: A. Sreekar Prasad – Talvar

Best Background Score: Anupam

Roy – Piku

Best Story: Vijayendra Prasad – Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Best Screenplay: Juhi Chaturvedi –


Best Dialogue: Himanshu Sharma – Tanu Weds Manu Returns ■*-

Best Debut Actor (Female): Bhoomi Pednekar – Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Best Debut Actor (Male): Sooraj Pancholi – Hero

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Moushumi Chatterjee

3rd National Yash Chopra Memorial Award : Veteran Bollywood actress Rekha on January 25, 2016 was honoured with the third Yash Chopra Memorial Award in Mumbai. Maharashtra Governor Mr. C. Vidyasagar Rao presented the award to the actress in recognition of her talent and contribution to the film industry.


Prince Mahidol Award 2015 : Prince Mahidol Award 2015 was conferred upon Prof. Morton Mower and Sir Michael Marmot for outstanding achievements in medicine and public health worldwide. The award was presented on January 29, 2016 at the Grand Palace in Bangkok by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on behalf of the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej, who could not attend the ceremony due to ill health.

2016 William E. Colby Award : Mr. Nisid Hajari on January 28, 2016 won the 2016 William E. Colby Award for his book, ‘Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition’. Mr. Hajari will be presented with the award and honorarium at Norwich University, the USA in April 2016.

Companion of the Order of Australia : Mr. Chennupati Jagadish and Mr. Jay Chandra, Indian-origin persons, were on January 26, 2016 honoured with the Order of Australia, highest civilian honour of Australia on the occasion of the Australia Day. They were awarded for their contribution in the fields of physics, engineering and medicine.

Amnesty International Human Rights Award 2016 : Indian lawyer and human rights defender Mr. Henri Tiphagne on January 26, 2016 was selected for the 8th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International Germany. The award is in recognition of Mr. Tiphagne’s exceptional commitment to human rights. He will be conferred the award in April 2016 in Berlin, Germany.

2016 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature : Indian author Ms. Anuradha Roy on January 16, 2016 won the prestigious DSC Prize for South Asian Literature for her novel ‘Sleeping on Jupiter’ at the Galle Literary Festival in. Sri Lanka. Ms. Roy was awarded the prize and a unique trophy by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Lorenzo Natali Media Prize 2015 : Delhi-based writer Ms. Ankita Anand on January 14, 2016 won the European Commission’s prestigious Lorenzo Natali Media Prize for 2015 in Asia and the Pacific amateur category. She earned the award for her sensitive portrayal of life for young women facing threat of the
diktat of khap panchayats in Haryana with the title ‘Stirrings beneath the peepul’ published in the journal The Equator lJnel.

Danny Kaye Humanitarian Leadership Award : Mr. David Beckham on January 12, 2016 was presented with the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Leadership Award at the sixth biennial UNICEF Ball in Los Angeles. Sir Elton John and David Furnish presented the award to Beckham for his tireless work to save and improve the lives of children around the world.

73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards : The 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards were announced on January 11, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California, US. The Revenant won the Best Motion Picture—Drama while Best Actor and Best Director Awards were conferred on Leonardo Di Caprio and Alejandro Inarritu, respectively for the same movie. Brie Larson won the Best Actress Award for The Martian movie.

21st’ Critics’ Choice Awards : The 21st Critics’ Choice Awards were conferred on January 17, 2016 in California. These awards honour the finest achievements in drama and television filmmaking. The Best Picture Award was presented to ‘Spotlight’. Leonardo Di Caprio bagged the Best Actor Award, for The Revenant. Best Actress Award was presented to Brie Larson for Room.

Inventions & Discoveries

Scientists discover the largest- known solar system : Astronomers have found the largest known solar system, linking together a star and what was thought to be a free-floating ‘lonely planet’ in orbit some 1 trillion (1 million million) kilometres away from its sun. The planet, known as 2MASS J2126—8140, and its star, called TYC 9486-927-1, were both identified within the past decade, but the massive distance between them meant no one had ever considered that the pair might be related. 2MASS J2126—8140 is a gas giant about 12 to 15 times the mass of Jupiter, located about 100 light-years away from the Earth. 2MASS J2126—8140’s distance from its star is around 7,000 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun and about 140 times the distance between Pluto and the Sun. This makes it the widest orbit of any planet around
a star by a significant margin (about three times the width of the previous widest pair discovered). That huge gap—which equates to 6,900 Astronomical Units (AU)—means ‘it would take the planet about 9,00,000 years to complete a single orbit of TYC 9486—927—1. By estimating the star’s age using its lithium signature, the researchers say TYC 9486—927—1 is somewhere between 10 million and 45 million years old. This would mean that 2MASS J2126-8140 has completed less than 50 orbits around its star in total.


Iran : Iran was recendy in news after European Union and the US lifted oil and financial sanctions which were imposed on the country and released roughly $100 billion of its assets after international inspectors concluded that the country had followed through on promises to dismantle large sections of its nuclear programme. Coinciding with the scrapping of the sanctions, Tehran also announced the release of five Americans as part of a prisoner swap with the United States. Together, the lifting of sanctions and the prisoner deal will considerably reduce the hostility between Tehran and Washington that has shaped the Middle East since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Ranchi, Jharkhand : The largest Indian national flag on the tallest mast was hoisted on January 23, 2016 at the historical Pahari Mandir in Ranchi by Union Defence Minister Mr. Manohar Parrikar in presence of Jharkhand Chief Minister Mr. Raghubar Das and other leaders. The earliest tallest flag pole was in Faridabad. Incidentally, the sturdy 293- foot flagpole has been procured from Wal-Mart’s India unit in Pune. As a mark of respect to those freedom fighters, the national flag is traditionally raised at the temple every Republic Day and Independence Day. While Pahari Mandir is known for its historical temple of Lord Shiva, it was also used by the British to hang 250 freedom fighters. The 60-kg flag has dimensions of 66 feet by 99 feet. The flag pole stands at 293 feet (earlier highest in Faridabad was 250 feet) and is at 493 feet from the ground level.

Reports & Indexes

Transparency International releases Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 :

Transparency International onjanuary 27, 2016 released the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2015. The Index measured the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 168 countries and territories across the world. The CPI 2015 shows

that although corruption is still rife globally, more countries improved their scores in the edition than declined. The index further suggests that people working together can succeed in the battle against corruption. While Denmark, with rank 1, was adjudged as the most corruption-free country among the surveyed countries, India was placed at the 76th place with 38 points. India was at the 85th position among the 175 countries surveyed in the CPI 2014. The index was topped by Denmark with a score of 91. It was followed by Finland and Sweden with a score of 90 and 89, respectively While New Zealand was at the fourth place, Netherlands and Norway shared the fifth place with 87 points. At the bottom of the list were Angola (163), South Sudan (163), Sudan (165), Afghanistan (166) andNorth Korea and Somalia shared the last place at 167 with a score of 8 each. Overall, two- thirds of the 168 countries on the 2015 index scored below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).

According to the report, more than 6 billion people live in countries with a serious corruption problem. The scale of the issue is huge. 68 percent of countries worldwide have a serious corruption problem and half of the G20 are among them. Poor countries lose $1 trillion a year to corruption

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