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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

20 Apr 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Malaysia Revives Project Backed by China

  •  Malaysia will revive a $34 billion Chinese-backed transport and property development that was abandoned in 2017.
  • The project would contribute to Beijing's global infrastructure drive.

Indian extradited to the U.S.

  •  Singapore has extradited Indian national Hitesh Madhubhai Patel to the U.S. to face charges in a call centre fraud that scammed millions of dollars from mostly South Asian victims in the U.S.
  • The case was first announced in 2016, charging 60 people with wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Sudan Protesters to Unveil Civilian Body

  •  Sudanese protest leaders have announced plans to unveil a civilian body to take over from the ruling military council as demonstrators thronged outside Army headquarters and Washington said that it would send an envoy to encourage the transition.
  • The military council, which took power after ousting Omar al-Bashir on April 11, has so far resisted calls from protesters to make way for a civilian administration.
  • The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been spearheading the protests, said that it would name members of the council at a news conference outside the Army complex, to which foreign diplomats are also invited. 

Key Summit between the Taliban and Afghan Officials Postponed

  •  Hopes for a breakthrough in a push to end Afghanistan's gruelling conflict suffered a major setback  after a key summit between the Taliban and Afghan officials was indefinitely postponed. 
  • The so-called intra-Afghan dialogue, due to take place in Doha, fell apart at the last minute in a row over the large number of delegates Kabul wanted to send.
  • The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed. The Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there in 2018, according to a UN tally.
  • Washington, which is leading an effort to end the war, signalled its disappointment and urged both sides to return to the table, though organisers provided no hint about when the conference might be rescheduled.

ENVIRONMENT

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NYC Climate Bill

  •  New York City has passed sweeping legislation to curb energy demand from some of its most iconic skyscrapers, including Trump Tower.
  • The legislation, approved 45 to 2 in the city council, is backed by mayor Bill de Blasio and will push owners of residential and commercial buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to install new boilers, air conditioning systems, windows and insulation.
  • The goal is to reduce carbon emissions 40% by 2030, moving the city towards a goal of 80% by 2050.
  • The council also voted to require 5-cent fees on all paper bags distributed by stores, starting in March 2020, and to study the feasibility of replacing gas-fired power plants with battery storage systems powered by renewable energy.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Asian Tea Alliance Launched in China

  •  The Asian Tea Alliance (ATA), a union of five tea-growing and consuming countries, was launched in Guizhou in China.
  • The members of the alliance are the Indian Tea Association, China Tea Marketing Association, Indonesian Tea Marketing Association, Sri Lanka Tea Board and Japan Tea Association.
  • ATA plans to work towards enhancing tea trade, cultural exchanges, technology exchanges as well as globally promoting tea.
  • It will also work towards enhancing global consumption of tea, while creating a sustainability agenda for the future of Asian tea.

Tata Tech. and FutureMove Automotive Sign Agreement

  •  Tata Technologies Ltd. has entered into a strategic partnership with FutureMove Automotive of China to develop comprehensive and unique connected mobility solutions for automotive manufacturers in China and worldwide.
  • Tata Technologies has strong capabilities in delivering end-to-end vehicle programmes across the world and FutureMove Automotive, with its digital and mobility services, is a strategic partner to its customers in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and the U.S.
  • Through the agreement, the two companies would integrate technologies, products, solutions and resources to respond to demands within the automotive industry.

Pine Labs Acquires Qwikcilver

  •  Singapore-based merchant platform company Pine Labs has acquired gift solution company, Qwikcilver for $110 million. 
  • The company is backed by Sequoia India, PayPal, Temasek, Actis Capital, Altimeter Capital, Madison India Capital and Sofina.
  • Qwikcilver is a gift card service provider, managing an annualised gross transaction value of $1.5 billion across India, Middle East and South East Asia.
  • With this acquisition, Qwikcilver and Pine Labs have a combined gift solutions business comprising 250 brands and retailers and 1,500 enterprise customers.
  • Qwikcilver co-founder and chief executive officer, Kumar Sudarshan, has joined the Pine Labs leadership team.
  • Pine Labs provides financing and last-mile retail transaction technology. Its offerings are used by merchants in 3,700 cities and towns across India and Malaysia.

Royal Enfield Enters South Korean Market

  •  Niche bike maker Royal Enfield  has forayed into the South Korean market.
  • The company, part of Richer Motors, has entered the country by opening its first flagship store in Seoul with Vintage Motors (Kiheung International) as its official distribution partner. 

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Bone Lost in Evolution Likely to Come Back

  •  A primordial bone found in our primate ancestors but thought to be redundant and rapidly dwindling in humans — appears to have made a quiet comeback over the past century.
  • Scientists from Imperial College London have admitted they are stumped as to why the fabella, a small bone buried in a tendon behind the knee, is now three times more common than it was in the early 1900s.
  • They speculate that its reemergence could be linked to joint problems, and understanding why could help treat or protect those most at risk. 
  • Fabellae are sesamoid bones, which means they grow in the tendon of a muscle — the knee cap being the largest example in the human body.

SPORTS

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7 Indians to Play County Cricket

  •  Seven of India's Test specialists may play a few games for various English county sides to prepare for the inaugural World Test Championship series in July and August.
  • The players that BCCI have zeroed in are Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari, Mayank Agarwal, R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma. 
  • Pujara has a three-year contract with Yorkshire. Rahane is likely to sign with Hampshire.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Punjab to Sieze Cars without 3rd Party Insurance Cover

  •  The Punjab government has decided not to release vehicles involved in accidents resulting in death or injuries unless they have third party insurance cover or the owner furnishes "sufficient security" to the court, enough to pay compensation to the victims.
  • Setting an example for other states, the Punjab transport department has notified that vehicles will be auctioned in three months, if either of these conditions are not met and the proceeds of auction will be deposited in claims tribunal for paying compensation.
  • The department made the changes in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Rules on April 3, which is being seen as a major reform to rein in owners who don't renew third party insurance .

DEFENCE

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Indian warships Dispatched to China for Navy Drill

  •  The Indian Navy has dispatched two of its warships to China to take part in an international fleet review being staged at Qingdao to mark the 70th anniversary of the Chinese navy.
  • The locally-built stealth guided-missile destroyer INS Kolkata and fleet support ship INS Shakti are set to reach China's east coast on April 21.
  • The two warships will be a part of the maritime parade that will be reviewed by the Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 23. The Pakistani navy is unlikely to send warships to take part in China's high-profile maritime parade. 
  • India had sent a frontline warship to Qingdao in 2014 to take part in a naval exercise to mark People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy's 65th year of founding.
  • That visit of INS Shivalik was in the news after the Indian Navy politely declined an unusual request from the Chinese navy chief to be shown the Combat Information Centre (CII).

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Priyanka Chaturvedi Quits Congress

  •  The Congress lost one of its key spokespersons after Priyanka Chaturvedi resigned from the party and joined the Shiv Sena, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally, in Mumbai.
  • Her resignation comes days after Chaturvedi expressed displeasure in an April 17 tweet over the reinstatement of Uttar Pradesh Congress workers who had been suspended for allegedly misbehaving with her during a press conference in Mathura in September 2018.

First Indian Woman Scientist in London's Royal Society

  •  The Royal Society, London, selected 51 distinguished scientists from across the world as Fellows and Foreign Members on April 16 for their exceptional contributions in the field of science. 
  • Among this year's group of Fellows are Indian clinician scientist Gagandeep Kang and three Indian-origin scientists — American-Canadian mathematician Manjul Bhargava, Australian mathematician Akshay Venkatesh and British microbiologist Gurdyal Besra.
  • Kang is the first Indian woman scientist to be selected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Before Kang, two Indian origin women scientists — British microscopist Pratibha Gai (2016) and American microbiologist Lalita Ramakrishnan (2018) — had received the honour.
  • Kang is a clinician scientist and a professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the famous Christian Medical College, Vellore.
  • She is the current executive director of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad, which is an autonomous institution under the department of biotechnology of the science and technology ministry.
  • Kang is renowned for her work on viral infections in children, particularly on rotavirus infections that cause high mortality and morbidity in India. She has shown that the Indian population naturally has a lower immunity to rotavirus infections. 

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Kerala tops in women on Haj without males

  •  A growing number of Muslim women from Kerala are taking advantage of the change in government rules that allow women above 45 years of age to travel in groups for Haj without being accompanied by a male companion (mehram).
  • Freshly released government data show 1,124 of the 1,340 women who undertook the pilgrimage without a male companion last year were from Kerala.
  • This year too, 2,011 of the 2,340 Muslim women who will be travelling to Saudi Arabia happen to be from the southern state.
  • A year after the rules were eased, the pilgrimage in 2019 is also likely to see the highest number of Indians, with Saudi Arabia  issuing a formal order to enhance India's quota from 1.75 lakh to 2 lakh.
  • It follows a meeting in February attended by the PM, Sushma Swaraj, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • This is the third hike in consecutive years.
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