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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

31 May 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Ramaphosa Announces Gender-balanced Cabinet

  •  South African President Cyril Ramaphosa cut the number of Cabinet Ministers from 36 to 28, in a move that would tackle the country's bloated government.
  • Half the new ministers are women, making South Africa one of the world's few gender-balanced governments.

Israel Faces Fresh Poll

  •  Israeli lawmakers voted to dissolve parliament, paving the way for a new election after veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government before a midnight deadline.
  • Netanyahu preferred a new ballot, set for September 17, to the alternative, under which Israeli President Reuven Rivlin could have asked another politician to try and form a ruling coalition.
  • The election, Israel's second this year after an April 9 poll in which Netanyahu claimed victory, means unprecedented upheaval even for a country used to political infighting.

JMB Joins Hands with LeT

  •  The Narendra Modi government designated Jamaatul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) as a terrorist group in May after intelligence inputs suggested that its leaders in Dhaka have joined hands with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-eTayebba (LeT) to expand the group's activities in India. JMB's chief Salaudin Salehin, through its official media "Al-Ehsar" has already announced the terror group's India chapter JMH for expansion of its jihadist activities in India.
  • According to senior home ministry officials, the JMB had plans to make permanent bases within 10 km of the India-Bangladesh border (on the Indian side) in the districts of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.
  • The terror group, which espouses the ultra-hardline ideologies of the Islamic State, has also been spreading its network in South India with the overarching motive of establishing a Caliphate in the Indian sub-continent.
  • This was revealed during the interrogation of Jahidul Islam, who along with his 12-member action team was arrested in connection with the 2018 Bodhgaya blast.
  • According to Islam, who hails from Bangladesh, Gaya and other iconic Buddhist centres in India were the intended targets of the JMB as a part of their revenge for the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and to express solidarity with Rohingya Muslims.
  •  JMB cadres have increasingly been using madrasas in Burdwan and Murshidabad districts of West Bengal for training of their militant cadres.
  • Their training programmes include sessions on fabrication of shaped improvised explosive devices (IEDs), religious indoctrination, and physical exercises including target practice.
  • According to a home ministry report, the JMB has spread rapidly in Assam with the terrorist group organizing capsule courses under the cover of Tablighi Jamaat, a proselytising group, to train local Muslim youth and radicalize them.
  • The report confirms three-day courses at Larkuchi under Mukalmuwa police station, at Jogipara in Darrang district, at Barpeta district, and one-day courses at Borigoan mosque and at Panpara in Barpeta district. The JMB was proscribed by Bangladesh on February 23, 2005 while India banned it on May 23.
  • The report says that in mid2016 JMB chief Salaudin directed some of his cadres to impart bomb training to Samim of Assam and Maulana Yusuf of Bardhaman at Dhubri in Assam. The JMB group assembled for training in Dhubri but were prevented from doing so by local Muslim house owners. Five cases were registered in Assam against the JMB.
  • The JMB's network is especially active in all Muslim majority districts of Assam and in West Bengal as these areas are close to their strongholds in northern and north-western Bangladesh. Activities of JMB have also been noticed in Jharkhand, especially Sahebganj and Pakur district. The group uses cross-border matrimonial alliances as a way to establish bases in India.

ENVIRONMENT

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DTTDC Fined for Choking Yamuna

  •  The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has imposed an environment compensation of Rs. 5.5 lakh on the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation Ltd (DTTDC) for choking the Yamuna's flow with debris from the Signature Bridge.
  • The bridge was given an environmental clearance by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) in February 2017 with "specific conditions" that no waste, including construction spoils, should be dumped into the river and that the river's flow should not be obstructed at any point.
  • During inspection, DPCC had found that around 3,500 tonnes of construction and demolition debris was lying on the river and choking the flow of the water. To date, around 2,500 tons of debris had already been removed. The rest is being removed.
  • DPCC has also submitted a report in this regard with the NGT-appointed Yamuna pollution monitoring committee.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Goldman Sachs Invests in India

  •  New York-based investment and financial services major Goldman Sachs has pumped in $250 million to construct one of its largest global workspaces in Bengaluru.
  • Goldman Sachs' more than 5,000 employees currently work out of six buildings in the city and with the new facility, the company will be able to bring all its staff to a common premises.
  • The firm's Bengaluru operations began as a back office, driven on cost and time zone advantage, back in 2004 with 290 people.
  • It has now transformed itself into a sophisticated engineering and design hub that directly touches all global businesses of the bank.

Three PSUs Ink Joint Venture Pact

  • Three public sector units, National Aluminium Company (NALCO), Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Copper Ltd. are set to sign by next month, a joint venture (JV) agreement for making overseas acquisition of reserves of rare metals like lithium and cobalt.
  • The first acquisition is likely to be made within six months NALCO will hold 34% of the proposed Rs. 100 crore equity, with the other two companies holding 33% each. The JV will acquire assets in overseas countries. 

Tata Steel Takeover of Bhushan Energy

  •  The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved the resolution plan of Tata Steel to acquire debt-ridden Bhushan Energy Ltd. for about Rs. 800 crore.
  • The principal bench of NCLT - Delhi also rejected objections from Bhushan Energy's former promoter Neeraj Singal opposing Tata Steels' bid.
  • Under the resolution plan, Tata Steel will offer an upfront payment of Rs. 730 crore. It would also pay Rs. 50 crore additionally to operational creditors of the company.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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'Forbidden planet' seen in Neptunian Desert

  •  Astronomers say they have discovered a rogue exoplanet with its own atmosphere in the Neptunian Desert. NGTS-4b, nick-named 'The Forbidden Planet' is smaller than Neptune but three times the size of Earth, said researchers led by the University of Warwick.
  • The exoplanet, described in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, has a mass of 20 Earth masses, a radius 20% smaller than Neptune, and temperature of 1000° Celsius.
  • It orbits around the star in only 1.3 days — the equivalent of Earth's orbit around the Sun of one year.
  • It is the first exoplanet of its kind to have been found in the Neptunian Desert, researchers said. The Neptunian Desert is the region close to stars where no Neptune-sized planets are found.
  • This area receives strong irradiation from the star, meaning the planets do not retain their gaseous atmosphere as they evaporate leaving just a rocky core.
  • However NGTS-4b still has its atmosphere of gas. Researchers believe the planet may have moved into the Neptunian Desert recently, in the last one million years, or it was very big and the atmosphere is still evaporating. 

SPORTS

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First Spinner to Bowl the First Over in a World Cup

  •  South Africa's Imran Tahir became the first spinner to bowl the first over in a World Cup.
  • In the 1992 World Cup, New Zealand off-spinner Dipak Patel had bowled the second over in the match against Australia.
  • Tahir also became the oldest South African to play in a World Cup match. The previous record was held by his compatriot Omar Henry.

Yennaris becomes China's first naturalised player

  •  Former Arsenal and Brentford midfielder Nico Yennaris has become the first overseas-born player to be called up for the China national team after he was included in Marcello Lippi's squad for upcoming friendlies against the Philippines and Tajikistan.
  • Yennaris, known as Li Ke in China, was born and grew up in England and is eligible to play for China through his mother, who was born in the country.
  • The 26-year-old signed for Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan in January and has been granted Chinese citizenship, making him eligible for selection by Lippi as the Italian seeks to boost the fortunes of the country's struggling national team.
  • Yennaris' inclusion marks a significant shift in policy by the Chinese Football Association, which had previously resisted calls to include naturalised players in the national set-up despite it being common practice in many other countries.

ISSF World Cup

  •  India won both the gold medals on offer, and bagged a silver, in mixed team events on the final day of competition to finish the ISSF World Cup in Munich with a staggering five gold medals, their best performance in a World Cup.
  •  the 10m air rifle event saw two Indian teams pitted against each other for the gold medal match-up. Anjum Moudgil and 17-year-old Divyansh Singh Panwar defeated Apurvi Chandela and Deepak Kumar with a comprehensive 16-2 margin.
  • The Belarusian pair of Maria Martynova and Ilia Charheika won a thrilling bronze-medal match against Austrian Olivia Hofmann and Alexander Schmirl 16-14.
  • It was the second successive World Cup gold for Anjum and Divyansh, who had taken the top spot in Beijing too.
  • The two shot a combined 631.9 to top the eight-team standings in the first stage of the finals. Apurvi and Deepak were in second spot with an effort of 630.2.
  • Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker continued to dominate the 10m mixed team air pistol event, winning gold in all three World Cups this year.
  • The teenagers topped in the New Delhi and Beijing World Cups, and also won the Asian Airgun Championships in Chinese-Taipei for four gold medals this season.
  • Manu and Saurabh were on target right from round one, topping the 76-team field with a score of 586 and then consolidating in round two with 591. Saurabh shot a 100 in his last series.
  • India topped the overall medals tally with five gold medals and one silver, leaving behind China at second place with nine medals — two gold, two silver and five bronze medals.
  • Apurvi Chandela (10m air rifle women), Rahi Sarnobat (25m pistol women) and Saurabh Chaudhary (10m air pistol men) had won individual gold medals.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Narendra Modi Takes Oath with 57 Ministers

  •  Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with 57 Ministers, took oath of office at a grand swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
  • BJP chief Amit Shah finally deciding to join the Union government, and former Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar making a surprise entry into the Union Cabinet, among the top 10 Ministers.
  • Almost 22 Ministers have been dropped including those who lost the polls this time. NDA ally Janata Dal (U) hogged the limelight, ironically, by keeping away from the event because Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded more berths than the single one being offered to every ally.
  • former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would not be joining the Union Council of Ministers.
  • Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also opted out earlier.
  • Other notable exclusions were former Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, former Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi (making it possibly the first time that no Gandhi on either side is in government), former Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, former Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, and former Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha. 

Jagan Hikes Old Age Pension

  •  Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy increased pension for the elderly from the current Rs. 2,000 a month to Rs. 3,000 in a phased manner over four years.
  • This is the first file he signed after being sworn in as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Chief Minister, Mr. Jagan said that the implementation of the "Navaratnas", nine welfare measures announced in the party election manifesto, was the top priority of his government. 

 Congress to Skip TV Debates

  • As party communications chief Randeep Surjewala, Indian National Congress decided to not send spokespersons on television debates for a month.
  •  The Congress said that it would not send its spokespersons and media panellists for television debates.
  • All media channels/editors are requested to not place Congress representatives on their shows.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Maneka Gandhi Likely to be Pro-tem Speaker

  •  Sultanpur MP Maneka Gandhi is likely to be the pro tem speaker of the new Lok Sabha. As the temporary speaker, the former union minister will administer oath to the newly elected MPs and preside over the sitting of the Lok Sabha to elect its speaker.
  • Maneka was the women and child development minister in the outgoing government, but she did not find a place in the new council of minister.
  • Maneka is a seven term Lok Sabha MP and the senior most member of the lower house of the parliament after Santosh Kumar Gangwar.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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SC stops EWS quota in Maha PG medical colleges

  •  The Supreme Court stopped the Maharashtra government from reserving 10% seats in postgraduate medical colleges for the members of economically weaker section (EWS) in the general category.
  • The central government had in January made Constitutional amendment granting 10% quota in jobs and admission for EWS candidates across all classes.
  • A vacation bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said the EWS quota cannot be applied to the PG medical courses for academic year 2019-20 as the admission process started long before resolution to have the reservation was enforced.
  • It felt that the quota cannot be granted at the cost of others unless seats are created by the MCI, the regulatory body for medical education.
  • The order came on a plea filed by student Rajendra Agrawal who challenged two circulars of the Maharashtra government by which the quota was introduced in PG medical courses. 

Govt. Asks NTA to Identify Medical Colleges for EWS Seats

  •  The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has directed the National Testing Agency to identify institutions that will provide quota for economically weaker section (EWS) students in MBBS and hold counselling for them as a separate category.
  • In a letter to NTA's director-general Vineet Jain, the ministry has said that the 10% EWS quota will be provided against increased seats across institutions.
  • The candidates may indicate the EWS category while registering for counselling. However, they would have to be in the qualifying 50 percentile category to be eligible.

World's Tiniest Surviving Baby

  •  A California hospital disclosed the birth of the world's smallest baby ever to survive, weighing a mere 245 grams (8.6 ounces), the same as a large apple, when she was born.
  • After nearly five months at the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, Saybie was discharged home earlier this month weighing a healthy five pounds (2.2 kilograms) and sporting a graduation cap.
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