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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

25 Apr 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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China Formally Arrests Former Interpol Chief

  • China has formally arrested former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei on suspicion of accepting bribes, prosecutors announced on Wednesday, as he faces possible graft charges.
  • Mr. Meng, who had also served as Vice Minister of Public Security, vanished last September during a visit to China from France, where Interpol is based, and was later accused of accepting bribes.
  • Mr. Meng has been expelled from the Communist Party and his official positions.

Top Security Officials Told to Resign

  • Sri Lanka's President has asked for the resignations of the Defence Secretary and national police chief, a dramatic internal shake-up after security forces shrugged off intelligence reports warning of possible attacks before Easter bombings.
  • It wasn't immediately clear who would be replacing them, but President Maithripala Sirisena said that he planned to change the head of the defence forces within 24 hours.

Kazakhstan May Scale up Supply of Uranium

  • According to Kazakh ambassador Bulat Sarsenbayev, Kazakhstan the world's largest producer of uranium, is looking at scaling up its supply of the key energy source to India from 5,000 tonnes during 2015-19 to more than 7,500 tonnes over the next five years.
  • The Central Asian nation, with the second largest uranium reserves or almost 15% of the world's recoverable uranium, is currently the largest supplier of the commodity to India. It was also among India's earliest partners in civil nuclear cooperation and supplied 3,000 tonnes under the first contract signed in 2009.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Libor Transition Opens up Avenues

  • The London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) transition opens up a sizeable business opportunity for large consulting firms such as PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte and also for global IT firms, including leading players in India.
  • Individual banks, financial institutions and lending houses are expected to spend anything from $50 million to upwards of $100 million a year for the next two years until the migration is completed by the end of 2021. Analysts say that IT will be 50% of this opportunity.
  • Regulators globally have asked firms to move away from Libor to other alternate, risk-free rates (RFRs). Derivatives, bonds, mortgages, loans, mutual funds, securities, underwriting, deposits, advances, pension funds and contracts, worth $370 trillion, are currently linked to the scam-hit Libor.

UltraTech Net Jumps

  • UltraTech Cement's consolidated net profit for the fourth quarter has more than doubled to Rs. 1,034.21 crore on higher capacity utilisation due to increasing demand and acquisition synergies.
  • The company's consolidated revenue from operations rose 17.3% to Rs. 10,905.15 crore in the quarter, compared with Rs. 9,290.29 crore in the same period last year.
  • The Q4 earnings also include results from cement plants acquired from Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. and Jaypee Cement Corp.

RBI Divests Its Entire Stake

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has divested its entire stake held in National Housing Bank (NHB), the regulator for housing finance companies, and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to the government, which now holds 100% in these entities.
  • RBI had 100% shareholding in NHB, which was divested for Rs. 1,450 crore.
  • The NABARD stake was divested in two phases, RBI had 72.5% stake in NABARD amounting to Rs. 1,450 crore, out of which 71.5%, worth Rs. 1,430 crore was divested in October 2010 and the residual shareholding was divested on February 26, 2019 for Rs. 20 crore.
  • Divestment of RBI's stake in NABARD and NHB has its basis in the recommendation of Narasimham Committee II and the Discussion Paper prepared by RBI on Harmonizing the Role and Operations of Development Financial Institutions and Banks.

Banks Told to Disclose IL&FS NPA Details

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks and financial institutions to disclose the non-performing assets (NPA) stemming from their exposure to troubled infrastructure conglomerate Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) and its group entities in their upcoming results announcements.
  • In a notification, the central bank said the new directions are as per a February 2019 order of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), which asked banks not to declare their loans to the company and group as NPAs.

IOB Reduces Loss-incurring Branches

  • The number of loss-incurring branches (LIB) of Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) has come down in the last four years from 742 to 157.
  • The objective is to make all the business units as standalone profit centres. This had been achieved by branch rationalisation and containing administrative expenses, among others. The lender had 742 LIBs during March 2015. It was further scaled down to 718 in March 2016 and to 157 in March 2019.

SoftBank to Invest in Wirecard

  • Japan's SoftBank Group Corp. will invest around 900 million euros ($1 billion) in Wirecard in a convertible bond deal that will give it a 5.6% stake in the German digital payments company.
  • The investment by the world's biggest private technology company is a vote of confidence in Wirecard's business as it defends itself against allegations of fraud, and will allow the Munich-based firm to expand its operations in Asia.

SPORTS

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Asian Wrestling Championships

  • Amit Dhankar clinched a silver while Rahul Aware won a bronze in the men's freestyle wrestling at the Asian Wrestling Championships.
  • Amit won a silver in the 74 kg freestyle event after losing to Daniyar Kaisanov of Kazakhstan in the final.
  • Rahul Aware beat Jincheol Kim of Korea in the men's 61 kg freestyle bronze medal play-off.

ODI Status for USA and Oman

  • United States sealed its ODI status for the first time with a third straight victory at the World Cricket League Division Two event.
  • Oman has also secured ODI status, leaving Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Canada and Hong Kong to fight it out for the remaining two places.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Perform or Perish in Punjab

  • Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that the Congress has decided to raise the bar by fixing responsibility for the victory of its candidates on Ministers and MLAs. The decision has been taken by the high command under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi to achieving Mission 13 in the Lok Sabha election. The Ministers who do not succeed in ensuring victory, especially in constituencies they represent, would be dropped. The MLAs will not be given ticket again.

Release Malik Says PDP Chief

  • Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti asked the Centre to shift JKLF chief Yasin Malik to Srinagar.
  • She said that JKLF chief Yasin Malik should be released immediately as he is unwell. In case of any eventuality, the situation in Kashmir will worsen and may go out of hand.
  • The candidate from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, Ms. Mufti also sought an end to the ban on the highway for civilian movement and asked the Centre to revoke the decision to stop the cross-Line of Control trade.

Parties File Review Petition for VVPAT Verification

  • Citing issues with electronic voting machines (EVM) in the first few phases of polling for the Lok Sabha election, 21 opposition parties filed a review petition in the Supreme Court reiterating their demand for verification of 50% EVMs using voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips.
  • The petition claims that after the first phase of polling, in many cases, EVMs were found to be defective and faulty. It has been reported that in some cases where voters would vote for one party, EVMs would record their vote having been cast for another party.
  • The Election Commission of India (EC) has consistently maintained that the glitches experienced in the first three phases of the seven-phase election are within acceptable limits in terms of number of defects.

Karnataka Registers Highest-ever Turnout

  • Karnataka recorded its highest ever voter turnout of 68.62%, 1.42% more than 2014, as voting for 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state ended.
  • The state has seen a pitched battle between the Congress Janata Dal (Secular) alliance, currently in power, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • The saffron party has won more than half the seats in the state in the past three general elections.

DEFENCE

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Army to Build Tunnels to Store Ammunition

  • Indian Army is planning to construct underground tunnels for storage of ammunition along the border with China and Pakistan and Public Sector Undertaking NHPC Limited is being roped in for the purpose.
  • Indian Army is in the process of executing pilot projects for construction of semi underground and cavern type ammunition storage construction through NHPC Ltd. for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed in the coming days.
  • These tunnels will be built in high altitude areas in the Northern and Eastern borders. Initially, four pilot projects would be taken up at four different locations along the Northern border and in Jammu and Kashmir. These are expected to be completed within two years.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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World Malaria Day

  • World Malaria Day is an international observance commemorated every year on 25 April and recognizes global efforts to control malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria. In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African children. Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected.
  • World Malaria Day was established in May 2007 by the 60th session of the World Health Assembly.
  • The theme for World Malaria Day 2019 is "Zero malaria starts with me".

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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World's First Malaria Vaccine

  • The world's first malaria vaccine has been rolled out in Malawi to protect 360,000 children under two in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana in Sub-Saharan Africa from the mosquito-borne disease that causes 435,000 people global deaths each year.
  • The RTS,S/AS01 (trade name Mosquirix) is an injectible recombinant protein-based vaccine acts against P. falciparum, the most prevalent malaria strain in Africa. The vaccine prevents four in 10 cases of malaria in children who received four doses over a four-year period. The WHO welcomed the pilot programme by the government of Malawi.
  • Children under five years are at the greatest risk of death, with at least 250,000 children dying of the disease in Africa each year.

TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

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SEBI Restrains Hotel Leelaventure

  • SEBI barred cash-strapped Hotel Leelaventure from selling its four hotels and other assets to Canadian investment fund Brookfield Asset Management till further directions.
  • In March Hotel Leelaventure Ltd. (HLVL) had announced the sale of its four hotels located in Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Udaipur, as well as a property to Canadian investment fund Brookfield for Rs. 3,950 crore. It had sought shareholders' approval and the voting is scheduled to end on April 24.
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