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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

20 Jun 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Xi Jinping Voices Firm Support for Dictator Kim

  •  China supports the correct decision of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to politically resolve the Korean Peninsula problem, voicing firm support for the secretive regime a day ahead of his visit, a first by a top Chinese leader in 14 years.
  • China would actively contribute to regional peace, stability, development and prosperity by strengthening communication and coordination with the DPRK and relevant parties to jointly push for progress in talks and negotiations on the issue.

Pakistan Faces FATF Blacklisting

  •  Pakistan faces the onerous task of defending its actions to curb terror financing at the plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in the US against the backdrop of reports that the country failed to deliver on a 27-point action plan framed by the multilateral watchdog.
  • The FATF plenary at Orlando, Florida is crucial as its findings would determine whether Pakistan would remain on the watchdog's grey list or be downgraded to the black list, which would lead to harsher financial sanctions.
  • However, a final announcement on Pakistan's status is expected only after the FATF's next plenary in Paris during October 2019.
  • The Orlando plenary will specifically look at developments in the financing of Islamic State, al-Qaeda and affiliates and countries' disruption strategies, including prosecution of terrorist financing.
  • Pakistan aligned its domestic counter-terror and money laundering legislations and regulatory mechanisms with international obligations, especially the need to crack down on individuals and groups listed by the United Nation's 1267 Sanctions Committee.
  • It also took some steps to detain operatives of Lashkar-eTaiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and their affiliates such as Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundato tion and to restrain the activities of these groups.
  • However, several reports suggested that evaluations by the Asia Pacific Group, a regional affiliate of the FATF, have concluded Pakistan hasn't done enough on the ground to disrupt fund-raising by eight terror groups, including LeT and JeM, and to completely freeze their assets.
  • Pakistan was placed on the grey list in June last year (2018) after a majority of FATF members concluded that the nation wasn't doing enough to curb terror financing.

ENVIRONMENT

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Himalayan Glaciers Melting Far Faster

  •  According to a study, Himalayan glaciers have been melting twice as fast since the start of this century, underscoring the threat the climate crisis poses to water supplies for hundreds of millions of people across Asia.
  • The new analysis, spanning 40 years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, showed glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot-and-a-half of ice each year since 2000. That represents double the rate between 1975 and 2000.
  • Although melting ice caps at Earth's north and south poles are already destabilising the climate system, the retreat of Himalayan ice has more direct consequences for some 800 million people who depend on meltwater to sustain their rivers. 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Apollo Munich and HDFC ERGO Merger

  •  HDFC Ltd. signed a definitive agreement with Apollo Munich Health Insurance to buy out the entire Apollo Hospitals Group's stake of 50.8% for Rs. 1,136 crore and another 0.4% stake held by a few employees for Rs. 10.84 crore.
  • Post the acquisition of shares by HDFC, Apollo Munich would be merged with the former's general insurance subsidiary — HDFC ERGO. ERGO is a subsidiary of Munich Re, which has been a joint venture partner of HDFC ERGO since 2008.
  • Munich Re would continue to hold 49% stake in HDFC ERGO post the merger.
  • The acquisition would make HDFC ERGO the second-largest private sector insurer in the combined accident and health insurance vertical, with an 8.2% market share.

HDFC Open to Buying Retail Portfolios

  •  Mortgage lender HDFC Ltd. is open to buying out retail portfolios of housing finance companies (HFCs) looking to raise resources.
  • Most HFCs are facing a liquidity crunch with banks becoming reluctant to extend loans as the shadow banking sector fights a crisis of confidence post the debt default of IL&FS in September 2018.

Celebi Aviation to Invest in Taxibots

  •  Turkish ground handling company Celebi Aviation would make an investment of up to €45 million to bring Taxibots at key Indian airports over the next five to six years to provide eco-friendly taxiing solution to airlines and airports.
  • Taxibot is a semi-robotic equipment that tows an aircraft from the terminal gate to the runway with the aircraft's engine turned off. This helps airlines to cut down fuel consumption by 85% during the takeoff stage as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The company signed an agreement with Delhi International Airport Limited for seven years and is already providing the service to SpiceJet.
  • The airport became the first to use the semi-robotic equipment globally for taxiing of aircraft in May 2019.
  • There are two Taxibots at Delhi airport and there are plans to get three more in the near future.

Agreement Between HCL and Cricket Australia

  •  HCL Technologies signed a multi-year deal with Cricket Australia, the national governing body for the game in that country.
  • As part of the deal, the firm would help deliver a digital experience to cricket fans, players, partners, employees and volunteers across Australia and around the world. 
  • HCL Technologies would manage Cricket Australia's digital products, including Cricket Australia Live App, cricket.com.au, bigbash.com.au and community cricket applications such as MyCricket as well community.cricket.com.au.

SAT Fines SEBI

  •  The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) imposed a penalty of Rs. 50,000 on Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), after a person aggrieved by a SEBI order convinced the tribunal that the market regulator was in the wrong.
  • In November 2017, SEBI'S whole-time member Madhabi Puri Buch had issued an interim order against a little-known company, Supreme Tex Mart Ltd, on charges that it sent out bulk messages to buy its shares.
  • The order barred the company's directors from accessing capital markets pending further investigations.
  • A final order in March 2019 asked these directors and the company to disgorge Rs. 18 crore to investors which, SEBI said, were ill-gotten gains.
  • Sanjay Gupta, one of the individuals affected by the order, petitioned SAT that he had resigned from the Supreme Tex Mart board in 2013 before the alleged lapses occurred. He claimed he was no longer a director and that he was not involved in any fraudulent activity.

Kolhapuri Chappal Gets GI Tag

  •  Maharashtra's extremely popular footwear brand Kolhapuri chappal was given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, which is likely to further boost its sale in other parts of the country and abroad.
  • According to reports, the approval for the GI tag for the popular footwear brand was jointly granted to four districts of Karnataka and Maharashtra each for making these chappals.
  • The GI tag approvals mean that the artisans producing Kolhapuris in Kolhapur, Solapur, Sangli and Satara districts of Maharashtra and Dharwad, Belgaum, Bagalkot and Bijapur districts of Karnataka will now be able to make and market their product in domestic and international markets.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Two Earth-like Planets Discovered

  •  Scientists have discovered two new Earth-like planets around one of the closest stars within our galactic neighbourhood.
  • The planets are located only 12.5 light years away orbiting the Teegarden star, a red dwarf in the direction of the constellation of Aries.
  • Both the planets are similar to the planets in the inner part of the Solar System.
  • According to researchers, they are just a little bigger than the Earth and are situated in the habitable zone where water can exist as a liquid.
  • As per Stefan Dreizler, a researcher at the University of Gottingen, it is possible that the two planets are part of a larger system. 

SPORTS

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Stewart Knocked Out

  •  Rory Stewart was knocked out of the race to become Britain's next Prime Minister, leaving four candidates led by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
  • International development secretary Stewart received the fewest votes in the third ballot of Conservative MPs and so drops out of the contest, while Johnson extended his commanding lead among his colleagues in Britain's governing party.
  • Former London mayor Johnson received 143 votes, ahead of foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt on 54, environment secretary Michael Gove on 51 and interior minister Sajid Javid on 38.
  • Stewart won 27 votes - 10 fewer than he received in the second ballot.

Shikhar Dhawan Out of Cricket World Cup 2019

  •  In a major blow to the Indian team, opener Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the Cricket World Cup 2019 after failing to recover from the thumb fracture sustained against Australia earlier in the tournament.
  • Dhawan was diagnosed with a fracture of the first metacarpal on his left hand after he was hit by a ball from Pat Cummins during his century at The Oval on June 9 with the team management declaring that he was out of action for at least three weeks.

Hockey India Sacks Jude Felix

  •  Hockey India sacked the junior men's hockey team coach Jude Felix after the National side finished a disappointing sixth in the just-concluded eight-nation tournament in Madrid.
  • The development came to light after HI advertised for the position on its official website.
  • The decision of HI to remove Jude was on expected lines following a series of below-par performances by the reigning junior world champions.

Mayors Gold Cup to Be Revived

  •  The Thiruvananthapuram Corporation decided to revive the Mayors Gold Cup football tournament from this year (2019).
  • The tournament will be held from August 25 to September 1, and would be an all-India affair played in a knockout format. The tournament would feature seven teams from Kerala and five outstation teams.
  • The inaugural Mayors Gold Cup was held in 1996 and was an all-Kerala tournament. It was won by State Bank of Travancore (SBT). The tournament has not been held since then.

All Out for 6

  •  In the Kwibuka Women's tournament, Rwanda bowled out Mali for a mere six runs, the lowest total in a women's T20Is.
  • The Mali innings lasted nine overs, but only one of its six runs came off the bat, courtesy opener Mariam Samake. After that, it was a sequence of ducks, with five extras.
  • It took Rwanda four balls to finish its chase as it created the record for the biggest margin of victory in terms of balls remaining — 116.

National Ice Figure Skating Event

  •  Around 27 ice skaters are participating in the National Ice Figure Skating Championships, organised by the Ice Skating Association of India from June 17 to 25 in Gurugram.
  • The skaters, aged between 10 and 20, are from Gurugram, Delhi, Noida and even Visakhapatnam and Bengaluru. 
  • According to the organisers, the final competition will be held on June 25, where they will be judged on the sport's four disciplines — single, pair, ice dance and synchronised skating.
  • Two skaters will be selected from each age group, who will go on to participate in the Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy to be held in Beijing, China from August 5 to 9.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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YSRCP Refuses Post of Deputy Speaker

  •  The YSR Congress Party made it clear that it would not take the post of Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha even if it is offered till the government grants special status to Andhra Pradesh.
  • As per reports, the BJP sent feelers to the YSCRP and it rejected them. The YSCRP does not want to align with the ruling dispensation unless and until they accord special category status to Andhra Pradesh.

IB to Report Directly to Amit Shah

  •  Almost a fortnight after Home Minister Amit Shah took charge, he allocated work to the two junior Ministers in North Block.
  • While the management of other departments was distributed among the two Ministers of State, Mr. Shah would hold charge of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) himself.
  • Former Home Minister Rajnath Singh also had IB report directly to him.
  • The distribution of work came at a time when Mr. Shah is expected to undertake his first official visit as a Home Minister to Jammu and Kashmir to oversee the preparations and security arrangements for the Amarnath Yatra that commences on July 1.
  • The two Ministers of State, Nityanand Rai and G. Kishan Reddy, did not have defined roles till now.
  • As per the new set of responsibilities, Mr. Rai would look after the Left-wing Extremism division, Centre-State relations, border management, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and the Foreigners Division.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir desk and Northeast was allocated to Mr. Reddy. This is the first time that J&K and Northeast divisions have been allocated to the same Minister. In the previous Cabinet, the Northeast division was handled by Kiren Rijiju and Kashmir desk was with Hansraj Gangaram Ahir.
  • Both Mr. Rai and Mr. Reddy were State presidents of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in Bihar and Telangana, respectively.

Cong Dissolves Its Karnataka Unit

  •  The AICC [All India Congress Committee] decided to dissolve the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. Its president and working president remain unchanged.
  • The KPCC had 290 office-bearers, including former Central and state ministers, MPs and the state legislature and presidents of its district committees.
  • The KPCC had been dissolved for restructuring in the aftermath of the party's poor performance in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
  • The Congress managed to win just one of the 21 Lok Sabha (LS) seats it contested in Karnataka, where it retained power in May last year (2018) after forming an uneasy coalition with the Janata Dal (Secular). Together, the two partners ended up with only two of the 28 seats Karnataka fills in the LS.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Three People Worth more Than $100 Billion Each

  •  Bernard Arnault, Europe's richest person, joined Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates in the world's most exclusive wealth club with a fortune of at least $100 billion.
  • Arnault, chairman of LVMH, entered the ranks of centibillionaires as the luxury-goods maker climbed 2.9% to a record 368.80 euros a share. His net worth increased almost $32 billion in 2019, the most on the 500-member Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
  • Arnault's fortune of $100.4 billion now equals more than 3% of France's economy.

Names for HCs of Telangana and Himachal

  •  The government cleared the appointments of Justice R. S. Chauhan as Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court and Justice V. Ramasubramanium as the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court even as it continues to overlook the Supreme Court Collegium's recommendation to appoint Bombay High Court judge, Justice A. A. Kureshi, as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court.
  • The collegium comprising three senior most judges of the top court had in May this year (2019) recommended names of four judges for appointment as Chief Justices in various High Courts.
  • Justice D. N. Patel was recommended for the post of Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice R. S. Chauhan for CJ of the Telangana High Court, Justice V. Ramasubramanium for CJ of the Himachal Pradesh High Court and Justice AA Kureshi for CJ of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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World Refugee Day

  •  World Refugee Day is an international observance observed on June 20 each year. It is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world.
  • On 4th December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 55/76 decided that, from 2000, 20th June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day.
  • In this resolution, the General Assembly noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
  • The theme for World Refugee Day 2019 is 'StepWithRefugees — Take A Step on World Refugee Day'. The theme focuses on that there is a need to take big and small steps in solidarity with refugees from around the world. 

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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MNRE to Set Up Dispute Resolution Panel

  •  The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) decided to set up a three-member dispute resolution committee (DRC) to look into disputes beyond contractual agreements between solar or wind power developers and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) or state-run power giant NTPC.
  • This dispute resolution mechanism would cover all those projects that would be implemented through or by SECI and NTPC.
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