Weekly Current Affairs

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors’ Weekly Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a weekly roundup – of news from business, economy, markets, policy, and more. A quick capsule format news summary and update to keep you abreast with all the latest current affairs.

1) International News and Global Economy

18 die, hundreds of thousands without power as arctic blast grips much of US

A frigid winter storm killed at least 18 people as it swept across the country, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and leaving millions of people on edge about the possibility of Christmas Eve blackouts. The storm unleashed its full fury on Buffalo, New York, with hurricane-force winds causing whiteout conditions. Emergency response efforts were paralyzed, and the city’s international airport was shut down. Blinding blizzards, freezing rain, and frigid cold also knocked out power in places from Maine to Seattle, while a major electricity grid operator warned the 65 million people it serves across the eastern U.S. that rolling blackouts might be required. Pennsylvania-based PJM Interconnection said power plants are having difficulty operating in the frigid weather and has asked residents in 13 states to conserve electricity through at least Christmas morning.

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‘1.5 million people without power,’ US battered by unprecedented winter storm during the holiday season

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37 million infections in One Day: COVID-19 consumes China whole | Zero COVID policy ends in shambles

The deadly COVID wave in China continues unabated. The shambolic handling of the virus by Beijing has overwhelmed its entire healthcare system. The world is on high alert following this exponential rise in infections. But here’s the thing with China – there’s no way to find out the real number of infections. It has been accused of notoriously suppressing the number of new infections and deaths recorded daily. As per the last available data, China recorded 5944 cases and zero deaths on Thursday. But reports suggest that this isn’t even a fraction of the actual figure.

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U.S. House approves Ukraine aid including arms after Zelenskiy visit

The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval on Friday to a $45 billion aid package for Ukraine, as President Volodymyr Zelensky warned his citizens that Russia could launch attacks over Christmas and urged them to heed air raid alarms. The aid measure passed by the Democratic-controlled house, part of a $1.66 trillion government funding bill that won Senate approval a day earlier, will now go to U.S. President Joe Biden for signing into law. The new military and economic assistance would come atop some $50 billion in aid to Ukraine this year as well as Western sanctions on Russia that now include a cap on Russian oil prices. Russia responded to the cap on Friday by threatening to cut oil output by 5%-7% early next year by halting sales to countries that support the measure.

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Vladimir Putin hints at ending the Ukraine war soon after Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s US trip

The war in Ukraine should end as quickly as possible, according to Vladimir Putin, who has stated that Russia is aiming for a swift resolution. The Russian President told reporters that his goal is to end the conflict. “The sooner, the better,” he added. This was the first time that Putin called it a “war” instead of calling it “a special military operation”. The remark was made soon after Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s famous trip to America. As part of the US’s largest commitment to Ukraine to date, US President Joe Biden increased arms shipments and pledged to provide Patriot surface-to-air missiles.

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Shells pummel Ukraine’s Kherson; 10 dead, 55 wounded

Russian shells pummeled the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Saturday, killing at least 10 people and injuring 55 in the city that Moscow’s troops were forced to abandon last month. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, just back from his quick trip to Washington, posted photos of the wreckage on his social media accounts. Ukraine has faced a blistering onslaught of Russian artillery fire, missiles, shelling, and drone attacks since early October, much of it targeting the energy infrastructure in a bid to cut electricity and heating services as the freezing winter advances. The shelling has been especially intense in Kherson since Russian forces withdrew and Ukraine’s army reclaimed the city in November.

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Japan’s inflation hits a 41-year high

Japan’s core consumer price inflation edged up to 3.7% in November, the highest it has been since 1981. That was when a Middle East crisis disrupted oil production and caused energy prices to soar. But after decades of the country trying to boost inflation, Japanese consumers are now experiencing the pain of higher prices despite stagnant wages. Until now, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) had kept its ultra-loose monetary policy to boost its economy. But earlier this week, it surprised the market by raising the cap on the interest rate on its 10-year government bonds from 0.25% to 0.5%. As a result, the Japanese currency has spiked against the US dollar, hitting 151 yen to the greenback for the first time since 1990.

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China stages ‘strike drills’ around Taiwan, citing provocation

China’s military said it had conducted “strike drills” in the sea and airspace around Taiwan on Sunday in response to unspecified “provocation” from the democratically-governed island and the United States. Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained of repeated Chinese military activity nearby over the past three years or so as Beijing seeks to pressure Taipei to accept Chinese sovereignty. China staged war games around Taiwan in August following a visit to Taipei by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and on Saturday it condemned the United States for a new defence authorization law that boosts military assistance for Taiwan.

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Prachanda becomes Nepal’s new prime minister

A former Maoist guerrilla who led a decade-long insurgency against Nepal’s Hindu monarchy will take over as prime minister in alliance with the main opposition after last month’s election returned a hung parliament, party officials said on Sunday. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who still goes by his nom de guerre Prachanda – meaning “terrible” or “fierce” – will head the new government for the first half of the five-year term with the support of the opposition Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party and some other smaller groups. Prachanda will step down in 2025, making way for the UML to take over the office, local media reported.

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2) India

India, and Japan to conduct 1st bilateral air combat exercise next month to enhance mutual skills

In a key move, India and Japan will carry out their maiden bilateral air combat exercise in early 2023 seeking to increase the interoperability between the two countries amid tensions with China. The exercise, which will see India’s Su 30 MKI in action, will be carried out from 16 January to 26 January at the Hyakuri Air Base and its surrounding airspace in Omitama, and the Iruma Air Base in Sayama. Sources in the Indian defence establishment said the aim of the combat exercise with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) was to strengthen defence cooperation between the forces, enhance tactical skills and promote mutual understanding.

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India, Japan to conduct first-ever joint air combat exercise in Tokyo

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Centre clears defence purchase plan worth ?84,328 crore

The Central Government on Thursday approved proposals to acquire defence equipment, including infantry combat vehicles, light tanks, and missile systems, worth ?84,328 crores, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted approval for Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for 24 Capital Acquisition Proposals at a meeting on Thursday chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. These include 6 proposals for the Indian Army, 6 for the Indian Air Force, 10 for the Indian Navy, and for the Indian Coast Guard. It is pertinent to mention that 21 proposals, worth ?82,127 crores (97.4%), were approved for procurement from indigenous sources. This initiative of DAC aims towards modernizing the Armed Forces and providing a substantial boost to the defence industry to achieve the goal of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.

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American MQ9B combat drones set to be assembled in India

India has negotiated for local assembly of the world’s most advanced High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) combat and reconnaissance drone, the American MQ9B Sea/Sky Guardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). These are more capable follow-ons of the iconic Predator. “Through assertive negotiations, instant acquisition proposal has been leveraged for assembly of at least 60 % of the quantity of aircraft proposed for procurement in India,” Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar told Businessworld in an exclusive interview.  A Tri-services case for the procurement of 30 MQ9B from the US under the Government-to-Government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route is under process. Initially estimated at $3 Billion, the deal will also involve “collaboration with DRDO for transfer of certain niche technology required for indigenous D&D of HALE RPAS in India,” Admiral Hari Kumar disclosed.

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China stands ready to work with India: Chinese Foreign Minister

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on Sunday, said that China is ready to work with India through steady and sound growth of the relations, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry website. While addressing the reporters on China’s relations with India, Wang said, “China and India have maintained communication through the diplomatic and military-to-military channels, and both countries are committed to upholding stability in the border areas. We stand ready to work with India in the direction toward steady and sound growth of China-India relations.” This statement came in the backdrop of the December 9 faceoff between the Indian and Chinese soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector. After the clash, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement said that India and China held the 17th round of Corps Commander Level Meeting at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Chinese side on December 20 and agreed to maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector.

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India steps up Covid surveillance after China surge

India’s health ministry is on alert following a surge of Covid cases in neighboring China. The government has instructed states to ensure genome sequencing of all positive cases in the country. It has also asked state governments to step up efforts to curb any possible spread during the Christmas and New Year festivities. India witnessed two deadly waves of Covid in 2020 and 2021 but has seen low infection levels this year.

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What is Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill? How it will create Carbon Trade Market in India | Explained

The Energy Conservation Act, of 2001 provided a framework for regulating energy consumption and promoting energy efficiency and energy conservation. The Act set up the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) which recommends regulations and standards for energy consumption in appliances, vehicles, and commercial establishments. These regulations do help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the energy generation requirements but it’s not enough to meet the NDC targets.  With the new amendments, the central government will specify a carbon credit trading scheme. Through this scheme, the government or any authorized agency will issue a carbon credit certificate to entities for reducing a specified amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse emissions. This can be done either by using renewable energy sources or by offsetting their emissions. Parliament last week passed the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, giving sweeping powers to the central government to create a carbon credit trading mechanism.

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India probes ‘misappropriation’ of govt incentives by EV makers

Minister for Heavy Industries Mahendra Nath Pandey informed Parliament on Tuesday that India was investigating the possible misappropriation of incentives given to electric vehicle (EV) makers. The minister said the incentives were given under a ?100 billion ($1.21 billion) program to promote their faster adoption. The investigation was initiated after complaints were made against 12 electric vehicles and parts manufacturers. Mahendra Nath Pandey said all the complaints have been verified by the agencies. Without revealing names, the minister said two electric vehicle makers have been suspended from using the scheme after the examination of the complaints. India wants to grow its electric car market from 1 percent of total car sales, of about 3 million a year, to 30 percent by 2030. To achieve that, the government is reimbursing EV and hybrid vehicle makers for reducing the purchase price of their vehicles under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) program.

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3) Economy

RBI warns on risks to global growth in 2023

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monthly bulletin has warned about the risks to global growth in 2023 as the full impact of interest rate hikes will be visible next year. In its report on the state of the economy, RBI said that with every passing day, the balance of risks gets increasingly tilted towards a darkening global outlook for 2023. It predicted that emerging markets in Asia are likely to become the world’s engine of growth, collectively accounting for close to three-quarters of global growth in 2023 and around three-fifths in 2024. The growth outlook for 2023 is overcast with indications of weaker global growth, fraught with downside risks. “Inflation is likely to moderate in 2023 from current levels, but it would remain well above targets in most economies. In its latest Economic Outlook released on November 22, 2022, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has pegged global growth for 2023 at 90 basis points below the forecast for 2022,” RBI said.

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

BOJ jolts markets in surprise change to yield curve policy

The Bank of Japan shocked markets on Tuesday with a surprising tweak to its bond yield control that allows long-term interest rates to rise more, a move aimed at easing some of the costs of prolonged monetary stimulus. Shares tanked, while the yen and bond yields spiked following the decision, which caught off-guard investors who had expected the BOJ to make no changes to its yield curve control (YCC) until Governor Haruhiko Kuroda steps down in April. In a move explained as seeking to breathe life back into a dormant bond market, the BOJ decided to allow the 10-year bond yield to move 50 basis points on either side of its 0% target, wider than the previous 25 basis point band. But the central bank kept its yield target unchanged and said it will sharply increase bond buying, a sign the move was a fine-tuning of existing ultra-loose monetary policy rather than a withdrawal of stimulus.

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5) Business

Elon Musk says will step down as Twitter CEO after finding a successor

On Monday, Musk held a poll on Twitter asking whether he should step down as the chief executive officer of Twitter Inc. He wrote, “Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll.” In the results of the poll, 57.5 percent of people voted yes. Only 43 percent of followers want Musk as Twitter CEO. Musk is actively looking for a replacement for his post, CNBC reported on Tuesday, citing sources. Musk’s announcement also came at the time when a Bloomberg report showed that the Tesla and SpaceX CEO’s net worth on Tuesday tumbled $7.7 billion. The Twitter CEO has lost $122.6 billion this year, which is more than what he gained in 2021 when his wealth rose to rank among the biggest in history. Musk’s net worth is now $147.7 billion, the lowest in more than two years, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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Airtel acquires 8% stake in tech startup Lemnisk

Bharti Airtel on Tuesday announced that it has acquired an 8 percent stake in technology startup Lemnisk under Airtel’s Start-Up Accelerator Program. Lemnisk, a Bengaluru-based startup, offers real-time marketing automation and a secure customer data Platform (CDP). Airtel and Lemnisk will work together to build the world’s largest CDP platform. This will be done across Airtel’s digital businesses including Ad-tech (Airtel Ads), Digital Entertainment (Wynk Music and Airtel Xstream), and Digital Marketplace (Airtel Thanks App).

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6) Technology

Anti-competitive practices in digital markets: CAIT seeks regulatory body for e-commerce

Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Friday demanded that the government should immediately roll out a robust e-commerce policy and form a regulatory authority for the segment. CAIT reiterated its demands a day after a Parliamentary panel suggested digital market entities desist from anti-steering, deep discounting, self-preferencing, search & ranking referencing, and other practices that will impact competition in the market. To curb anti-competitive practices in digital markets, a Parliamentary panel on Thursday proposed an ex-ante regulation, classification of systemically important digital intermediaries based on their revenue, market capitalization, and the number of users, and a new digital competition law. The suggestions are part of the Standing Committee on Finance’s report on Anti-Competitive Practices by Big Tech Companies tabled in Parliament on Thursday and have come against the backdrop of rising concerns over unfair business practices in digital markets.

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India to finalize crypto policy after global collaboration and risk evaluation: Govt

The policy related to crypto assets and its ecosystem is with the Finance Ministry and any legislation on it would be effective only through international collaboration after proper risk evaluation, the Parliament was told on Friday. “Crypto assets are by definition borderless and require international collaboration to prevent regulatory arbitrage. Therefore, any legislation on the subject can be effective only with significant international collaboration on evaluation of the risks and benefits and evolution of common taxonomy and standards,” Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

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7) Politics

Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute intensifies

Tension prevailed in the border areas of Belagavi on the Maharashtra Karnataka border after members of the Maharastra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) and Nationalist Congress Party staged a protest demanding they be allowed into Belagavi. The Karnataka-Maharashtra border row escalated into violence after vehicles from both states were attacked and damaged in Belgaon and Pune last week. Union Home Minister Amit Shah also chaired a meeting with Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai and Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde over the border issue. Shah suggested that the two states will not make any claim against each other until the Supreme Court spells out the verdict.

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8) Sports

IPL turns decacorn with staggering $10.9 billion valuation

The Indian Premier League (IPL) registered a 75 percent growth in terms of valuation since 2020 as it now stands at $10.9 billion according to D and P Advisory. It is no secret that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) pumps in large sums of money to make its cricket remain at a competitive level. With the massive investment made by the apex board, the returns are staggering too and a bulk portion of the profits come from the top-tier league, the IPL. The introduction of the cash-rich league has contributed profusely to its financial success and now the valuation of the business is deemed as a Decacorn (business with a value of more than $10.0 billion) and the second largest sporting league globally. The addition of two new teams in the competition being brought at a combined humongous value of $1.6 billion coupled with the average price tag of a team seeing a 16-fold jump was instrumental in boosting the valuation. In 2020, the lucrative T20 league was valued at $6.2 billion and now with further investments and profits over the last two years, the business has attained the landmark of $10.0 billion.

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India clinch test series Vs Bangladesh with 3 wicket win

India defeated Bangladesh by three wickets in a thrilling contest in the second test to seal the series 2-0 here at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka. Ravichandran Ashwin and Shreyas Iyer stitched an unbeaten 71-run partnership on the fourth day to help India win the final test of the two-match test series against Bangladesh. Mehidy Hasan Miraz bowled superbly to take a five-wicket haul but was unable to win the test for the hosts. The test series victory was the 16th win in a row in Asia for the men in blue.

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IPL 2023 auction updates: Curran, Green create record; Mayank, Mavi costliest among Indians

England all-rounder Sam Curran became the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) most expensive ever buy in the players’ auction on Friday as the world’s richest cricket league spent big ahead of the 2023 season. Curran returned to the Punjab Kings for a staggering sum of 185 million Indian rupees ($2.23 million) following a fierce bidding war involving the Chennai Super Kings. Australia all-rounder Cameroon Green was the second-highest earner, fetching ?17.5 crore bid from Mumbai Indians. England Test skipper Ben Stokes was the third-highest gainer, fetching ?16.25 crore from CSK who pipped Kolkata Knight Riders in another intense bidding war.

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9) Opinion

Is the ‘bomb cyclone’ in the US an anomaly or the new normal? | DW News

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Cryptocurrencies could cause the next financial crisis, Indian central bank head warns

The next financial crisis will be caused by private cryptocurrencies, if these assets are allowed to grow, the head of India’s central bank warned on Wednesday. “Cryptocurrencies have… huge inherent risks for our macroeconomic and financial stability,” Shaktikanta Das, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, said at an event. He pointed to the recent collapse of FTX as an example. Das said his main concern is that cryptocurrencies don’t have any underlying value, calling them “speculative” and adding that he thinks they should be banned. Das’ comments come as the central bank pushes to introduce its own digital version of the Indian rupee. The Reserve Bank of India began a pilot program for the digital rupee on Dec. 1 for retail use in select cities.

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Auto industry can’t grow with 50% tax on cars, says Maruti chairman R C Bhargava

Pitching for rationalization of taxes for the automobile sector, R C Bhargava, chairman of the country’s largest automaker Maruti Suzuki, has said that the industry can’t grow when the tax rate on cars is 50 percent. Bhargava also noted that despite the Modi government’s emphasis on reforms, manufacturing in India is still a laggard mainly due to the failure of “implementation machinery” in the country. “Throughout our history, all motor vehicles, whether it’s SUVs, MUVs or anything else… have been in the highest tax brackets. The taxes on motor vehicles in India have historically been among the highest in the world. All taxation on the motor industry should be rationalized. It should be treated like it is in the rest of the world,” Bhargava said.

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10) Weekly special

How India can pave the road for effortless yet secured cross-border data flows

With the release of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022, businesses and data-industry experts have been talking about the facilitation of cross-border data flows (CBDF) and how the government will seek to enable them. To take the discussion forward, the Quantum Hub (TQH Consulting) hosted the discussion “Cross Border Data Flows: The Way Ahead for India”, in partnership with YourStory, to understand how the proposed legislation could shape the flow of data to and from India and what it could mean for the industry.

For details visit here.

11) Did you know?

IPL 2023 mini auction: What is a silent tie-breaker bid and how it works?

The tie-breaker rule will come into play when a franchise makes a final bid for a player and is tied with other franchises and can no longer make any further bids due to limited funds. In such a scenario, the officials will declare the player “sold” in the amount of the last bid and invoke the tie-breaker procedure to determine which franchise will sign the player. The BCCI will invite each franchisee who placed the matching bid to submit a silent written bid on a form. The tiebreak bid will indicate the amount that the franchisee is willing to pay in one installment to BCCI (not the player) to secure the player’s services for the IPL 2023 season. This amount is in addition to the amount of the last bid. The tiebreak bid is a separate amount that will not be deducted from the relevant franchisee’s Salary Cap. The BCCI has not set a limit on the amount of the tiebreak bid. BCCI will check the silent bids and the player will be awarded to the franchisee with the highest bid.

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With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs December 2022 -Week 4. We hope you have liked it. Write your feedback in the comments below and let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover.

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