Daily GK Update 14 December 2014 - Current Affairs

1. HSBC: Rupee to be best Asian currency next year
 i) Currency volatility will continue to plague Asian units as both global and local factors will exert pressure in 2015, but the rupee will be comparatively better off in the region, says HSBC. Pegging the rupee at 62.5 to 63 to the US dollar next year, the leading brokerage said the domestic unit should only drift higher on the back of the fast weakening current account strains.“Lower oil prices should mean a persistent improvement in the current account and inflation.
 ii) The RBI is committed to lowering inflation expectations and now has the ability to curb excessive rupee weakness,” HSBC’s head of Asian forex research Paul Mackel said in the report.“These factors could mean the rupee will be one of the more resilient currencies in Asia, although the RBI is wary of spot appreciation, given that its own REER measurement is showing signs of over—valuation and we see the rupee at 62.5 to 63 to the dollar in 2015,” he said.
iii) It has picked the rupee as the safest bet in the new year amid soft growth and rising disinflationary pressures. It expects the rupee to be more resilient, as better terms of trade help bolster external balances via soft export volumes and commodity prices; and domestic growth can be supported by structural reforms and the ability to add leverage.

2. Dineshwar Sharma new IB chief
i) Dineshwar Sharma, a Bihar-born, Kerala-cadre Indian Police Service officer of the 1979 batch, will be the new chief of the Intelligence Bureau.
ii) Mr. Sharma, and Ashok Prasad, another Bihar-born IPS officer currently in the IB, were the front runners for the post.
iii) Mr. Sharma, who succeeds Syed Asif Ibrahim, who retires on December 31, has a wide range of experience — from handling separatism and insurgencies to domestic and regional politics.
iv) He has served in Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Lucknow in various capacities.
The unassuming officer is known among his colleagues as “quiet, bright and savvy.”
v) “He is well-versed in issues related to terrorism and the entire spectrum of security matters,” an IB official said.

3. Climate deal struck after marathon talks; India’s concerns met
 i) Negotiators on Sunday adopted a compromise draft for national pledges to cut
global carbon emissions at marathon UN climate talks in Lima that addressed India’s concerns and paved way for a new ambitious and binding deal to be signed in Paris next year to combat climate change.
ii) “The document is approved,” announced President of the United Nations climate talks meeting Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who is also the Environment Minister of Peru, after hectic negotiations for about two weeks in the Peruvian capital in Lima.
iii) Commenting on the draft, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “All of India’s concerns have been addressed.”
iv) “We have achieved targets and we got what we wanted,” he said after the delegates approved a broad blueprint for talks leading up to a deal in 2015, to take effect in 2020.

4. Finmin looking for persons to head 3 PSU banks
 i) The Finance Ministry is mulling holding fresh interviews for the top jobs at three large public sectors banks by also inviting candidates from private sector as it looks for talent from a wider pool of applicants.
ii) There is a proposal that the interview for executive heads of category A banks could be held once again where candidates from private sector banks can also appear, sources said.
iii) The post of Chairman and Managing Director of Bank of Baroda is vacant since since July 31, while Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank are headless since October this year.
iv) If Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) gives a go ahead on making changes in the appointment rules of the directors in public sector banks, then Finance Ministry will shortly issue advertisement inviting applications from candidates including from the private sector, sources said.
v) However, given the structure it is unlikely that any one from private sector would apply for post as remuneration level is quite low.

5. Swiss gold exports to India near Rs 1-trillion in 2014
 i) Amid concerns of bullion trade being used for routing of black money, Switzerland’s gold exports to India have risen further and fast approaching Rs. 1 trillion mark for the entire 2014.
The Swiss gold exports to India stood at over 2.8 billion Swiss francs (over Rs. 18,000 crore) in October, up from about 2.2 billion Swiss francs in the previous month, shows the latest data from the Swiss Customs Administration.
ii) This has taken the total Swiss gold exports to India since January this year to 14.2 billion Swiss francs (nearly Rs. 93,000 crore), as per the data compiled by Switzerland’s cross-border trade monitoring agency.
iii) This surge in gold shipments has made India the largest destination for the yellow metal exports from Switzerland.
iv) There are concerns that gold trade could be a possible route for laundering of unaccounted wealth, suspected to be stashed by Indians in Swiss banks, although there has been no official word from either countries so far in this regard.
v) The Supreme Court-constituted SIT, however, said in its latest report on black money that a dedicated institutional mechanism needs to be put in place to examine “mismatch between export/import data with corresponding import/export data of other countries on at least a quarterly, if not a monthly basis.”
vi) The SIT said that this suggestion has been made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), while citing the Data Analysis and Research for Trade Transparency System adopted by US, to control over/under invoicing to some extent.

6. China tests hypersonic strike vehicle
i) China has tested a hypersonic strike vehicle, signalling that Beijing is working on a new ultra high speed weapon system that can breach the existing missile shield of the United States.
ii) The Chinese defence ministry has confirmed an earlier assertion of U.S. defence officials that Beijing had tested Wu-14, a hypersonic glide vehicle. It said that the scientific test in western China was “not directed against any specific country or target”. However, it said that the test was part of China’s strategic nuclear programme.

7. Pakistan wins a thriller, makes final
i) The Saturday blockbuster involving India and Pakistan had disappointment in store for the passionate home fans as the host lost 4-3 in an evenly-contested, high-voltage semifinal clash of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament at the Kalinga Stadium here.
ii) Incidentally, India had also lost to the same opponent in the last four of the 2012 edition in Melbourne.
iii) The defeat also meant that the third-place finish in 1982 remains India’s best-ever performance in the Champions Trophy.
iv) Meets Germany World No. 11 Pakistan, which reached the final after 16 years on the strength of Muhammad Arslan Qadir’s brace, will take on Olympic champion and nine-time winner Germany on Sunday.
v) The world No. 3 edged past five-time defending champion Australia 3-2.

8. AR Rahman in the race for Oscar again
i) His work for Million Dollar Arm, The Hundred-Foot Journey and Indian film Kochadaiiyaan are part of the long list released by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on its website.
ii) The final nominations shortlist for the prestigious awards will be announced January 15, 2015, while the presentation ceremony will be held February 22, 2015.
iii) Rahman had earlier made India proud with his twin win at the Academy Awards platform for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire in 2009. He was lauded for his best original score as also the best original song Jai ho from the same film, with lyrics by Gulzar.
iv) In 2011, he had received two nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards for his original score in Boyle’s 127 Hours as well as original song If I Rise for the same movie.

9. Black money probe: SIT wants tax evasion made a ‘criminal offence’
 i) Tax evasion needs to be made a serious ‘criminal offence’ to force foreign countries to reveal names and account details of Indians stashing illicit wealth abroad, the Special Investigation Team on black money has said.
ii) While adding more teeth to India’s pursuit of black money kept abroad, this would also check generation of unaccounted wealth within the country, the SIT chairman M.B. Shah said.
iii) At present, tax evasion is a civil offence in India and it is dealt under the Income Tax Act, 1961 while forex violations are dealt under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
Both the laws are civil in nature and do not have criminal proceedings attached as such.
iv) “We have made a serious pitch for this (making tax evasion a serious criminal offence in India). One reason is that, if tax crimes remain civil in nature, the foreign governments will not cooperate,” Mr. Shah told PTI on Sunday.

10. Biocon to set up unit in Vizag
i) Biopharmaceuticals company, Biocon, is planning to set up a manufacturing facility in Visakahapatnam in the next six months, according to its chairperson and MD Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.
ii) Ms. Shaw met Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu at his residence in Hyderabad on Sunday and informed him of the company’s plans to set up a unit in Visakhapatnam.
iii) During the meeting, she also made a presentation to the Chief Minister on e-healthcare and its advantages. She also briefed him about telemedicine and e-diagnosis where the data of the patient would be uploaded on the cloud. She said the e-diagnosis concept would be beneficial to rural people who do not have access to healthcare services.
iv) She informed the Chief Minister that Biocon was running pilot centres in Odisha and Rajasthan. The company was rolling out 50 centres in Odisha and 100 centres in Rajasthan on a pilot basis.

11. Westwood wins Thailand Golf Championship
 i) Englishman Lee Westwood won his second Thailand Golf Championship with a one-stroke victory over Australian Marcus Fraser and Martin Kaymer of Germany at the Amata Spring Country Club on Sunday.
ii) The 2011 champion was in a three-way lead with Fraser and Kaymer on 8 under with two holes to go but the German bogeyed the 17th while the Australian missed an easy par putt on the 18th, giving Westwood, who was watching in the clubhouse, the victory.
iii) Westwood came back from two straight bogeys at the start of his final round to fire seven birdies for a 67 and an 8-under 280 total.

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