News in numbers, Jan 21, 2016: 2015 the hottest year, Bacha Khan University massacre…


150 million tonnes

What is it? Plastic waste in the oceans currently, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Why is it important? Use of plastics and plastic packaging have negative effects on the environment (degradation of natural systems, greenhouse gas emissions) and human beings (can cause cancer, birth defects, genetic changes). If this trend continues, the report says there would be 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish in the ocean by 2025 and by 2050, there would be more plastics than fish by weight.

Tell me more: A minimum of 8 million tonnes of plastics, which is equivalent to one garbage truck per minute, is being leaked into the ocean every year.



What is it? Average capacity utilization of power plants in India in November 2015. It has declined from 65.7% from a year ago.

Why is it important? The low usage has prompted government to allow power plants to sell spare capacity via electricity exchanges. This is likely to reduce the burden of fixed charges, which state distribution companies (discoms) have to pay as a component of the tariff. With the new rule, while the fixed charges would still apply, the profits from sale of idle capacity would be shared equally among power producers and buyers.

Tell me more: Generating stations have been running below capacity as the poor financial health of discoms have prevented them from buying power. State electricity boards, which run the discoms, owe nearly Rs 4 lakh crore to the banks.



What is it? The degree by which the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces in 2015 was above the 20th century average, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NOAA).

Why is it important? That makes 2015 the hottest year on record. It surpassed the previous record of 0.16°C set in 2014. 15 of the 16 hottest years, since record-keeping was started in 1880, belong to the 21st century. It’s an indicator that the effects of global warming could be larger than expected, given the rapid pace at which temperatures are soaring. The phenomenon of El Niño (the occasional warming of waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean) was also one of the main factors for the extreme conditions.

Tell me more: The deviations recorded in the global average temperature on land and sea surfaces separately, were the highest ever (since there have been records).



What is it? Prices of the global benchmarks for crude oil. (West Texas Intermediate – is trading at $26.55 a barrel and Brent at $27.87 per barrel)

Why is it important? Both hit their 13-year lows and have fallen 20% since the beginning of this year. This is largely because of a glut in oil production due to oversupply and tepid demand. Growth in consumption of oil by China, which reported weak economic numbers on Wednesday, accounted for 43% of the world’s oil consumption growth. And, since it is making a transition from a manufacturing-led economy to a service-led one, its consumption of oil has slowed down, thus affecting crude oil prices negatively. Iran’s freedom from sanctions has made it re-enter the global oil market, which is likely to push oil prices down further.

Tell me more: In its January report, the International Energy Agency has said that this supply-demand mismatch will continue until the end of 2016, making it the third straight year where supply would exceed demand by 1 million barrels per day.



What is it? Number of people killed in a militant attack by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This comes almost a year after the Pakistani Taliban militants murdered 150 students and teachers at a school in Peshawar. Shows Pakistani authorities have much to do to counter terrorism, despite a 50% decrease in civilian deaths from terrorist violence in 2015 from the previous year. Khalifa Omar Mansoor, the commander of the faction of the Pakistani Taliban which was responsible for the Peshawar attack, said he was the one who ordered the university attack too. However, Tehrik-e-Taliban, which claims to represent Pakistan’s main Taliban groups, issued a statement disassociating itself from the attack and also, condemning it.

Tell me more: Four gunmen, who slipped into the university campus using the winter fog as shield, stormed into classrooms and dormitories and fired bullets at students and teachers. All the four have been killed.


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News in numbers, Dec 3, 2015: Gujarat civic elections, El Niño effect on Tamil Nadu…




What is it? Number of district panchayats (out of 31) in which Congress won in the civic elections in Gujarat.


Why is it important? This is the first time in 20 years that the Congress has made some inroads in the rural areas in Gujarat, traditionally dominated by BJP. The Gujarat civic polls are seen as a precursor to the state elections to be held in December 2017 and a test for Anandiben Patel who took over as chief minister after Narendra Modi moved on to the centre. It’s also a gauge of the effect of the Patidar agitation on the voting results and patterns.


Tell me more: BJP retained its stronghold in all the six municipal corporations and also, winning in 40 out of 56 municipalities. Of the 230 taluka panchayats having 4,778 seats, Congress won 2,509 and BJP got 1,981.


Rs 1,932.9 crore


What is it? Combined net losses registered by Flipkart Internet (runs the consumer-facing portal) and Flipkart India, the wholesale arm of India’s largest e-commerce company in 2014-15.


Why is it important? It has doubled from Rs 715 crore in 2013-14, when they were a single unit. It shows the extent to which venture capitalists money is driving the e-commerce boom. Flipkart has been using the money to expand the business – through investment in infrastructure and acquiring customers (often by heavy discounting).


Tell me more: These two units posted a combined sales of Rs 10,390 crore in 2014-15.


3 degree celsius


What is it? The degree by which the sea surface temperature in the central tropical Pacific was higher than the normal in mid-November. An unusual warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean is termed as the El Niño.


Why is it important? This is the largest positive deviation in recorded history and is one of the main factors responsible for the heavy rains in Tamil Nadu.


Tell me more: Besides natural reasons such as the El Niño, unplanned development of Chennai over the last few years, choking of stormwater drains and other water exits, flood fighting measures ignored while planning drainage projects and illegal construction on erstwhile water bodies are man-made reasons for the current situation in the capital city of Tamil Nadu.




What is it? Nominal GDP rate (growth rates measured at current market prices) of India in the second quarter of 2015-16.


Why is it important? This is the lowest in 10 years. In the second quarter of 2008-09, this was 19.9% and in the fourth quarter of 2009-10, it was recorded to be 23.3%. Nominal GDP growth minus the inflation rate gives the real GDP rate, which was 7.4% in the second quarter of 2015-16. This could explain why the country’s economic growth figures are not reflecting in factors such as corporate profits, Indian exports, car sales and loan growth of banks.


Tell me more: India’s real GDP outpaced China’s in the latest quarter.




What is it? The number of Indians who went missing abroad in the last three years.


Why is it important? A majority of them don’t get traced. Of 755, only 198 were traced since 2013. It’s increasingly becoming a part of external affairs agenda, and seen as how effective a government is, and as a sign of soft power.


Tell me more: Saudi Arabia and US top the list, with 176 and 173 missing Indians. 12 were traced in Saudi Arabia and 34 in the US. The numbers were shared in Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs V K Singh.

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