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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

23 Jan 2019


Secret N Korean Missile Base HQ

  •  One of 20 undeclared ballistic missile operating bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
  • The Sino-ri missile operating base and the Nodong missiles deployed at this location fit into North Korea's presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first-strike capability.
  • The discovery of an undeclared missile headquarters comes three days after US President Donald Trump announced that he looks forward to another summit to discuss denuclearisation with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February.
  • CSIS, which last reported on the 20 undeclared bases in November, said the Sino-ri base has never been declared by North Korea and as a result does not appear to be the subject of denuclearisation negotiations.
  • The report also noted that missile operating bases would presumably be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any denuclearisation deal.
  • Located 212km north of the demilitarised zone, the Sino-ri complex is an 18-square-km base that plays a key role in developing ballistic missiles capable of reaching South Korea, Japan, and even the US territory of Guam in the Western Pacific.

 China may End Birth Control

  •  China may discuss the complete withdrawal of its family planning policy to allow citizens to have as many children as they want during the upcoming session of its Parliament.
  • The forecast by Mu Guangzong, a scholar from the Population Research Institute of Peking University, is similar to experts opinions appearing in state media. The removal of family planning policy-related content from a draft civil code circulated last year also buttresses the possibility. 
  • China replaced its one-child policy with a two-child one in 2016 but the change hasn't had the desired effect of improving the country's birthrate; 2018 saw 2 million fewer births than 2017.
  • The removal of contents related to family planning policy in a draft civil code is the latest official signal from China that it may soon scrap the policy, as the country's demographic structure undergoes fundamental changes. This signals that China may scrap childbirth limits.

Macron, Merkel Ink Pact to Tackle EU Crisis

  •  France and Germany  signed a new friendship treaty to deepen their alliance at a time of crisis for the EU, drawing fire from the far right whom President Emmanuel Macron slapped down for "spreading lies" about the pact.
  • Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inked the accord to deepen ties as Britain prepares to leave the European Union and tensions are rising with populist leaders in the bloc.
  • The treaty pledges stronger political, economic and defence ties and restates the countries' commitment to the EU.
  • The document has come under attack from the far right, which accuses the pair of signing away their countries' sovereignty.
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TCS iON Announces Partnership with ASDC

  •  TCS iON has announced a partnership with the Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC).
  • TCS iON will closely work with the Skill Council to understand the dynamic workforce requirements of the industry and accordingly develop classroom and digital learning modules based on its unique 'Phygital' Learning Methodology.
  • The Digital Assessment Platform will help conduct knowledge and skill assessments and an intelligent algorithm will carefully match the skilled youth to the right jobs.
  • TCS iON will also bring ASDC's training partner ecosystem onto the same platform.

JNPT Enters List of World's Top 30 Ports

  •  India's largest container port, JNPT, has made its way to the top 30 container ports in the world. Quoting a maritime ranking done by Lloyds Report, which is highly rated globally. JNPT notched up five spots to be 28th on the list.
  • The JNPT also launched their mobile application service to facilitate better tracking of consignments and ease the trade process for their EXIM partners.

Government to Cap Profit on Cancer Drugs

  •  In a bid to curb profiteering on crucial medicines, the central government is set to cap trade margins charged by drug retailers and stockists at 25-30% for over 50 non-schedule medicines for cancer and rare diseases, which are currently exempted from price regulation.
  • These include 39 anti-cancer medicines and orphan drugs used in the treatment of rare diseases. 
  • PMO had asked the health ministry to prepare a list of non-schedule anticancer and orphan drugs which are currently outside price control but requires intervention to make them affordable for common man.
  • The list has been submitted and order in this regard will be issued very soon.
  • The government will use Para 19 of the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO) to fix the trade margin under "extraordinary circumstances" in public interest.
  • The move assumes significance as many new cancer medicines, mostly patented drugs, and orphan drugs are exorbitantly priced but remain outside the purview of price regulation.
  • By capping trade margin of such medicines, the government aims to make them affordable while limiting excessive gains made by wholesalers, distributors and chemists.
  • At present the government caps the trade margin on schedule or price controlled medicines at 8% and 16%, respectively for wholesalers and retailers.
  • However, in case of non-schedule medicines, companies are free to negotiate with traders on margins. 
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IIT-M Develops AI Technology to Predict Stone Pelting in J&K

  •  A group of students of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)- Madras, has developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology for predicting crowd behaviour and offered it to the Indian Army for possible use in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with stone pelters who attack security forces.
  • Using action recognition algorithms, crowd density maps and analysis of live images coming in from CCTV cameras, it is possible to predict abnormal events including stone pelting. 
  • Stone pelters have interfered in army operations in Kashmir, seeking to distract their attention to help militant gunmen escape.
  • Four IIT students involved in the crowd analysis project recently travelled to Delhi from Chennai to take part in the Army Technology Seminar-2019, an army initiative that seeks to bring the military, academia and industry on a common platform to find indigenous solutions to the force's requirements.
  • The Army Design Bureau, inaugurated in August 2016, is the force behind the initiative. It has been tasked with promoting research and development and acting as a bridge between the army and the private sector to meet the army's requirements.
  • Other IITs have also come up with solutions to the army's problems. For instance, IIT-Delhi has developed hygiene products that will allow soldiers deployed on the Siachen glacier to clean themselves properly.

Gene-edited Chickens to Resist Flu

  • British scientists are developing gene-edited chickens designed to be totally resistant to flu in a new approach to trying to stop the next deadly human pandemic.
  • The first of the transgenic chicks will be hatched later this year at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
  • The birds' DNA has been altered using a new gene editing technology known as CRISPR. In this case the "edits" are to remove parts of a protein on which the flu virus normally depends, making the chickens totally flu-resistant. The idea is to generate poultry that cannot get flu and would form a buffer between wild birds and humans.
  • In research published in 2016 in the journal Nature, Barclay's team found that a gene present in chickens called ANP32 encodes a protein that all flu viruses depend on to infect a host. Laboratory tests of cells engineered to lack the gene showed they cannot be infected with flu.
  • Roslin Institute scientists gained fame in 1996 as creators of "Dolly the sheep", the world's first cloned animal. They have also created gene-edited pigs to make them resistant to a virus.

AI Can Predict the Movement of a Tennis Ball

  •  Scientists say they have created an algorithm that can predict where a tennis player will hit the next ball by analysing data of thousands of shots played by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in Australian Open.
  • The finding by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia could lead to new ways for professional tennis players to predict their opponent's moves.
  • The algorithm called Semi Supervised Generative Adversarial Network architecture can also be used in virtual reality games, offering people the chance to go head-tohead with world's best players in an accurate but artificial grand slam.
  • The researchers created the algorithm using Hawk-Eye data from the 2012 Australian Tennis Open, provided by Tennis Australia.
  • They narrowed their focus to study just the shot selection of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer because they had the complete data to input into the system on how the players' shot selection changed as the tournament progressed.
  • The researchers analysed over 3,400 shots for Djokovic, nearly 3,500 shots for Nadal and almost 1,900 shots by Federer, adding context for each shot such as whether it was a return, a winner or an error.
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World's Best Test and One Day International (ODI) Player

  •  The International Cricket Council (ICC) named Virat Kohli the world's best Test and One Day International (ODI) player, and captain of the ICC Test and ODI teams of the year.
  • It also named him Cricketer of the Year, a trophy appropriately named after Garfield Sobers. No one has ever made this clean a sweep of the ICC awards.
  • Under Kohli, India ended 2018 as the world's No 1 Test side and the second-best team in ODIs and T20s.
  • With New Zealand, India has three players in the best Test 11 (Kohli, Pant and Jasprit Bumrah). And along with England, it has four in the ICC one-day team ( Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav and Bumrah).
  • Before his back needed reconstruction, Tiger Woods was the best golfer of his generation.
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Google to Verify Political Ads

  •  In a bid to ensure transparency in election advertising, internet search giant Google announced that it will introduce an India-specific political advertising transparency report and searchable political advertisement library ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
  • The report and library will provide comprehensive information on who purchases election ads on Google platforms and how much money is being spent.
  • The report and ads library, which will go live in March 2019, will enable voters to get election-related information.

Mauritius PM to Cooperate with India for Promotion of Hindi

  • Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said Mauritius would cooperate with India on the promotion of Hindi globally, including in the United Nations, at the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD).
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jugnauth held a bilateral meeting on cooperation in trade and investment on the sidelines of the event .
  • The Mauritian premier lauded India's soft power and said the recognition of the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations was a manifestation of it.

Muslim-Hindu couple's child has right to share in father's assets

  •  Coming to the help of a man born out of a wedlock between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman, the Supreme Court said that any child born out of such wedlock is legitimate and entitled to claim a share in his father's property.
  • Supreme Court bench of justices NV Ramana and Mohan M Shantanagoudar held that the marriage of a Muslim man with an idolater or fire-worshipper is neither a valid nor a void marriage, but is merely an irregular marriage. And a child born out of such irregular marriage is entitled to claim a share in his father's property.
  • Delivering the verdict the bench held that the plaintiff was born out of an irregular marriage. He is the legitimate son of Mohammed Ilias, and consequently is entitled to inherit shares claimed in his father's estate.
  • Clearing the air surrounding the rights of a woman in a Muslim–Hindu irregular marriage, the court said that the legal effect of an irregular marriage is that in case of consummation, though the wife is entitled to get dower, she is not entitled to inherit the husband's properties.
  • But the child born in that marriage is legitimate just like in the case of a valid marriage, and is entitled to inherit the father's property.
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Operation Sea Vigil

  •  More than 100 large and smaller warships, patrol boats of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were out combing the western and eastern seaboards in search of "the enemy" — small boats carrying terrorists.
  • The action was part of a two-day coastal defence exercise called "Operation Sea Vigil" that was being carried out to test India's preparedness against any attack through the sea route, like the one carried out by Lashkar-eTaiba terrorists in Mumbai in 2008.
  •  India has recently commissioned Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS).
  • It comprises a network of sonar, electro-optical sensors and radars, and gives complete picture especially subsurface threats.
  • The new system is operational in Mumbai, Kochi, Karwar and Visakhapatnam.

China cuts PLA troops by 50%

  •  China's military, the world's largest force, has cut the size of its land-based army by about 50% and significantly boosted its navy and air force as part of an "unprecedented" strategic shift designed to transform the People's Liberation Army (PLA) into a comprehensive modern force.
  • The 2 million-strong Chinese military has significantly boosted its navy, air force and new strategic units and downsized its land-based army.
  • n the last few years, the PLA has downsized its military by retrenching three lakh troops under the military reforms initiated by President Xi Jinping.
  • But it still remained the world's largest military with two million personnel in the ranks.
  • The four other branches of the PLA — the navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support force, which is responsible for areas such as cyberwarfare — now together make up more than half of the Chinese military, overtaking the army, which has traditionally been the dominant unit of the PLA.
  • The expansion of the navy in the past few years was massive as China now has one aircraft carrier, another undergoing trial and third in making.
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Renault Board to Replace Ghosn as CEO, Chairman

  •  Renault has called a board meeting to replace Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn, in a move that may begin to ease tensions with alliance partner Nissan in the wake of Ghosn's arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct.
  • The board will consider the proposed appointment of outgoing Michelin boss Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman and the promotion of Ghosn's deputy Thierry Bollore to CEO.
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Ramaphosa to Visit India for Republic Day Celebration

  •  South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's visit to India as the state guest of honour at the Republic Day celebrations is expected to give fresh impetus to bilateral relations in areas as diverse as human resource development and defence.
  • Ramaphosa, who will be accompanied by nine ministers and a 50-member business delegation, will be making his first visit to India as head of state. He is the second South African president after late Nelson Mandela to be chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
  • During his two-day visit, Ramaphosa will have a meeting and hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on bilateral, regional and global issues.
  • Ramaphosa, along with Modi, will address the India-South Africa Business Forum on January 25 to boost trade ties.
  • He will deliver the GandhiMandela Freedom Lecture organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs as a part of celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) Dialogue Forum.
  • Ramaphosa's visit is expected to boost bilateral ties that stagnated towards the end of the tenure of former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned last year after coming under a cloud over allegations of corruption linked to the Gupta brothers of Indian origin.
  • In the field of defence, South African major Denel is expected to make fresh forays following its removal from an Indian government blacklist last year.
  • The firm was barred from defence deals in 2005 following allegations that it had paid kickbacks to secure a deal to supply anti-material or bunker buster rifles.
  • Denel is currently eyeing deals to supply anti-material and assault rifles to the Indian military. Ramaphosa will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and President Ram Nath Kovind will host a state banquet for him. He will witness the Republic Day parade and attend the "At Home" hosted by Kovind before departing for South Africa.
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Sitanshu Yashaschandra Presented Saraswati Samman for 2017

  •  Gulzar presented the 27th Saraswati Samman awarded by the KK Birla Foundation for 2017 to Sitanshu Yashaschandra for his poetic work Vakhar, published in 2009.
  • Yashaschandra, a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi award in 1987 and the Padma Shri in 2006, has authored 10 books of plays and three books of criticism. He was born in 1941 in Gujarat's Bhuj and has Ph.Ds in Gujarati and Sanskrit.
  • The award carries a citation, a plaque and a cash purse of ₹15 lakh and is conferred annually to an outstanding literary work by an Indian citizen for work published during the last 10 years in any language included in Schedule 8 of the Constitution.
  • The awardees are selected by a 13-member Chayan Parishad, or selection committee, which includes scholars and writers, under the chairmanship of Subhash C Kashyap, former secretary general of the Lok Sabha secretariat.
  • Past awardees include poet and writer Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Odia poet Ramakanta Rath and Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar, among others.

Roma and The Favourite Receive 10 Nominations for 91st Academy Awards

  •  Alfonso Cuaron's Roma and Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite led with 10 nominations each for the 91st Academy Awards.
  •  The Oscar night is slated for February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles
Black Panther BlacKkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody The Favourite Green Book Roma
A Star Is Born Vice
Christian Bale (Vice) Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born) Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) Willem Dafoe (At Eternity's Gate)
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) Glenn Close (The Wife) Melissa McCarthy
(Can You Ever Forgive Me?) Olivia Colman (The Favourite) Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Amy Adams (Vice) Marina de Tavira (Roma) Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) Emma Stone (The Favourite) Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma) Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)
Adam McKay (Vice) Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born) Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)

India-set short film on periods bags Oscars nomination

  •  A film on menstruation, set in rural India, titled "Period. End of Sentence," has earned a nomination in the Documentary Short Subject category for the 91st Academy Awards.
  • Award-winning filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi has directed the short film, which has been produced by Guneet Monga's Sikhya Entertainment. 
  • The film came to being as a part of The Pad Project, started by students at the Oakwood School in Los Angeles and their teacher, Melissa Berton.
  • The documentary feature is set in Hapur village outside Delhi, where women lead a quiet revolution as they fight against the stigma of menstruation. For generations, these women did not have access to sanitary pads, which lead to health issues and girls dropping out from schools.
  • When a sanitary pad vending machine is installed in the village, the women learn to manufacture and market their own pads, empowering their community. They name their brand "FLY"
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 Health scheme for Assam Rifles pensioners

  •  The government has approved the grant of the ex-servicemen contributory health scheme (ECHS) to pensioners of Assam Rifles and their dependents residing in India and Nepal.
  • The cabinet committee on security cleared the proposal for the Assam Rifles, which is administratively under the home ministry but works closely with the Army and draws most of its officers from there, subject to certain conditions.
  • As per home ministry records, there are over 92,000 pensioners of the Assam Rifles, which include around 27,000 residing in Nepal.
  • The total number of beneficiaries, including dependents, would be over 3 lakh.
View Month Wise


Coursera Launches 'Health Vertical'

  •  Coursera, an online learning platform, announced the launch of their health vertical- a broad portfolio of health content from universities around the world to respond to the growing need for skilled workers in the industry. 
  • The platform will offer over 100 new courses which include a mix of mostly short-term courses that may take about four weeks to complete, and longer Master's programme which can take upto 3 years to complete.
  • The new specializations will roll out through 2019 and will be available for a subscription range pf $39 to $79 per month. The two health-focused master's degree from University of Michigan and Imperial College London are accepting applications in January. 

Pune's Fergusson College granted university status

  •  The famed Fergusson College, one of the oldest in the city, is set 'lose' its 'FC' moniker as it has been granted the muchawaited university status. It will now be Fergusson University.
  •  The state cabinet decided to confer the university status on the institution, making it Maharashtra's first-of-its-kind state-private university. The state will continue to give the salary grants for the teachers.
  • The existing students will get degree certificates from Savitribai Phule Pune University, but the new batch of students — who will take admission in June 2019 — will be a part of Fergusson University.

Top US Institutions to Help Revamp 10 State Universities

  •  Ten top-ranking state universities have been selected to partner with leading US institutions, which will help them set up specialist centres on campus and build an ecosystem of cutting-edge entrepreneurship and innovation in India.
  • The state universities that have been picked for this global association are Osmania University, University of Jammu, Andhra University, Sri Venkateshwara University, Jadavpur University, Alagappa University, Kurukshetra University, Savitribai Phule University, Utkal University and Guru Nanak Dev University.
  • Broad agreements and advanced plans have already been drawn up with University of California, Berkeley; University of Pennsylvania; Purdue University; Northeastern University; Drexel University; Cornell University and University of South Florida for the collaboration. Discussions are also going on with Princeton University, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Under the project, which is being shepherded under the human resources development ministry's Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), ₹100 crore has been set aside for these ten state universities for use till March 2020.
  • Under the project, which is being shepherded under the human resources development ministry's Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), Rs. 100 crore has been set aside for these ten state universities for use till March 2020.
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