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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

10 May 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Bolsonaro Relaxes Brazil's Gun Laws

  •  Truckers, lawyers and politicians are among millions of Brazilians eligible to carry loaded weapons in public under President Jair Bolsonaro's decree relaxing gun laws.
  • As per the order, people from a wide range of professions, including hunters, farmers and even certain journalists, are now allowed to carry guns.

Ruling ANC Takes Comfortable Lead

  •  The ruling African National Congress (ANC) held a comfortable lead with more than half the votes counted from South Africa's presidential and parliamentary election, but it received much lower support than in the last ballot five years ago.
  • Opposition parties made widespread allegations of corruption against the ruling ANC party a major part of their campaigns ahead of the vote and voter apathy also appears to have affected turnout, which fell to 65% from 74% in 2014.
  • According to results announced by the Electoral Commission, the ANC, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, won 57% of the votes with 60% of the polling districts counted.
  • The Democratic Alliance (DA) received 22% of the vote so far, the most of any Opposition party.

China Will Not Capitulate to U.S. Pressure

  •  China rejected U.S. accusations of backtracking in trade talks and warned that it would not capitulate to any pressure as the two sides headed into make-or-break negotiations.
  • The United States has raised the stakes with plans to increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10% to 25%, prompting Beijing to vow to hit back with necessary countermeasures.

Panel Holds Barr in Contempt

  •  The House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend that the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert Mueller's unredacted report, hours after President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from Congress.
  • The committee's 24-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate over the future of American democracy, was the first official House action to punish a government official in the stand-off over the Mueller report.

US Seizes North Korean Ship

  •  The United States has for the first time seized a North Korean cargo ship it accused of illicit coal shipments in violation of US and United Nations sanctions.
  • The ship, known as the "Wise Honest," was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018.
  • Under an unusual US civil forfeiture action, the vessel is now in the possession of the United States and is currently approaching US territorial waters heading toward American Samoa. 

Singapore Passes Fake News Law

  •  Singapore's parliament passed an anti-fake news bill that has been criticised by rights groups, journalists and tech firms over fears it could be used to clamp down on freedom of speech.
  • The law will require online media platforms to carry corrections or remove content the government considers to be false, with penalties for perpetrators running as high as prison terms of up to 10 years or fines up to S$1 million ($735,000).
  • The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation passed the bill with 72 members voting in favour. All nine opposition lawmakers voted against it, local media reported.
  • Three nominated members of parliament, who are appointed directly by the president and not affiliated to political parties, all abstained.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Bank Credit Grows

  •  Bank credit grew by 13.2% in financial year 2018-19 as compared to 10.3% in the previous financial year (2017-18), mainly aided by loans to services and retail sector.
  • Deposit growth also gained momentum, growing by 10% as compared to 6.7% in 2018.
  • Banks typically tend to push for more loan disbursement and also try to get more deposits ahead of the end of a financial year to shore up their balance sheet and meet year-end targets.

India to Add 3 Million Tech JobsĀ 

  •  According to the Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), the apex body for the 'flexi' working industry, Indian tech industry will add another three million new jobs in the next five years.
  • With the additions, the size of the country's tech army will be 7 million by 2023.
  • As per Rituparna Chakraborty president, ISF, all these new jobs would come up in digital technology areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, Internet of things (IOT), data science, analytics, big data, block chain and augmented reality.
  • Jobs would also be created in newer technology areas that are presently unknown but are expected to emerge and evolve in the next few years.

Morgan Stanley Downgrades RIL

  •  Morgan Stanley has downgraded Reliance Industries Limited's (RIL) stock to 'equal weight' (EW), leading to a 3.41% fall in the company's shares.
  • With this fall, the company has again lost the tag of India's most-valued firm to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as RIL's market capitalisation fell to Rs. 7,98,628.55 crore compared with TCS's Rs. 8,13,779.67 crore.

Sri Lanka to Buy Buses from ALL

  •  Sri Lanka will purchase 325 buses worth $21.2 million from Ashok Leyland Ltd. (ALL). The decision was taken following Cabinet approval to a proposal submitted by Minister of Transport & Civil Aviation Arjuna Ranatunga, for the purchase of 272 high-back, 50-seater buses, and 33 buses that seat 53 persons, for the Sri Lanka Transport Board.
  • As per a release from Lanka Ashok Leyland, a joint venture company set up with the Government of Sri Lanka, the purchase is to be made under a lease agreement, allowing Sri Lanka to pay the cost over a period of five years.

RIL Arm Buys Hamleys

  •  Reliance Brands, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), has signed a definitive agreement with C Banner International, a Hong Kong-listed company, to acquire 100% shares of centuries-old British toy retailer Hamleys for £68 million.
  • The 250-year old English toy retailer pioneered the concept of experiential retailing, decades before the concept of creating unique experience in brick and mortar retailing become the new global norm.
  • The worldwide acquisition places Reliance in the frontline of global retail.

McDonald's Ends Dispute with Bakshi

  •  Estranged partners McDonald's and Vikram Bakshi announced an out-of-court settlement, ending their almost six-year-long dispute.
  • As part of the agreement, the U.S. fast food chain will buy out for an undisclosed sum Mr. Bakshi and his entities' 50% stake in Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. (CPRL) that operates McDonald's chain of quick service restaurants in northern and eastern India.
  • The company also announced the appointment of Robert Hunghanfoo as head of CPRL with immediate effect.
  • CPRL is now wholly owned by MIPL and its affiliate MGM (McDonald's Global Markets LLC) following the completion of a settlement reached with former JV partner, Vikram Bakshi.

Time to Break Facebook

  •  Facebook Inc co-founder and former Mark Zuckerberg roommate Chris Hughes called for the break-up of the world's largest social media network.
  • Hughes joins U.S. lawmakers who have also urged anti-trust action to break up big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation.
  • Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators around the world over its data sharing practices and hate speech and misinformation on its networks.
  • Facebook's social network has more than 2 billion users across the world.
  • It also owns WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, each used by more than 1 billion people.
  • Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport among Top 10 Airports

  •  According to a survey conducted by AirHelp, a company which deals with the rights of air passengers, the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) in Hyderabad was ranked among one of the top 10 airports in the world. 
  • According to the survey, Hamad International Airport in Doha in Qatar was rated the world's best airport with 8.39 out of 10, followed by Tokyo International Airport in Japan and Athens International Airport in Greece.
  • The Hyderabad airport was ranked eighth, with a score of 8.27 out of 10, just below Singapore's Changi Airport and above the Tenerife North Airport in Spain.

Trump Sanctions Iran's Industrial Metals Sectors

  •  The Trump administration announced new sanctions against Iran targeting its industrial metals sectors, which is the country's largest non-petroleum export revenue earner, and warned of further actions unless Teheran fundamentally alters its conduct.
  • The new curbs impact Iran's iron, steel, aluminium and copper sectors, that account for 10% of its economy, and go into effect after 90 days during which countries and businesses are expected to wind down ongoing arrangements, or face sanctions.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Rice Husks Can Remove Toxins

  •  A study has observed that rice husk can effectively remove microcystin (a toxin released by harmful algal blooms) that are increasingly occurring in the great lakes and other freshwater lakes around the world.
  • According to the study, rice husks can effectively remove microcystin from water, a finding that could have far-reaching implications for communities along the great lakes and across the developing world.
  • An abundant and inexpensive agricultural by-product, rice husks have been investigated as a water purification solution in the past. However, this is the first time they have been shown to remove microcystin, the toxin released by harmful algal blooms.

SPORTS

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Federer Notches His 1200th Career Win

  •  Roger Federer saved two match-points to defeat Gael Monfils and reach the Madrid Open quarterfinals but women's world no.1 and top seed Naomi Osaka was dumped out.
  • Federer, playing only his second match of a 2019 comeback to clay after three years away, took two hours to defeat French showman Monfils and record his 1,200th career win.
  • Osaka fell for the second time in two months to Swiss compatriot Belinda Bencic.

35th Asian Snooker Championship

  •  Pankaj Advani, Laxman Rawat and Aditya Mehta will represent India in the 35th Asian Snooker Championship to be held in Doha from June 16 to 28.
  • At the end of the selection camp at the KSBA, India will field two sides: Team A (Advani, Rawat and Aditya) and Team B (Kamal Chawla, Sundeep Gulati and Sourav Kothari).

Milind and Bhagat Named Head Selectors

  •  Milind Rege was named chairman of the Mumbai Cricket Association's senior selection committee and U-23 committee for 2019-2020 season.
  • He will be working with three other selectors, Guru Gupte, Sanjay Patil and Shridhar Mandale.
  • The senior women's selection committee will be headed by Vrunda Bhagat (chairperson).
  • Others named are Arundhati Ghosh, Surekha Bhandare, Sandhya Relekar. The four are also the U-23 selectors.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Supreme Court Pushes for Full Strength

  •  The Supreme Court Collegium, led by the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, recommended the names of two judges to the court and rejected the Union government's disapproval of the elevation of two others.
  • If the four judges are elevated without delay, the Gogoi Court would reach the full sanctioned judicial strength of 31 judges by the time it re-opens in July after the summer vacations.
  • The Collegium refused the government's request to reconsider its April 12 recommendation to elevate Jharkhand High Court and Gauhati High Court Chief Justices Aniruddha Bose and A.S. Bopanna as Supreme Court judges.
  • The Collegium said their names were recommended after all parameters were considered.

Government Denies Perjury Charge

  •  Rubbishing the charge of perjury, the government said that the contents of briefs and responses made in the Supreme Court in the Rafale fighter purchase case were finalised after extensive deliberations at the highest levels in government after a series of meetings.
  • In a reply affidavit filed in the court, the Centre said that its averments in court were based on the final decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security.
  • The submissions were based on the final decisions of the Defence Acquisition Council, the Defence Minister, provisions in the Defence Procurement Procedure and inputs received from the Air Force and the Ministry of Defence.
  • These had endeavoured to bring out the final conclusions of the process, which led to the signing of the Inter-Governmental Agreement with France.
  • The government played down the mismatch between the December 14, 2018, judgment of the court, upholding the deal on the basis of a non-existent Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, and unsigned confidential notes filed by the Centre in the court. 

AAP Punjab Manifesto

  •  The Aam Aadmi Party released its manifesto for Punjab for the Lok Sabha election. Senior party leader and MLA Aman Arora said that the elected representatives would prioritise the issues and concerns of the people and raise their voice to redress the grievances.
  • The issue of the beleaguered farming community would be taken up with the Union government for the implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. 
  • The manifesto bats for setting up of agro-based industry to boost the farmers' income to stop the unending trail of suicides committed by them and the farm hands.
  • The party would fight for 'One-country-one-tax'.
  • The manifesto sought to reduce and simplify the GST, offering relief to traders and industrialists. To generate employment opportunities, the party would focus on large-scale PSUs.

Smaller Parties Field More Women

  •  Smaller political parties, both regional and national, have shown the way in this Lok Sabha election by giving ticket to a higher percentage of women candidates, while big parties with a much larger number of contestants fared poorly in doing so.
  • As a result, the number of women candidates is a mere 8.82%, according to numbers available for the first five phases.

DEFENCE

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South China Sea Exercises

  •  Navy ships INS Kolkata and Shakti carried out group sail with the naval ships of Japan, the Philippines and the U.S. in the South China Sea from May 3-9.
  • The ships undertook various exercises en route which included formation manoeuvring, under way replenishment runs, cross-deck flying and exchange of sea riders.
  • The group sail exercise showcased India's commitment to operating with like-minded nations to ensure safe maritime environment through enhanced inter-operability.
  • China, which claims a major part of the SCS, has disputes with most of its maritime neighbours.
  • Six ships, including a frigate and helicopter carrier JMSDF Izumo from Japan, a Philippines frigate and an Arleigh Burke class destroyer from the U.S. Navy took part in the six-day exercise.
  • Indian Navy ships were on return passage from their deployment to the South and the East China Seas as part of the annual Eastern Fleet overseas deployment during which they visited Vietnam, China and South Korea.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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UPS Madan Opts for Voluntary Retirement

  •  Barely a month after taking charge the State's Chief Secretary UPS Madan has opted for voluntary retirement.
  • The government has forwarded a proposal, prepared by the government at a high-level meeting, to the Election Commission of India (ECI) for approval to appoint a new chief secretary.
  • Mr. Madan took charge from D.K. Jain, who was appointed judicial member, Lokpal.
  • The three names forwarded in the proposal are Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Additional Chief Secretary (Industries) Satish Gavai, and Additional Chief Secretary (Housing) Sanjay Kumar, all of the 1984 batch of the Indian Administrative Services.

Kidari Sravan Kumar Resigns

  •  Kidari Sravan Kumar resigned from the Cabinet as Minister for Tribal Welfare and Empowerment, Primary Health and Family Welfare, A.P. Vaidya Vidhana Parishad, AYUSH and Drug Control, consequent to the expiry of the six-month deadline (May 10) before which he was supposed to get elected as a member of the Legislature.
  • Mr. Kumar was inducted into the Cabinet (took oath on November 11, 2018) after his father Kidari Sarveswara Rao (MLA from Araku in Visakhapatnam district) was killed by Maoists.
  • By-elections were not held within the stipulated time.
  • Mr. Kumar thanked Mr. Naidu for giving him the opportunity to serve as a Minister in his Cabinet.

Jet Accepts Gaurang Shetty's Resignation

  •  Jet Airways announced the resignation of its whole-time director Gaurang Shetty. He had stepped down from the board and also resigned on April 23, 2019.
  • His resignation was accepted on May 9, 2019. While Mr. Shetty wanted to be relieved immediately, the board asked him to continue till May 23, 2019.
  • After seeking legal opinion, the board accepted his resignation with effect from April 23, 2019.

ART AND CULTURE

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Temple Festival 'Thrissur Pooram'

  •  A parade of around 50 elephants has been the centrepiece of Kerala's popular temple festival, Thrissur Pooram, since the late 18th century when the erstwhile Kochi royal family started it.
  • The week-long festival at Thrissur's Vadakkumnathan Temple would not be the same when it starts this year without the parade.
  • The elephant owners have announced a boycott of the festival in protest against the ban on a 54-year-old tusker, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, from participating in Thrissur Pooram.
  • The elephant, which suffers from a partial loss of vision, has been the centre of attraction at the festival since the 1970s.
  • It was barred from participating in the festival after trampling two people to death in February. The elephant has been symbolically pushing open the Vadakkumnathan Temple's southern entrance to mark the beginning of Thrissur Pooram for four decades.
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