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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

06 Feb 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Taliban Demands New Afghan Constitution

  •  The Taliban demanded a new Constitution for Afghanistan and promised an inclusive Islamic system to govern the war-torn country at a rare gathering with senior Afghan politicians in Russia that excluded the Kabul government.
  • The manifesto, outlined in Moscow, comes a week after the Taliban held unprecedented six-day talks with U.S. negotiators in Doha about ending the 17-year war.
  • The Moscow meeting, the Taliban's most significant with Afghan politicians in recent memory, saw the insurgents praying together with sworn enemies, including former President Hamid Karzai, as they discussed their vision for the future.

Trump Praises Legal Immigrants

  •  Making yet another strong pitch for people to come into the US based on merit, US President Donald Trump said that tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate, it is cruel.
  • Trump, in his annual State of the Union address, said "We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens".
  • The lawless state of the southern Mexico border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans.
  • Trump's administration has sent to Congress a commonsense proposal to end the crisis on the southern border.
  • It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.

BRICS under New Brazilian President

  •  In 2019, Brazil takes the rotating presidency of the BRICS group, the club created in 2006 that also includes Russia, India, China and South Africa. In the new administration, the BRICS have become nearly invisible.
  • In the last days of his term, in December 2018, then President Michel Temer did convey indirectly a message from Bolsonaro to Brazil's partners of the Brics during a summit in Argentina.
  • The new president will be "honored" to host the forthcoming Brics summit in the middle of the year, according to Temer.
  

ENVIRONMENT

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Dinosaur Found in Patagonia

  •  A herbivorous dinosaur that fended off predators with a row of spines running along its back and lived 140 million years ago has been found in Argentine Patagonia.
  • The discovery of the new species of dicraeosauridae, christened Bajadasaurus pronuspinax, was revealed in Scientific Reports.
  • A reproduction of its spiny neck was exhibited in the Cultural Science Center in Buenos Aires.
  • Bajadasaurus was a quadruped and part of the wider Sauropod family that lived from the late Triassic period (around 230 million years ago) until the end of the late Cretaceous (70 million years ago).

Ganga Flow May Rise Then Fall Abruptly

  •  Climate change will begin altering water levels in the Ganga and the Brahmaputra in the next three decades, and after 2050, the Rivers could record an abrupt decrease in flow, according to a study on the Hindu Kush and Himalayan (HKH) region that predicts disruptions which could jeopardise agriculture and access to drinking water.
  • The findings are part of the report from Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which includes 210 authors who studied the ecology of the Hindu Kush and Himalayan region.
  • The report released predicts that a third of glaciers in the HKH region will thaw if average global temperatures rise by 1.5°C.
  • For the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus, the report adds that water flow will gradually rise till 2050 before they start to plummet.
  • This, the assessment adds, will consequently diminish the water available for drinking, irrigating farms, and producing electricity for roughly 250 million people living downstream.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Reid & Taylor Liquidation

  •  The Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) ordered liquidation of the bankrupt Reid & Taylor following the bidder's failure to meet eligibility criteria.
  • However, it asked the Resolution Professional (RP) to ensure that the brand is sold as a going concern and protect the interest of the workers.
  • Reid & Taylor Employees Association has decided to challenge the liquidation order at the appellate tribunal NCLAT.
  • The move came after the representatives of India Gas failed to satisfy the mandatory net worth of Rs. 50 crore and other bonafides, even though it was ready to make the Rs. 2 crore non-refundable earnest money deposit.

Amazon's and Walmart's Plans Ambushed

  •  Amazon.com and Walmart Inc.'s plans to dominate India's online retail landscape have been ambushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's political priorities heading into a tightening election.
  • The vote, which must be held by May, has increased the influence of local retailers that lobbied for growth-crimping curbs on the US giants.
  • On cue, India rolled out constraints on foreign e-commerce players including Jeff Bezos-led Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart, which together control 70 per cent of its online shopping.
  • The tighter rules, aimed at protecting small traders, may end up benefiting Mukesh Ambani, who is building a home-grown competitor.
  • The rules now bar Amazon and Flipkart Online Services Pvt. Ltd. from owning inventory, and require them to treat all vendors equally, throttling discounts and exclusives - a huge advantage to homegrown companies including Ambani's new venture. 

KIA Eyes Big Investment in India

  •  As per reports, Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), one of the five largest sovereign wealth funds of the world, is keen to triple its investments of $5 billion in India by entering areas such as infrastructure, airports and highways.
  • The Kuwait government has also proposed to India the possibility of joint investments in third countries, including in the Far East and Eastern Europe, in real estate, housing and free economic zones.
  • KIA is the world's oldest sovereign wealth fund with assets worth more than $590 billion under management and has invested about $2 billion in India since 2017.

RBI May Slash Interest Rate

  •  As per reports, the Reserve Bank may cut key lending rate by 0.25 per cent later this week in view of benign inflation.
  • The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das will start its three-day meet in Mumbai and announce the policy on February 7.
  • The central bank has maintained status quo on interest rate in its last three bi-monthly monetary polices after hiking the repo rate twice this fiscal by 25 basis points each.

Government Submits Resolution Plan for IL&FS

  •  The government submitted the debt resolution plan for crisis-hit IL&FS to the NCLAT and also suggested the name of retired Supreme Court judge Justice D. K. Jain to supervise the entire process.
  • The entire resolution process would be based on the principles enunciated in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
  • Under the plan, the government has categorised IL&FS group companies into green, amber and red based on their respective financial positions.

Railways Inks Pact with Magzter

  •  Commuters travelling on trains will now be able to read magazines and newspapers from across the world at a discount on IRCTC's ticket booking website as railways has tied up with Magzter, a leading digital newsstand.
  • Under the partnership, commuters can get unlimited access to more than 5,000 best-selling magazines and select newspapers on their phones and tablets at an exclusive offer.
  • IRCTC users will be given exclusive advantage of availing this facility at a heavily discounted price along with customised affordable packages and exclusive seven days free trial package. 

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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First 3D Map of Milky Way

  •  According to scientists who have built the first accurate 3D map of Earth's home galaxy, the Milky Way's disk of stars is warped and twisted.
  • According to the study published, researchers from the Macquarie University in Australia and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found for the first time that our solar system is anything but stable and flat.
  • Instead, it becomes increasingly warped and twisted far away from the Milky Way's centre.
  • From a great distance, our galaxy would look like a thin disk of stars that orbit once every few hundred million years around its central region, where hundreds of billions of stars provide the gravitational 'glue' to hold it all together.

Communication Satellite GSAT-31 Launched

  •  India's latest communication satellite GSAT-31 was successfully launched by European launch services provider- Arianespace's rocket from French Guiana.
  • The GSAT-31 is a "high power" communication satellite with Ku-band, and it is going to serve and replace some of the satellites that are going to expire soon.
  • GSAT-31 is the country's 40th communication satellite which is configured on ISRO's enhanced 'I-2K Bus', utilising the maximum "bus capabilities" of this type.  

SPORTS

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India Bids to Host Next Hockey World Cup

  •  As per the International Hockey Federation, India is among the six countries that have presented bids to host the next edition of the hockey World Cup.
  • India has proposed conducting the event for either men or women in the January 13 to 29, 2023 window, which has also been preferred by Australia and New Zealand. India has hosted the men's World Cup thrice, the latest being last year in Bhubaneswar.
  • Spain, Malaysia and Germany have proposed organising the event in the July 1 to 17, 2022 window. 

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Anna Hazare Ends Fast

  •  Terming the Centre's assurances over appointing a Lokpal and resolving farmer issues as satisfactory, anti-graft activist Anna Hazare finally ended his week-long fast following a closed-door meeting with Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Union Ministers Radha Mohan Singh and Subhash Bhamre.
  • As per Mr. Hazare, the demand was that an ombudsman was not being appointed despite the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act being passed in 2013.
  • A letter from the Prime Minister's Office has assured that steps were being taken in this direction as per the Supreme Court's directives.
  • The activist further said that Chief Minister Fadnavis had assured that a new Lokayukta Act for Maharashtra would be passed by the time of the next Budget Session of the State Legislature and that a joint drafting committee would soon be constituted for the same.

SC Raps Centre on NRC

  •  The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre over the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) process and said that it is hell-bent on not allowing the work to continue.
  • The top Court rapped the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for its plea, seeking to stall the NRC work for two weeks, keeping in mind the role of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in the election duty.
  • Reiterating that the July 31 deadline for the completion of NRC exercise will not be extended, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that the Centre is not cooperating in the NRC process and it seems the entire effort of the MHA is to destroy the NRC process.
  • The apex court asked the Election Commission to consider exempting certain state officers from election duty to ensure that the NRC process continues.

India Obtains Consular Access

  •  India obtained consular access to 117 of the 129 Indian students detained in the United States for enrolling in a fake university and legal assistance is being extended to them.
  • According to US government statistics, 129 Indians were administratively arrested as on January 31 in connection with their enrolment at the "university".
  • Efforts for consular access to the remaining 12 are continuing. Assistance is being extended to the Indian students in obtaining legal advice and connecting them to community support services.

DEFENCE

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Russia to Develop New Missile Systems

  •  Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the country must develop new types of missile systems in the next two years after Washington and Moscow ripped up a key arms control treaty.
  • According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow was also leaving the treaty and beginning work on new types of weapons that would breach the crucial Cold War-era agreement.
  • Mr. Shoigu said that Russia should develop two new missile systems in the next two years. During 2019-2020 Russia has to develop a land-based version of the seaborne Kalibr system equipped with a long-range cruise missile which showed good results in Syria.
  • The INF agreement forbids ground-launched, short- and intermediate-range missiles, but not those launched from the air or sea, which Russia already has.

Central Armed Police Forces to be Recognised as Organised Services

  •  In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court held that all Central Armed Police Forces, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, CISF, RPF and SSB, be recognised as "organised services", saying it will remove stagnation, ensuring promotion and other service-related benefits to officers in the same post.
  • It also held that Group "A" officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) should be given all benefits including non-functional financial upgradation (NFFU) from 2006 in terms of the 6th Pay Commission.
  • The top court upheld the Delhi High Court's two verdicts by which it had granted "organised service" status to Railway Protection Force (RPF), CRPF, BSF, ITBP and SSB.
  • NFFU is a concept introduced in the 6th pay commission and was granted to what the government termed as Group "A" organised services. 

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Shilpa Shinde Joins Congress

  •  Famous TV actress Shilpa Shinde joined the Congress in presence of President of Mumbai Congress Committee Sanjay Nirupam and party leader Charan Singh Sapra.
  • Shilpa earned famed after playing the character of 'Angoori Bhabhi' on popular TV show 'Bhabhiji Ghar Pe Hain'. She then participated in the reality show Bigg Boss 11 and emerged as winner of the show.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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Safer Internet Day

  •  February 5, 2019, was Safer Internet Day and Google reminded users of the need to secure their online account and stay safe while surfing the web.
  • The search engine giant recommended several steps to stay safe online as part of its #SecurityCheckKiya campaign.
  • Safer Internet Day came to exist officially in 2012, when the US Department of Homeland Security and the European Commission decided it was time to help shepherd the growing beast that was the Internet into a playground that was safer for our youth.
  • The theme for 2019 Safer Internet Day is "Together for a better internet".

ART AND CULTURE

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Festival SOPAN 2019

  •  For an artist, there's no bigger appreciation than to get an audience that views and enjoys their art.
  • The ongoing festival SOPAN 2019 has been providing such a platform to young artists for the past few days.
  • Spread over six days, this event by Sahitya Kala Parishad offers young musicians and dancers a stage where they can showcase their skills, early in their career.
  • The young scholarship holders of Sahitya Kala Parishad are therefore taking forward the traditional Indian art forms such as Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathakali. 
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