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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

28 Mar 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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U.S. House Fails to Override Trump's Veto

  • The U.S. House of Representatives failed to override President Donald Trump's veto on an earlier House and Senate measure to overturn Mr. Trump's national emergency declaration to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
  • House vote, 248-181 in favour of overriding Mr. Trump's veto, failed to meet the two-third majority mark despite 14 Republicans crossing the aisle and voting with Democrats against the veto.

May to Quit Before Next Brexit Talks

  • Theresa May confirmed that she will not remain the British Prime Minister to oversee the next stage of Brexit negotiations, as she made a final attempt to persuade Conservative MPs to rally behind her Brexit deal, in a vote that could take place later this week.
  • She took the decision as the mood of Conservatives in Parliament had become clear.
  • Speculation had been building that the Prime Minister could announce that she would step down earlier than previously indicated to persuade Brexit hardliners in her party to back the deal. While earlier this week, she had told MPs that she did not believe she had the sufficient numbers to get the withdrawal deal through.

Thailand Parties Form Coalition

  • Seven political parties formed a coalition in Thailand, vowing to thwart a military-backed proxy in a bid to end years of junta rule following the country's first election since a 2014 coup.
  • A junta-aligned party and its main rival have both claimed the right to govern the country after Sunday's vote, prompting a political standoff. Questions over irregularities are swirling following invalidated ballots and accusations of skewed numbers.
  • Pheu Thai, affiliated with self exiled former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, joined forces with six other parties in a bid to halt military-backed factions from leading the country.

ENVIRONMENT

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US Scientists to Climb Mount Everest

  • A team of American scientists has flown to the Mount Everest region to study how pollution has impacted the Himalayan mountains and glaciers which are melting due to global warming.
  • The team led by John All of Western Washington University plans to spend the next two months in the region and climb the world's highest peak in May while they collect samples and study the ice, snow and vegetation.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Pact to Ease U.S. Firms' Compliance

  • This Agreement for Exchange of CbC Reports, along with the Bilateral Competent Authority Arrangement between the two competent authorities, will enable both the countries to automatically exchange CbC reports filed by the ultimate parent entities of multinational enterprises (MNE) in the respective jurisdictions, pertaining to the years commencing on or after January 1, 2016.
  • India and the U.S. signed an inter-government agreement for the automatic exchange of country-by-country (CbC) reports, which will reduce the compliance burden for Indian subsidiary companies of U.S. parent companies. This is a key step in making India compliant with the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, of which it is an active participant.

Deposits Ordinance Does not Cover Gold Schemes

  • The Centre's recent ordinance banning unregulated monthly deposit schemes will not affect the ongoing monthly schemes operated by jewellery and chit fund firms, said tax practitioners.
  • Called the 'Banning of Unregulated Deposit Scheme Ordinance', it was promulugated by President Ram Nath Kovind during the last week of February 2019 to save gullible investors from losing money to Ponzi and fake deposit schemes. The ordinance makes such unregulated deposit schemes punishable, among other things.
  • This ordinance is meant to take on fraudulent individuals and unregistered partnership firms from accepting deposits or services from gullible investors either in the form of advance or loan with or without interest. This would also include monthly chits and Diwali gift schemes among others.

Vedanta Finds Oil

  • Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Limited has discovered oil in the Krishna Godavari basin on India's east coast.
  • The company has notified the management committee, Directorate General of Hydrocarbons and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas of an oil discovery in the second exploratory well H2, located in block KG-OSN-2009/3, Krishna-Godavari Basin, east coast of India.
  • Vedanta Limited holds 100% participating interest in the block.

NRIs Can Take Part in Rupee Rate Derivatives

  • The Reserve Bank of India allowed non-resident Indians (NRIs) to participate in rupee interest rate derivatives segment with a view to deepen the rupee interest rate swap (IRS) market.
  • The non-residents can undertake rupee interest rate derivative transactions on recognised stock exchanges, electronic trading platforms and over the counter markets (OTCs).
  • As per RBI, these directions shall come into force with immediate effect.
  • A non-resident will be allowed to undertake transactions in the rupee interest rate derivatives markets to hedge an exposure to rupee interest rate risk and other specified purposes.

SEBI Exempts Government from Open Offer

  • SEBI exempted the government from making an open offer for the shareholders of Punjab National Bank but directed reduction in non-public shareholding in the lender post capital infusion.
  • In February, PNB filed an application on behalf of the Centre seeking exemption from open offer requirement under takeover regulations. After capital infusion, the government's stake in PNB would rise by 5.19% to 75.41%.
  • Under SEBI norms, entities are required to make an open offer if their shareholding goes beyond a certain threshold. Against this backdrop the bank sought SEBI's exemption from the open offer requirement for the government.
  • According to SEBI, there would be no change in control of the bank pursuant to the proposed acquisition as the change would only be in the quantum of shares held by the government.

Cabinet Okays Additional NCLAT Posts

  • Six additional posts of judicial and technical members will be created in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), with the Cabinet approving a proposal.
  • The tribunal hears appeals against rulings of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
  • The Cabinet cleared a proposal for creation of three additional posts each for judicial members and technical members in the NCLAT, according to an official release. The new posts would ensure meeting the mandate provided to NCLAT by the Finance Act, 2017, the Companies Act, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 and the time frame provided for disposal of cases.

Largest Power Storage System in Asia

  • In a bid to reduce energy demand and provide emergency backup power to trains in Japan, Tesla has claimed to develop its largest power storage system in Asia.
  • According to Tesla, it has installed a bank of 42 Powerpacks at a train station in Japan`s Osaka that can provide sufficient backup power to safely move a train and its passengers to the nearest station in the event of a power outage.
  • Launched in partnership with Kintetsu, a railway operator in Japan`s Osaka, the new Tesla Powerpack system is a fully integrated, AC-connected energy storage system that can connect to a building or utility network. The system contains 16 individual battery pods, each with an isolated DC-DC converter.

Forbes' Billionaires List 2019

  • Five Indian expats in UAE have been named in the Forbes' billionaires list for 2019. The combined worth of the five expats, including three from Kerala, is a whopping USD 15.1 billion (Rs 1.04 trillion).
  • The five expats are: Prominent retail business tycoon MA Yusuff Ali, next in the list is Micky Jagtiani, owner of the Dubai-based Landmark retail stores Group, B. R. Shetty is third in the list, Sunny Varkey, education entrepreneur and philanthropist from Kerala, is the fourth, PNC Menon, an Omani property developer hailing from Thrissur in Kerala is the fifth.

Unitech Sells Power Transmission Business

  • Crisis-hit realty firm Unitech Ltd said that the company has sold its power transmission business to Sterling and Wilson for Rs. 100 crore.
  • Unitech Power Transmission is engaged in the business of manufacturing and installation of power transmission lines.
  • Unitech said it has entered into a share purchase agreement with Sterling and Wilson Pvt Ltd to sell entire issued and paid-up share capital of Unitech Power Transmission Ltd.
  • The Supreme Court had also allowed Unitech to sell stake in its wholly owned subsidiary Unitech Power Transmission Ltd.

Tata Enters Airports Business with stake in GMR

  • Tata group and two foreign entities have agreed to invest Rs. 8,000 crore in GMR Infrastructure Ltd's airports business, bypassing an unwritten industry practice that discourages companies owning airlines from operating airports.
  • GMR announced that Tata group, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and Hong Kong-based SSG Capital Management will co-invest in its airports business in the ratio of 44:33:22. Out of the total investment, Rs. 1,000 crore will come as equity infusion into GMR Airports Ltd (GAL), which will be used to retire the airport operator's debt. The three investors will use the remaining Rs. 7,000 crore to buy GAL shares from parent GMR Infrastructure and its units, which will also be used to pare debt. After this, the total debt of GMR Infrastructure will reduce to Rs. 12,000 crore.
  • Post the deal, GMR Infrastructure and its units will hold about 54% stake in the airports business.

SPORTS

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India Beats Canada

  • India outplayed Canada 7-3 to book a final berth against Korea in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey. Korea defeated host Malaysia 2-1 in another match.

Saurabh and Manu Win

  • Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker shot the mixed air pistol team gold, along with a world record, in the 12th Asian Air Gun Shooting Championship.
  • Esha Singh and Vijayveer Sidhu captured the junior mixed air pistol team gold.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Drama in Goa as MGP Splits

  • Deepak Pausakar, one of the two Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) MLAs who joined the BJP was sworn in as a Minister in the BJP-led coalition government by Goa Governor Mridula Sinha at Raj Bhavan.
  • Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and his Cabinet colleagues, among others, were present.
  • Hours after the two joined the BJP, Mr. Sawant had dropped Deputy Chief Minister and senior MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar from the Cabinet.
  • The Congress and the BJP now have 14 MLAs each in the House, whose current strength is 36. Four seats in the 40-member Assembly are vacant.

Woman Candidate in Fray

  • For the first time in the history of parliamentary elections in Mizoram, a woman candidate has filed nomination for the state's lone Lok Sabha seat.
  • Lalthlamuani will be contesting as an Independent candidate against five male rivals in the constituency reserved for scheduled tribes (ST). Mizoram, which has a total electorate of 770,395, goes to the polls on April 11.
  • Lalthlamuani had contested the Aizawl South-I constituency in last year's assembly polls as well but had secured just 69 votes. This time, she will contest the lone Lok Sabha seat, currently held by the Congress.
  • Although woman voters (4,02,408) outnumber men (3,81,991) in Mizoram, they don't have enough representation in legislative bodies.

DEFENCE

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Mission Shakti

  • Now, India has become the fourth country after the US, Russia and China to acquire the capability of space warfare. Indian scientists successfully conducted Mission Shakti shooting down a live satellite target in the low earth orbit (LEO).
  • Low earth orbit refers to an altitude up to 2,000 km. A satellite in the LEO can monitor activities on the ground and water surfaces. Such a satellite can be used for espionage and pose serious threat to the country's security in the instances of war.
  • An anti-satellite missile, the one that was fired by the scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), can target an LEO satellite. The missile can incapacitate or completely destroy the satellite in the LEO range.
  • No country has used an A-SAT against another nation till date. In all the instances, the nations testing anti-satellite missiles have targeted one of their defunct satellites to showcase their space warfare capabilities.
  • The target destroyed by India's A-SAT missile was an out of service Indian satellite.

India and Sri Lanka Hold Joint Military Drill

  • India and Sri Lanka have begun a two-week joint military exercise in the island nation with an aim to bring synergy and cooperation including in the field of counter-terrorism between the two armed forces.
  • The 'Mitra Shakti - VI' annual exercise is designed to bolster military relations further between the armies of India and Sri Lanka.
  • It aims to share knowledge on military tactics, experience, exchange of infantry technicalities, counter-terrorism practices, long-range reconnaissance patrol, small group operations, effective employment of infantry weapons, simulated attacks on terrorist hideouts, suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Bruce Yardley Passes Away

  • Former Australian Test cricketer, coach and commentator Bruce Yardley passed away at the age of 71.
  • Yardley, who debuted for Australia aged 30, started his cricketing career as a medium-pacer but later turned to be an off-spinner.
  • In 33 Tests for the national team, Yardley took 126 wickets at 31.63. He also has 344 first class wickets.
  • Yardley had coached the Sri Lankan team in the late 1990s.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Distance Learning Degree Programmes in Agriculture

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has prohibited imparting distance degree programmes in agriculture.
  • The decision was taken by the higher education regulator at its last meeting on the ground that a degree programme in agriculture is technical in nature as it requires practicals or laboratory courses.
  • As per UGC Open and Distance Learning Regulations, 2017, professional programmes such as medicine, engineering, architecture, nursing, dental, pharmacy and physiotherapy, are not permitted to be offered in distance mode.
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