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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

29 May 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

NIA Team in Lanka

  •  A two-member team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), led by inspector general Alok Mittal, reached Colombo to discuss with Sri Lankan authorities the Indian links of radical Muslims who carried out the Easter Sunday attacks in the island nation.
  • The purpose of the visit is not to probe the coordinated bombings on April 21 that left 258 people dead, but to exchange information on suspects and about people based in Tamil Nadu and Kerala who likely have links with the National Towheed Jamaath (NTJ), which is suspected to have masterminded the attacks.

Iran Says No Mediation

  •  As Iran played down the chances of a military clash with Washington, Iran's Foreign Ministry insisted it did not currently see the need for mediation with the U.S.
  • Iran is locked in a standoff with the U.S. which has beefed up its military presence in the West Asia over alleged threats from the Islamic republic.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump had said that U.S. would like to talk if Iran was ready.

Sri Lanka, Japan and India to Develop Container Terminal

  •  Sri Lanka, Japan and India signed an agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port.
  • The joint initiative is estimated to cost between $500 million and $700 million.
  • As per the agreement signed, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) retains 100% ownership of the East Container Terminal (ECT), while the Terminal Operations Company is jointly owned.
  • Sri Lanka will hold a 51% stake in the project and the joint venture partners will retain 49%. The ECT is located some three km away from the China-backed international financial city, known popularly as "Port City".
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ENVIRONMENT

Malaysia to Ship Back Plastic Waste

  •  As per reports, Malaysia will ship back hundreds of tonnes of imported plastic waste back to where it came from, as Malaysia did not want to be a global dumping ground.
  • China had previously taken a large amount of waste for recycling, but abruptly stopped in 2018, saying it wanted to improve its own environment.
  • Official data showed that plastic imports to Malaysia have tripled since 2016.
  • The Ministry said that 450 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste in 10 containers, from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States, will be shipped back.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

PNB Slips into Red

  •  India's second largest public-sector lender Punjab National Bank (PNB) slipped into the red, incurring net losses of Rs. 4,750 crore in the January March quarter, after posting net profit of Rs. 247 crore in the previous quarter.
  • The bank posted losses of Rs. 13,417 crore in the year-ago period (2018).
  • The lender could not garner profit in the quarter-ended March as recovery from stressed assets of Rs. 5,000-6,000 crore were stuck in insolvency courts.

FDI Inflows Contract

  •  India's foreign direct investment (FDI) equity inflows fell for the first time in six years in the year ended March 31, underscoring the economic policy challenges faced by the government when Narendra Modi starts his second innings as Prime Minister.
  • Data released by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) showed FDI equity inflows into India declined 1% to $44.4 billion in the year to March 31, signalling a squeeze in long term foreign investment into the country.
  • The decline in FDI inflows comes at a time when domestic indicators already point towards a slowdown in consumption and investment activity.
  • India's economy grew at the slowest pace in five quarters at 6.6% in the three months ended December, prompting the statistics department to trim its 2018-19 forecast from the 7.2% previously forecast to 7% in February.

Airtel to List Africa Subsidiary

  •  Bharti Airtel Ltd has sought approval of the UK financial regulator for an initial public offering (IPO) of its African unit in London as it seeks to cut debt and expand its network.
  • Airtel Africa Ltd, the continent's second-largest mobile operator, is aiming to raise around $1 billion in a June equity offering.
  • In a filing made to the London Stock Exchange (LSE), Airtel Africa said that it is also considering a listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. In London, Airtel Africa is looking to trade on the main market of LSE, using its premium listing segment.
  • The African unit has already raised $1.25 billion in October from six investors, including Temasek Holdings Pte and Soft Bank Group Corp., Warburg Pincus and Singtel. In January, Qatar Investment Authority invested $200 million in the Africa arm.
  • As a result of these fundraises, the company's net debt fell to $4 billion in the March quarter from $7.7 billion a year ago.
  • Airtel Africa is the holding firm for Bharti Airtel's operations in 14 countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Niger, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Seychelles. It has 100 million customers across the continent but Nigeria alone accounts for 36% of its total revenue.
  • Bharti established its presence in Africa in 2010 when it bought Kuwait-based Zain's Africa operations for $10.7 billion. 
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SPORTS

KSSC Gets New President

  •  The Kerala government cleared the appointment of Olympian Mercy Kuttan as the new president of the Kerala State Sports Council (KSSC).
  • Kuttan is the third woman president of the apex body of sport in Kerala, following the footsteps of Padmini Thomas and Anju Bobby George.
  • She got Kerala its first ever yellow metal in the women's section in long jump at the 1991 Asian Athletics Championships in Lahore.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

West Bengal MLAs and Councillors Join BJP

  • The BJP's "Mission Bengal" gathered pace, with three MLAs from West Bengal joining the party at its headquarters in New Delhi, along with 50 municipal councillors from Kanchrapara, Halishahar and Naihati.
  • Shubhrangshu Roy from Trinamool Congress is former Union Minister Mukul Roy's son; the other two are Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and Debendra Nath Roy.
  • With over 50 councillors joining the BJP, the party now has a majority in at least three municipal councils.

Mizoram Becomes a Dry State

  •  Ending over four years of controlled sale of liquor, Mizoram turned into a dry state again with the coming into effect of a new law that bans the sale and consumption of alcohol in the northeastern state.
  • The present Mizo National Front (MNF) government, which came to power in 2018 with prohibition as one of its main promises, passed the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Bill 2019 in the state assembly in March.
  • But the new legislation, which replaced the 4-year-old Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act, (MLPC) couldn't be implemented immediately due to the model code of conduct in place for the Lok Sabha polls and legal issues.
  • The model code of conduct as well as the high court granting time till May 27 to liquor sellers to dispose of existing stock led to a delay. 

India 3rd Highest Forced Marriage Destination

  •  Latest UK government data revealed that India has become the third most likely country where a British national is forced into marriage.
  • The Forced Marriage Unit, a joint UK Home Office and Foreign Office government body, recorded 110 cases — 82 in 2017 and 79 in 2016 — of British nationals being subjected to forced marriage in India in 2018.
  • Pakistan topped with 769, followed by Bangladesh at 157 and Somalia with 46 cases. 
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Vidyashankar New Vice-Chancellor of KSOU

  •  Vidyashankar S., professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Bangalore Institute of Technology (BIT), has been appointed Vice-Chancellor (V-C) of Karnataka State Open University in Mysuru. The new Vice-Chancellor is likely to take charge on May 30.
  • Mr. Vidyashankar's name was shortlisted along with three others by the search committee, which was constituted for choosing the Vice-Chancellor.

Papua New Guinea PM Formally Resigns

  •  Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O`Neill formally resigned after losing the support of parliament during weeks of political turmoil in the South Pacific island nation.
  • O`Neill was met with applause when he announced to parliament that he had delivered his resignation to Governor-General Bob Dadae.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Bravery Award for Saving Lives

  •  A Delhi-based woman who lost her life while rescuing her friends from drowning in Australia, a boy who saved a six year-old from drowning in the Bawana canal, and a youth who rescued a child who fell in a drain in south Delhi were among the recipients of bravery awards.
  • Karan and Deepanshu received the Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak, Nitisha Negi posthumously received the Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak.
  • The Delhi government handed over the awards to Karan, Deepanshu and the relatives of Negi.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

TOEFL to Undergo Revamp

  •  The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is set to undergo a revamp from August with the duration shortened and scores mentioning the best sections of an individual's test if the exam is taken more than once.
  • The Educational Testing Services (ETS), known for conducting the global TOEFL and GRE tests, is working on making changes in the test in sync with the changing demands of the educational institutions.
  • The changes which will come in effect from August will provide a significantly better testing experience for students, while institutions can widen their pools of qualified applicants that meet their English language requirements.
  • The duration of the test will be shortened by 30 minutes and the number of questions in three sections, reading, listening and speaking, will be reduced. 
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TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

Chinese Tourism to US Drops

  •  After more than a decade of rapid growth, Chinese travel to the U.S. is falling. And that has cities, malls and other tourist spots scrambling to reverse the trend.
  • Travel from China to the U.S. fell 5.7% in 2018 to 2.9 million visitors. It is the first time since 2003 that Chinese travel to the U.S. slipped from 2018.
  • One of the reasons for the slowdown in Chinese travel to the US is the friction between the U.S. and China. 
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