Current Events: World
China's Compass to take on America's GPS
USA' GPS, Russia's Glossnoss and EU's Galileo are other such systems
China is preparing to develop its own independent global satellite navigation system by
2015, which would make it the third world power to develop such
a Global Positioning System (GPS). Called Compass, it will
upgrade the Beidou navigation system launched in 2007, and will
have both military as well as civil applications. Currently, the US
developed GPS is the world leader.
The Russians have launched their system, called Glossnoss, and
the European Union have the Galileo Positioning System. The
US's GPS has been widely used for commercial navigation in
vehicles, cell phones and other civilian devices in China. These
could be guided by its own satellites worldwide after Compass becomes operational.
Satellite navigation and positioning systems are important infrastructure facilities in outer
space. They combine the advantages of traditional celestial navigation and positioning with
ground radio navigation and positioning, and are the equivalent of a radio navigation station
installed in outer space.
Slumdog wins at BAFTA
Kate Winslet won best actress for 'The Reader'
British movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' added the British Academy Film Awards in London to
its already impressive kitty, winning seven prizes including best film. The awards won by the
Adapted screenplay–Simon Beaufoy
Cinematography–Anthony Dod Mantle
Sound–Glenn Freemantle, Resul Pookutty, Richard Pryke, Tom Sayers, Ian Tapp
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Kate Winslet won best actress for 'The Reader'. It is the second time Winslet has won a
Bafta, having previously been named best supporting actress for 'Sense and Sensibility' in
1995. 'The Wrestler' star Mickey Rourke took home the best actor trophy.
The late Heath Ledger was named best supporting actor for playing The Joker in Batman
blockbuster 'The Dark Knight'. Penelope Cruz was named best supporting actress for her role
as Maria Elena in 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'.
Documentary Man on Wire scooped best British film, while dark comedy In Bruges won the
original screenplay trophy.
India signs safeguards agreement with IAEA
Will open more civilian reactors to IAEA safeguards
India has signed a key safeguards agreement with the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to allow inspection of additional civilian
reactors, clearing the decks for supply of atomic fuel and technology by
the international community after a 34-year-old nuke trade embargo was
lifted last year. The pact between the government of India and the UN
atomic watchdog for the 'Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear
Facilities' was inked at IAEA headquarters in Vienna by the IAEA Director General
Mohamed ElBaradei and Indian Ambassador Saurabh Kumar.
India currently applies inspection by the IAEA in six civilian nuclear reactors under
safeguards agreements concluded between 1971 and 1994. In future, additional reactors are
expected to be brought under the IAEA safeguards under the newly-signed agreement. The
India-specific safeguards agreement (ISSA) was approved by the 35-member IAEA Board on
August 1 last year.
With this, India can go ahead with its nuclear commerce with the Nuclear Suppliers Group
(NSG). Also, those countries which have signed civil nuclear agreements with India can now
proceed with their ratification process in their respective countries.
The agreement with the IAEA was a pre-condition for the implementation of the Indo-US
civil nuclear deal and allows the 45-member NSG to supply material and technology for
India's ambitious nuclear power programme.
The ISSA will allow operationalisation of inter-governmental agreements (with Russia, US
and France). Now it has to get a cabinet nod and then go for ratification by the Indian
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Atomic Energy Commission member MR Srinivasan said this was a "crucial step" as per the
plan of action under the civil nuclear cooperation with the US. Importing of natural uranium
immediately would be possible for fuel-starved nuclear indigenous reactors once it is ratified,
India has already signed a contract with the French power company AREVA for importing
300 tonnes of yellow cake (natural uranium).
India has also signed an agreement with Kazakhstan on supply of uranium and planning to
ink a pact with Canada for resumption of nuclear commerce.
NASA's Kepler mission to seek other worlds'
Will use the biggest ever camera to probe the presence of earth like planets
NASA's Kepler spacecraft, carrying the biggest camera ever sent into
space, will be launched on 5 March to begin a journey to search for
worlds that could potentially host life.
Scheduled to blast into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
Fla, aboard a Delta II rocket, Kepler will be on the first mission with the
ability to find planets like Earth–rocky planets that orbit sun-like stars in
a warm zone where liquid water, believed to be essential for the formation of life, could be
maintained on the surface.
Kepler is a critical component in NASA's broader efforts to ultimately find and study planets
where Earth-like conditions may be present.
The planetary census Kepler takes will be useful in understanding the frequency of Earth-size
planets in our galaxy and planning future missions that directly detect and characterize such
worlds around nearby stars. The mission will spend three-and-a-half years surveying more
than 100,000 sun-like stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy.
The Kepler telescope is specially designed to detect the periodic dimming of stars that planets
cause as they pass by. Some star systems are oriented in such a way that their planets cross in
front of their stars, as seen from the Earth's point of view. As the planets pass by, they cause
their stars' light to slightly dim, or wink.
The telescope can detect even the faintest of these winks, registering changes in brightness of
only 20 parts per million. To achieve this resolution, Kepler will use the largest camera ever
launched into space, a 95-megapixel array of charged couple devices, known as CCDs.
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By staring at one large patch of sky for the duration of its lifetime, Kepler will be able to
watch planets periodically transit their stars over multiple cycles. This will allow astronomers
to confirm the presence of planets. Ground-based telescopes and NASA's Hubble and Spitzer
space telescopes will perform follow-up studies on the larger planets.
US tycoon charged over $8bn fraud
Sir Allen Stanford was a big sponsor of Cricket in the Carribbean
Texan billionaire and cricket promoter Sir Allen Stanford has been
charged over a $8 billion investment fraud. The Securities and Exchange
Commission said the financier had orchestrated "a fraudulent, multibillion
dollar investment scheme".
The SEC said that the Stanford International Bank–the largest in the
Caribbean–sold approximately $8bn worth of certificates of deposit to
investors, promising "improbable and unsubstantiated high interest
The SEC began investigating Stanford Group last year and intensified their probe following
the arrest of US financier Bernard Madoff in December over an alleged $50bn (£35bn)
investment fraud. In the wake of that scandal, SIB falsely told its investors it had no exposure
to the funds involved in the alleged Madoff fraud.
Sir Allen last year promoted the Stanford cricket series which saw a West Indian all-star team
- the Stanford Superstars - beat an England team for a $20m prize.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suspended sponsorship negotiations with him
following the fraud charges. The ECB has a five-year deal to play games against the Stanford
The Stanford Group lists its worth as more than $40bn. Antigua and Barbuda granted Sir
Allen citizenship about 10 years ago and knighted him in 2006. Forbes magazine lists him as
the world's 605th richest man, with assets of $2.2bn.
Indian voice at Grammy '09
Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt won it in the past
The performances, glitz and glamour attached to the Grammy Awards apart, Indians will
have much to cheer as three of the country's musicians will vie for a gramophone when the
music world's Oscars are awarded in Los Angeles.
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One of India's leading jazz musicians, Louis Banks, has earned two Grammy nominations in
the "Best Contemporary Jazz Album" category for his work in the albums "Miles From
India" and "Floating Point". This category is for albums containing 51 per cent or more
playing time of instrumental tracks.
In the "Best Traditional World Music Album" (vocal or instrumental) category, two Indians
are in the race — Kolkata-based classical musician Debashish Bhattacharya and veteran
Hindustani classical vocalist Lakshmi Shankar. While Bhattacharya has been nominated for
his album "Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey", Lakshmi has been shortlisted
for her album "Dancing In The Light".
Only three Indians have won Grammys till date — Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain and Vishwa
Mohan Bhatt. Shankar has won it on three occasions, the last time being in 2001 for his
album "Full Circle - Carnegie Hall 2000" in the "Best World Music Album" category.
He was the first Indian to win a Grammy in 1967 for his performance "West Meets East"
with violinist Yehudi Menuhin in the "Best Chamber Music Performance" category. He went
on to win another Grammy in 1972 when "The Concert For Bangladesh" featuring him,
George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton and
Klaus Voormann was named "Album Of The Year".
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, creator of Mohan Veena, won the Grammy along with guitar guru Ry
Cooder for "A Meeting by the River" in the "World Music Album" section.
Tabla wizard Zakir Hussain won the "Best World Music Album" Grammy in 1992 for
"Planet Drum", an album co-created and produced by Mickey Hart.
Russia to supply uranium fuel for Indian reactors
Become the first country to sign deal after NSG waiver
India's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has signed a contract with TVEL, a joint
stock company of the Russian Federation, for long-term supply of 2000 tonnes of natural
Uranium pellets for India's Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, to be placed under civil
domain of the IAEA safeguards.
A unit of Rosatom Corporation, Russia's holding company for all nuclear assets, signed a
contract with DAE's Nuclear Power Corporation to deliver 2,000 metric tons of uranium
pellets. India will pay $780 million for the fuel. Russia will become the first supplier of
nuclear fuel to India since a club of uranium producers lifted a three-decade ban on sales to
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The 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, founded after India detonated a nuclear device in
1974, ended its boycott of the country in September 2008. India has since signed nuclear
accords with the US, France and Russia.
Homes and industry suffer peak power shortages of as much as 17 per cent in India. The
country needs uranium to fuel the 28 reactors it plans to build to meet its target of adding
40,000 Mw of nuclear generation by 2020.
India slips in Global Innovation Index rankings
The US, Germany and Sweden occupy the top three positions
India has slipped to the 41st position from the previous year's ranking of 23 in the Global
Innovation Index (GII) 2008-09–a report prepared by INSEAD and Confederation of Indian
Industry (CII). The index has been created by Soumitra Dutta, a professor at French business
school Insead, in association with industry lobby Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The
US has been ranked first, Germany second and Sweden third in the index.
GII is based on 90 parameters such as political stability, control of corruption, education
expenditure, culture to innovate, Internet users (per 100 people), households with TV, FDI
and technological awareness. It has been compiled by collecting data from various agencies,
including the UNESCO, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum, among others.
The report comes at a time when India has launched several efforts to push the cause of
scientific research and innovation. The government is set to table the National Innovation Bill
in Parliament in its next session; the Bill makes it easier for private investment to flow into
research and development. The government also plans to launch a $183 million World Bankfunded
programme to accelerate innovation.
The report puts China at 37, eight places down from last year but four places ahead of India.
Last year, China was ranked 29 and India 23. Also last year, global research and advisory
firm Economist Intelligence Unit ranked India 58 on its list of innovative countries, one rank
Barack Obama caps corporate salaries
Bonuses paid by wall Street firms was the trigger
President Barack Obama has announced a $5,00,000 pay ceiling on executives whose firms
receive government financial rescue funds. Firms that want to pay executives above the
$5,00,000 threshold would have to compensate them with stock that could not be sold or
liquidated until they pay back the government funds, an administration official said.
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