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Current General Knowledge: July 2009

DMO: Debt Management Office.
GST: Goods and Services Tax.
NUIAI: National Unique Identification Authority of India.

Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, 2008
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has become the first business leader in the world to receive the coveted award.

Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation, 2008
The pro-democracy Myanmar leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been felicitated with Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation. The award was bestowed by the South African-based Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. Burmese PM-in-exile Thien Win received the award on her behalf. The award was being given on July 20 because it representeds the 20th anniversary of Suu Kyi’s house arrest by the military junta in her country.

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, 2009
M.C. Marykom. Inspired by Dingko Singh’s gold medal feat in the 1998 Bangkok Asiad, the Manipuri girl took up boxing a decade back and hasn’t looked back. She took up the sport to support her family, but soon she emerged as one of the most feared boxers in the ring. Her best came in the world championships, where she has won four gold.

Vijender Singh. The boxer from Kaluwas in Haryana struggled to make ends meet in his early days. His talent got recognition after he started doing well in the junior nationals and subsequently was sent abroad for training and competition programmes. Kept the entire nation glued to the TV set during his bouts in the Beijing Olympics. Unlucky to have missed the final, the tall and handsome boxer did enough to create a record by becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic boxing medal.

Sushil Kumar. The Delhi wrestler has battled the odds since childhood, but kept on working hard to excel. Things began to change after he bagged the world cadet gold in 1998 and he followed it up with another gold in the Asian junior championship. Though he was successful at the highest level, the Beijing medal made him a household name.

Arjuna Award, 2009
Mangal Singh Champia (Archery), Sinimole Paulose (Athletics), Saina Nehwal (Badminton), L. Sarita Devi (Boxing), Tania Sachdev (Chess), Gautam Gambhir (Cricket), Ignace Tirkey (Hockey), Surinder Kaur (Hockey), Pankaj Navanath Shirsat (Kabaddi), Satish Joshi (Rowing), Ronjan Sodhi (Shooting), Poulomi Ghatak (Table Tennis), Yogeshwar Dutt (Wrestling), Girdhari Lal Yadav (Yachting), Parul Parmar (Badminton, disabled).

Dhyan Chand Award, 2009
Ishar S Deol (Athletics), Satbir Singh Dahya (Wrestling).

Dronacharya Award, 2009
P. Gopichand (Badminton), Jaydev Bisht (Boxing), S. Baldev Singh (Hockey), Satpal (Wrestling).

Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar, 2009
Community Sports Identification and Nurturing of Budding Young Talent: TATA Steel Ltd.

Financial Support for Sports Excellence, 2009: TATA Steel Ltd.

Employment of Sportspersons and sports welfare measures, 2009: Railways Sports Promotion Board.

Future of Cricket—The Rise of Twenty20, The
Written by John Buchanan, the former coach of the Australian national team and the Knight Riders IPL squad the book takes swipes at Sunil Gavaskar, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Kevin Pietersen, Shoaib Akhtar, Vijay Mallya and Mark Ramprakash.  The book deals with IPL and T20. Yet, attention remained focused on its criticism of some of cricket’s biggest stars.

Nuclear Submarine INS Arihant is launched
Mrs Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, launched the first indigenously built nuclear submarine INS Arihant and sent it out to water on July 26, 2009. The 110-metre-long submarine is expected to generate a “wave” of strategic signals as India entered the exclusive club of nations that have the capability to build nuclear submarines.

The 5,500 tonne vessel, with a range of 750 km, will become operational within two years after sea trials. With this, India has become the only country in the Indian Ocean region to have nuclear submarine.

Two more indigenous nuclear submarines are under construction and are slated to be inducted by 2015. The three will cost about Rs 30,000 crore. Another nuclear submarine, the Akula class ‘Nerpa’, is to arrive on 10-year lease from Russia in December 2009. So far, only USA, Russia, France, UK and China have nuclear-submarine capabilities. India operated a nuclear submarine on lease from Russia between 1988 and 1991.

It took more than 25 years for it to come into existence since the submarine was planned. In between, India faced sanctions and was even denied technology but it carried on. The actual project commenced in January 1998 when the first steel was cut at a secret ceremony. The project was code-named the “advanced technology vessel” and the government had been denying its existence altogether.

The submarine has a diameter of 11 meters and displacement of 6,000 tonnes. It has the latest sensors, anti-ship missiles besides strategic (nuclear-tipped) missiles. INS Arihant can fire missiles from under the sea and can lurk in ocean depths of half a km and more. It is powered by an 85-MW capacity nuclear reactor and can acquire surface speeds of 22 to 28 kmph and submerged speed up to 44 kmph. It will be carrying a crew of 95 and will be armed with torpedoes and missiles, including 12 ballistic missiles.

The K-15 nuclear missile, Shaurya, that can fire some 700 km, has already been tested by the DRDO using a canister to mimic an under-sea launch. With this, India will complete its nuclear triad. India already has land-based and air-borne nuclear capabilities.

Unlike diesel-electric powered submarines that have to surface every 48 hours or so to “breathe”, a nuclear- powered submarine can remain submerged for longer periods, enabling it to hide. The vessel is critical for India's nuclear doctrine that calls for high survivability against surprise attacks and for rapid punitive response. A nuclear submarine can be counter in case an enemy launched a crippling strike on land-based or air-based nuclear weapons.

Hangal, Gangubai
Legendary Hindustani vocalist, she died on July 21, 2009. She was 97. Gangubai, who enthralled millions with her deep understanding of Hindustani music and her powerful androgynous voice, lived a full life. Her career spanned over seven decades. She loved life and remained humble despite her unparalleled achievements. Her early life was tough. She battled hunger and caste and gender prejudices. Though this battle continued for most part of her life, she found a reason to always smile.

Born in 1913 in Dharwar (Karnataka) in a family of Gangamats (boatmen), Gangubai, like her mother Amlabai and grandmother Kamlabai, was naturally drawn to singing since childhood. Women belonging to the caste were supposed to entertain upper caste people by singing.

Gangubai’s late husband Gururao Kaulgi and her father Nadgir were both Brahmins. But, neither Gangubai nor her mother assumed their husbands’ name or lived with them. In adherence to the matrilineal tradition, her children also call themselves “Hangal”.

Gangubai, who belonged to the Kirana Gharana, first sang in front of a large audience in the Congress session held in Belgaum in 1924.

In her long life as a classical singer, Gangubai went on to bag prestigious awards, including the Padma Bhushan, Tansen Award and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate by the Karnataka University (KU).

Naidu, Leela
Hindi film actress, who mesmerised audiences with her classic beauty in films like "Anuradha" and "Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke” died in Mumbai after prolonged illness. She was 69. The actress, who came into the spotlight after winning the Miss India title in 1955, was later featured in the Vogue magazine along with Maharani Gayatri Devi in the list of 'World's 10 Most Beautiful Women'. Born to renowned scientist Ramaiah Naidu and an Irish mother, Leela began her career with Hrishikesh Mukherjee's National Award winning film "Anuradha" in 1960 opposite Balraj Sahni.

The heads of G-8 met in L'Aquila, a mountainous town of Italy, situated 120 km from Rome in July 2009. Almost 40 countries were present there. Many other international organisations were invited as well. G-5 that consists of India, China, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa had a buzz around them. G-5 plus Egypt were invited for a special session.

Sharm El-Sheikh
This Red Sea resort city of Egypt hosted the Non-Aligned (NAM) summit in July 2009.

Staples Centre
Located in Los Angeles, the public memorial of pop star Michael Jackson was held here on July 7, 2009. A staggering 1.6 million people applied to win free tickets for the event, which were allocated via an online lottery. Over 1,400 police officers were deployed to provide security. In the US alone, at least 16 major TV networks covered the service live, and 88 cinemas screened it, making it one of the biggest televised events of the year after the January 20, 2009 inauguration of President Obama.

A mindboggling two lakh star gazers, including researchers, astronomers and scientists from across the globe descended on July 22, 2009, on this sleepy Bihar village which was catapulted to world fame because of NASA declaring it as the ‘best spot’ to view the total solar eclipse.
The duration of the eclipse at Taregna, 35 km from Patna, was three minutes 48 seconds.

Taregna village, it is said, was the observatory of legendary astronomer and mathematician Aryabhata. The word ‘Taregna’ perhaps comes from the Sanskrit ‘‘taraka-gnana’’ (calculating stars).

Aryabhata was born in Pataliputra (then Kusumpura), in 476 AD (according to some experts on April 13) and at age 23 wrote his monumental work ‘Aryabhatiyam’. At the same age, Isaac Newton proposed his theory of gravitation in 1665 AD. Almost 1,000 years before Copernicus (1473-1543 AD) and Galileo (1564-1642), Aryabhata discovered that the earth is round and rotates on its axis. He proposed a theory of his own to explain various planetary motions and accurately predicted the duration of an eclipse and total obscuration of the sun and the moon.

Gail to lay India’s longest gas pipeline
Gail India, country’s largest gas transportation company, will invest Rs 7,600 crore in building India’s longest gas pipeline from Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh to Haldia in West Bengal.  Besides the 2,050-km pipeline, the company will invest an additional Rs 400 crore to lay two spur pipelines that will link Baurani and Chappra in Bihar with Gail’s pipeline networks.

Gail currently operates 7,100 km of gas pipelines and plans to double its the network by March 2012 with an investment of around Rs 28,000 crore.

The Jagdishpur-Haldia project will be executed in phases. First 1,410 km of pipeline will be laid from Haldia to Phulpur, along with spur-lines to various consumers like Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation at Durgapur and Barauni, Fertiliser Corporation of India at Sindri and Barauni, power plant at Barh and Bettiah and in the cities of Patna, Chapra, Siwan, Gopalganj and Bettiah.

In the next phase, spur-lines and feeder lines will be laid for a length of 450 km to the cities of Kolkata, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Varanasi and Allahabad and Sagardighi. In the last phase, gas pipeline infrastructure will connect SAIL’s plants at Durgapur and Bokaro and petrochemical plant at Barauni with Gail’s network.

Superior face recognition software
Florida Atlantic University engineers in Boca Raton are working on a superior new face recognition technique that can see through disguises. Lin Huang, from the University's department of engineering, says that every face has special features that define people, yet faces can also be very similar. This is what makes computerised face recognition for security and other applications an interesting, but difficult task.

Face recognition software has been in development for many years, but the main technical limitation is that, although the systems are accurate, they require a lot of computer power. Early face recognition systems simply marked major facial features—eyes, nose mouth—on a photograph, and computed the distances from these features to a common reference point.

In the new study, researchers have applied a one-dimensional filter to the two-dimensional data from conventional analyses, such as the Gabor method (which is based on neural networks). This allows them to reduce significantly the amount of computer power required without compromising accuracy.

The team found that their technique was not only faster and worked with low resolution images, such as those produced by standard CCTV cameras, but it also solved the variation problems caused by different light levels and shadows, viewing direction, pose, and facial expressions. It could even see through certain types of disguises, such as facial hair and glasses.

The findings have been published in International Journal of Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications.

A hole as big as Earth in Jupiter
In a startling discovery, an amateur Australian astronomer has spotted a giant hole, the size of the Earth, on planet Jupiter—a finding corroborated by US space agency NASA. Anthony Wesley said he spotted the dark “scar” which had suddenly appeared on Jupiter through a homemade telescope, from the yard of his rural home near Canberra.

GM fish set to tickle Indian palates
Scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, have developed a genetically modified (GM) fish that are superior in yield and quality. The popular fish variety “rohu” will reach the Indian plates once the mandatory clearances come. After obtaining the approvals the CCMB will go for a tie up with Andhra Pradesh fisheries department for mass production of GM rohu.

This GM fish can multiply manifold within a short time. Not only that, they will be much bigger than the natural variety without any change in nutritional value and taste. Consequently, fish breeders will not need to wait for a long time for the fish to reach their optimum size and number, thereby reducing feed costs and other expenses of fish hatcheries.

Allaying apprehensions over the safety of GM rohu, scientists said: “There is no introduction of foreign gene. The gene inserted into the fish’s genome is part of its own genome.” Rohu is the most farmed and among the most widely consumed fish in India.

Google’s new system to take on Microsoft
Google is working on a new operating system for inexpensive computers in a daring attempt to wrest away Microsoft's long-running control over people's computing experience. The new operating system will be based on the company's nine month-old web browser, Chrome. Google intends to rely on help from the community of open-source programmers to develop the Chrome operating system, which is expected to begin running computers in the second half of 2010.

Google is designing the operating system primarily for "netbooks," a lower-cost, less powerful breed of laptop computers that is becoming increasingly popular among budget-conscious consumers primarily interested in surfing the web.

The operating system represents Google's boldest challenge yet to its biggest nemesis Microsoft. A high-stakes duel between the two technology powerhouses has been steadily escalating in recent years as Google's dominance of the Internet's lucrative search market has given it the means to threaten Microsoft in ways that few other companies can.

The Chrome operating system will run in a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel computer coding that has been the foundation for the open-source software movement for nearly two decades. Google has already introduced an operating system for mobile devices, called Android, which vies against various other systems, including ones made by Microsoft and Apple.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)
GST is a comprehensive tax levy on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services at a national level. Through a tax credit mechanism, this tax is collected on value-added goods and services at each stage of sale or purchase in the supply chain. The system allows the set-off of GST paid on the procurement of goods and services against the GST which is payable on the supply of goods or services. However, the end consumer bears this tax as he is the last person in the supply chain.

The Goods and Service Tax (GST) will integrate State economies and boost overall growth. GST will create a single, unified Indian market to make the economy stronger. The implementation of GST will lead to the abolition of other taxes such as octroi, Central Sales Tax, State-level sales tax, entry tax, stamp duty, telecom licence fees, turnover tax, tax on consumption or sale of electricity, taxes on transportation of goods and services, etc., thus avoiding multiple layers of taxation that currently exist in India.

It is estimated that India will gain $15 billion a year by implementing the Goods and Services Tax as it would promote exports, raise employment and boost growth. It will divide the tax burden equitably between manufacturing and services.

In the GST system, both Central and State taxes will be collected at the point of sale. Both components (the Central and State GST) will be charged on the manufacturing cost. This will benefit individuals as prices are likely to come down. Lower prices will lead to more consumption, thereby helping companies.

Almost 140 countries have already implemented the GST. Most of the countries have a unified GST system. Brazil and Canada follow a dual system where GST is levied by both the Union and the State governments. France was the first country to introduce GST system in 1954.

CGST will include central excise duty, service tax, and additional duties of customs at the central level; and value-added tax, central sales tax, entertainment tax, luxury tax, octroi, lottery taxes, electricity duty, state surcharges related to supply of goods and services and purchase tax at the State level.

India to be third largest Internet user base by 2013
The number of Internet users worldwide is expected to touch 2.2 billion by 2013 and India is projected to have the third largest online population during the same time, technology and market research firm Forrester Research said in a report. Globally, there were about 1.5 billion Internet users in the year 2008.

Titled ‘Global Online Population Forecast, 2008 to 2013’, the report noted that emerging markets like India would see a growth of 10 to 20 per cent by 2013. In the next four years, about 43 per cent of the Internet users globally are anticipated to reside in Asia and China would account for about half of that population. The percentage of Internet users in Asia would increase to 43 per cent in 2013 from 38 per cent in 2008.

The percentage of the global online population located in North America will drop from 17 per cent to 13 per cent between 2008 and 2013, while Europe’s share will shrink from 26 per cent to 22 per cent.


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