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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

18 Jul 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

 Turkey can no Longer be Part of the American F-35 Fighter Jet Programme

  •  The White House says Turkey can no longer be part of the American F-35 fighter jet programme. In a written statement, the White House said that Turkey's decision to buy the Russian S-400 air defence system "renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible."
  • Turkey makes numerous components for the stealth aircraft. If Turkey is removed, as expected, the US will have to find alternative suppliers.
  • President Donald Trump announced that the S-400 purchase means Turkey will not be allowed to purchase any F-35 planes. Yet to be announced is whether the US will impose economic sanctions on Turkey for its decision. 

Pak's Sindh OKs bill to end Hindu girls' forced conversions

  •  Pakistan's Sindh assembly has unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the practice of forced conversions and abductions of Hindu girls must be stopped and action be taken against those involved in such activities.
  • The resolution by Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) lawmaker Nand Kumar Goklani  was supported by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party as well as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami.
  • The resolution comes months after the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report in April, 2019 raised concerns about incidents of forced conversions and marriages of Hindu and Christian girls, saying around 1,000 such cases were reported in Sindh alone in 2018

ICJ Stays Jadhav's Execution

  •  In a major diplomatic and legal victory for India in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) directed Pakistan to review his conviction and, until then, put his death sentence on hold.
  • The court also asked Islamabad to allow New Delhi consular access at the earliest.
  • In a 15-1 order, the ICJ held that Jadhav's execution will remain on hold until Islamabad "effectively reviews and reconsiders" his conviction.
  • "A continued stay of execution constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Mr Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav."
  • What this effectively means is that the death sentence awarded to Jadhav by a military court in Pakistan is stayed until probably a civil court, where the accused will have better representation, hears the case afresh.
  • The court ruled decisively in favour of India's plea to allow it full consular access to Jadhav, which has so far been denied. Judge Gilani from Pakistan was the only one to go against the majority judgement.
  • The judge from China, vice president Xue, also voted in favour of the judgement.
  • The court, however, rejected India's plea for annulment of Jadhav's conviction by the military court in Pakistan and his immediate release.
  • The Hague-based ICJ concluded that Islamabad had violated Article 36 of the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, 1963, by not informing New Delhi about Jadhav's arrest immediately after Pakistan Army had taken him into custody.
  • In its appeal, India had challenged the "farcical trial" that Jadhav was put through on the basis of what it called an extracted confession, and asked the court to instruct Pakistan to annul the sentence and allow India consular access.
  • The verdict was read out at a public sitting of the United Nations court. The session was held under the presidency of Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf.
  • The court found that Pakistan deprived India of the right to communicate with and have access to Jadhav, to visit him in detention and to arrange for his legal representation, and thereby breached obligations incumbent upon it under the Vienna Convention.
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ENVIRONMENT

World's Northernmost Settlement sees Record High Temp

  •  Temperatures hit a record 21 degrees Celsius in Canada's Alert, the northernmost permanently inhabited spot on the planet, less than 600 miles from the North Pole.
  • The temperature was recorded  at Alert, a military base on the 82nd parallel which intercepts Russian communications and which has been home to a weather station since 1950.
  • In October 2018, a landmark UN report warned that time is running out to avert global disaster and that avoiding climate chaos will require an unprecedented transformation of society and the world economy.
  • The heat wave is due to a high pressure front over Greenland, which is "quite exceptional" and feeds southerly winds on the Arctic Ocean, said Castellan.
  • The Arctic is heating up three times faster than other parts of the planet, said Castellan, stressing on the need for a drastic reduction in carbon emissions.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Jalan Panel Moots Transfer of Surplus by RBI in Stages

  •  The Bimal Jalan panel set up to review the economic capital framework of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to recommend transfer of excess reserves to the government in a staggered manner over a period of three to five years based on a predetermined formula.
  • The official said the recommendation of the panel for transfer of excess reserves involved both contingency fund as well as revaluation fund.
  • While the currency and gold revaluation reserves of the RBI have more than tripled from Rs. 1.99 lakh crore in FY09 to Rs. 6.92 lakh crore in FY18, the contingency fund has grown 50% during the same period from Rs. 1.53 lakh crore to Rs. 2.32 lakh crore.
  • The government believes the RBI is being too conservative and is sitting on huge reserves and hence part of it should be transferred to the government for more productive use. After things came to a head late in 2018, the RBI set up a committee to review its capital framework.
  • The government has budgeted to receive Rs. 1.06 lakh crore in FY20 from the RBI through dividend even though the central bank has already paid an interim dividend of Rs. 28,000 crore in February 2019.
  • In December 2018, the RBI had set up the Jalan panel. Former deputy governor Rakesh Mohan is the vice-chairman of the panel.
  • Other members include RBI central board directors Bharat Doshi and Sudhir Mankad; deputy governor NS Vishwanathan; and finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg. The panel later got extensions as it could not resolve differences among members.
  • The committee was mandated to also suggest an adequate level of risk provisioning that the RBI needs to maintain.
  • That apart, any other related matter, including treatment of surplus reserves created out of realized gains, was also come within the ambit of this committee.

   Allahabad Bank, Punjab & Sind Bank Report Frauds

  •  Allahabad Bank Ltd reported a Rs. 689 crore fraud related to textile company SEL Manufacturing Ltd to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The fraud is already being heard by the country's company law tribunal. The bank has made provisions for the bad loan.
  • Meanwhile, Punjab & Sind Bank also said it has reported a Rs.238 crore ($34.58 million) fraud to the Reserve Bank of India, relating to allegations of diversion of funds by the indebted Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd.
  • It has been observed that the company has misappropriated bank funds, manipulated books of accounts to raise funds from consortium lender banks.
  • The case is currently with the country's company law tribunal and the bank expects good recovery.
  • Earlier in July 2019, Allahabad Bank had flagged a $259 million fraud by bankrupt steelmaker Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd.
  • State-run Punjab National Bank Ltd and Punjab & Sind Bank Ltd have also reported similar frauds amounting to more than Rs. 4,000 crore by the steelmaker.

India's Newest Tech Unicorn

  •  Billionaire Azim Premji has helped create India's latest tech unicorn: a fast-rising software startup that symbolizes the growing investor interest in the Asian nation's enterprise technology space.
  • Icertis, which competes with SAP SE and Oracle Corp. to help businesses manage contracts in the cloud, has raised $115 million, propelling it to unicorn status as investors flock to enterprise software makers.
  • The advanced-stage funding round in Bellevue, Washington and Pune, India-based Icertis was co-led by Greycroft Partners Llc and Premji-Invest, the fund managed by the family office of Indian tech billionaire Premji.
  • Existing investors including B Capital Group, Eight Roads Ventures and Cross Creek Advisors participated. With this, Icertis has raised over $211 million.
  • The enterprise software segment is heating up as investors from Tiger Global Management to Sequoia and Accel scour the industry for India's next startup giants.
  • Many are expected to be business focused, as the country's talent pool shifts from information technology outsourcing services for global clients toward designing and providing online software.
  • Icertis said it now helps customers worldwide manage over 5.7 million contracts, from supply chain, procurement deals to employee agreements and non disclosure pacts, that have a total value of more than $1 trillion.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Isro Aims at July 21-22 Chandrayaan-2 Launch

  •  After calling off the launch of Chandrayaan-2 due to a snag, Isro is now actively looking at a window as early as July 21 or 22, 2019 for a retry.
  • Isro's confidence can be attributed to the assurance given by the technical teams working at the Sriharikota launch pad who were "confident of rectifying the snag" in the next 48 hours.
  • The space agency is keen on the July 21-22, 2019 window because these are the earliest dates on which it will get a chance to navigate the lunar craft to the Moon's orbit. After this, the next possible window will open up only in September, 2019.
  • Every launch has an 'optimal window' to achieve desired results. July 15 provided the longest window of 10 minutes. Now, Isro has a window of at least one minute every day for the rest of the month. 

US Marks Apollo 11 Mission 50 Years On

  •  Fifty years after a mighty rocket set off from Florida carrying the first humans to the Moon, a veteran of the Apollo 11 crew returned to its fabled launch pad to commemorate "one giant leap" that became a defining moment in human history.
  • He and Buzz Aldrin, who piloted the module that landed on the Moon's surface, are the two surviving members from the mission that would change the way humanity saw its place in the universe. Their commander Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, died in 2012 aged 82.
  • The spacecraft took four days to reach the Moon, before the module known as "Eagle" touched the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.The Washington Monument will be lit up between July 16 and 18 with a life-size, 363-foot (111-meter) projection of the colossal Saturn V rocket built by ex-Nazi war criminal Wernher Von Braun.
  • Collins described how the mission was broken into discrete goals such as breaking free of the Earth's gravity or slowing down for lunar orbit.
View Month Wise

SPORTS

Inzamam Steps Down as Pak Selector

  •  Inzamam-ul-Haq announced his decision to step down as Pakistan's chief selector when his contract expires on July 31, 2019.
  • Former Pakistan captain Inzamam, who was appointed to the role in April 2016, oversaw a period which included Pakistan's victory in the Champions Trophy two years ago.
  • Inzamam's final assignment was to select the Pakistan squad for the World Cup, where the Sarfaraz Ahmed-led team finished fifth in the group stage and failed to qualify for the semi-finals. 
  • During Inzamam's tenure, players such as Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Abbas, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Usman Shinwari made their international debut.

Qatar in India's Qualifying Group

  •  India have been drawn alongside Oman, South Asian rivals Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Asian champions Qatar in the preliminary joint qualification Round 2 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
  •  While Qatar will play the 2022 World Cup as hosts, they will have the chance of booking their place for the 2023 Asian Cup in China by topping this group. 
  • In case they win their 2nd round group, Qatar will be given the choice of playing the third round, subject to FIFA approval.
  • Held in Kuala Lumpur, the draw saw 40 teams being divided across eight groups of five each. The eight group winners from this round as well as four of the best second place finishers will progress to the third round of World Cup qualifying and also seal berths in the 2023 Asian Cup main rounds.
  • The rest of the teams will fight it out for the remaining 12 spots for the Asian Cup.
  • India have played only one competitive fixture against Qatar in the past, losing 6-0 in a World Cup qualifier in 1996. 
  • They have played Oman on more occasions, however, including twice in the World Cup qualifiers in 2015. India lost both those games — 2-1 at home and 3-0 away.
  • North Korea and South Korea are drawn together in Group H. The two teams had been drawn together in two stages of the 2010 World Cup qualifying as well.
  • At the time, North Korea's home games against their southern rivals were shifted to Shanghai after the country refused to play the national anthem and fly the national flag of South Korea.

Hima Das Clinches Fourth Gold

  •  Indian sprinter Hima Das clinched her fourth gold in a fortnight as she won the 200m race with a creditable timing in the Tabor Athletics Meet in Czech Republic.
  • Hima won the race in 23.25 seconds, which had a mediocre field with most of the competitors representing clubs of Czech Republic. Compatriot VK Vismaya was second with a season's best of 23.43. Hima has a 200m personal best of 23.10 seconds.
  • This was 19-year-old Hima's fourth gold since July 2, 2019 when she ran her first competitive race in Europe. She has been improving since her first race.
View Month Wise

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Green Signal to Dibang Dam

  •  The Centre has given a green signal to the Dibang dam — set to be the largest hydropower project in India at 278 metres — which was put on hold during the United Progressive Alliance regime due to environmental concerns.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday approved Rs. 1,600 crore for pre-investment activities and clearances for the Dibang multipurpose project in Arunachal Pradesh, which is estimated to cost Rs. 28,080.35 crore to build, and once completed, will generate 2880MW power.
  • Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar hailed the hydro-electric multipurpose project as a "major contribution of India" to the world which is battling climate change. This project will produce 2880 MW of power but not use any coal.
  • The project has received statutory clearances, including the environment clearance, forest clearance (stage l) and defence clearance. Only forest clearance (stage II) remains, for the project to seek investment sanction from Centre.

Govt Extends Finance Commission's Term

  •  The government tasked the 15th Finance Commission with suggesting ways to provide "assured allocation of resources" for defence and internal security and examine if a separate funding mechanism was required.
  • The move came along with a decision to extend the constitutional body's term by a month to November, 2019.
  • The move comes at a time when the defence establishment has been complaining of lack of funds and the Centre's commitment to social sector schemes, many of which are in the domain of the states, has increased, creating pressure on resources.
  • The panel headed by NK Singh will have the task of working out a mechanism and how it can be operationalised to ensure that the country's sovereignty is not compromised for want of funds.

TMC, NCP and CPI May Lose National Status

  •  The Mamata Banerjeeled Trinamool Congress (TMC), Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) could lose their national party status with the Election Commission of India preparing to issue them show cause notices highlighting their ineligibility for this tag as established after the recent Lok Sabha elections.
  • As per the EC rulebook, Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, 'national status' is conferred on a party if its candidates secure at least 6% of the votes polled in a state in a Lok Sabha election, or if four of its MPs get re-elected from any state, or if it wins at least 2% of the seats in the Lok Sabha in the last general elections, or if the party is recognised as a state party in at least four states.
  • However, this time, it is gathered that the Commission may not take a lenient view again, like after the 2014 polls, when it allowed political parties to retain the status. This may bring down the total number of national parties to five from eight, if effected.
  • There are currently eight national party status holders –– Congress, BJP, CPM, CPI, BSP, NCP and AITC.
  • The latest entrant is the National People's Party –– a recognised state party in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland.
  • The three political parties (TMC, NCP and CPI) and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were issued show cause notices in 2014 on their ineligibility.
  • However, following representations from the parties concerned, the EC decided to take a less stringent view and amended the rules to assess the national party status eligibility over two elections rather than just one.
  • However, only BSP is not in the red this time, having marked its presence in several other states, as required.
  • The remaining three parties are once again ineligible for the national party status in terms of the proportion of votes earned and state-wide presence.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Hafiz Saeed Arrested on Terror Finance Allegations

  •  Lashkar-eTaiba (LeT) founder and alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed was arrested by Pakistani security officials on charges of collecting funds for banned terror groups and remanded to judicial custody.
  • This is the first time the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) has been arrested on specific charges filed by authorities.
  • In the past, he was detained without charge in connection with incidents such as the Mumbai attacks.
  • The arrest came against the backdrop of pressure on Pakistan from the US and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to crack down on terror and its financing, and days before Prime Minister Imran Khan embarks on a three-day visit to the US during which he will hold talks with President Donald Trump on July 22, 2019. Khan will be accompanied by Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

Arnault No. 2 on Rich List

  •  Bill Gates has never ranked lower than No. 2 in the seven-year history of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
  • That run ended when the Microsoft Corp. co-founder dropped to No. 3 behind France's Bernard Arnault.
  • LVMH, Arnault's luxury-goods maker, advanced to a record in Paris and pushed his net worth to $107.6 billion and ahead of Gates by more than $200 million. Arnault has added $39 billion to his fortune in 2019 alone, the biggest individual gain by far among the 500 people in Bloomberg's ranking.
  • Arnault, 70, joined Gates and Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, in the most exclusive wealth club in June 2019, when his fortune surpassed $100 billion for the first time.
  • The trio's collective wealth exceeds the individual market values of almost every company in the S&P 500 Index, including Walmart Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Walt Disney Co. 2019 has been particularly good to French tycoons, with Arnault, Kering SA's Francois Pinault and cosmetics heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyers tacking on a combined $57 billion.
  • Arnault and his family are among luxury titans who pledged more than $650 million in April 2019 for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral after fire ravaged the landmark church.
  • He controls about half of Paris-based LVMH through a family holding company and also owns a 97% stake in Christian Dior, the fashion house founded three years before his birth in 1949.

Go Air hires former Airbus exec as COO

  •  The Wadia group run low-cost airline GoAir, which has been headless since February 2019, has hired industry veteran Miranda Mills, a former executive of Airbus and Rolls Royce, as its chief operating officer (COO).
  • Mills will be heading the operations of the Mumbai-headquartered airline that is reportedly planning an initial share sale in 2019, and will report to MD & CEO Jeh Wadia. She will take charge from August, 2019.
  • The airline has been headless since February 2019  when the then CEO Cornellis Vriewijk resigned citing "family" reasons after being at the helm for just about nine months.
  • That apart, the airline has seen as many as 15 senior management personnel, including COO and chief commercial officer, leaving the airline since July, 2019 due to various reasons.
View Month Wise

DAYS AND EVENTS

World Emoji Day

  •  Apple and Google are rolling out dozens of new emojis that of course include cute critters, but also expand the number of images of human diversity.
  • On the occasion of World Emoji Day, both iOS and Android announced a new saree emoji that is coming to their respective keyboards very soon.
  • Apple Inc. is releasing new variants of its holding hands emoji that allow people to pick any combination of skin tone and gender, 75 possible combinations in all. There are also wheelchairs, prosthetic arms and legs, as well as a new guide dog and an ear with a hearing aid.
  • And then there's the sloth, the flamingo, the skunk, the orangutan, as well as a new yawning emoji.
  • Apple said its new emojis will be available in the fall with a free software update for the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch.
View Month Wise

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Govt to Bring New Model Law for Water Reforms

  •  The Narendra Modi government is drawing up a legislative package for water-sector reforms, including a model law aimed at managing what has become the scarcest resource in over a third of the country's districts.
  • Discussions are on at Jal Shakti, as the water resources ministry is now called, to bring a model law on water resources regulatory mechanisms to be set up by each state government, as the onus of replenishing water resources falls squarely in the states' domain, according to a constitutional division of jurisdictions.
  • The law is likely to be called the model water resources regulatory authority bill and only Maharashtra has such a body functioning since 2005.
  • Parts of Chennai have gone without piped water for several months now. The city's crisis was aggravated when Tamil Nadu received 55% less rains during the so-called winter monsoon in December 2018, according to weather bureau data.
  • The government also plans to bring a second model law stipulating legal provisions for re-using and recycling water. Model laws are passed by the central government to offer a framework for states to legislate in areas where they have exclusive control, such as water.
  • Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a "Jal Jeevan Mission" in Budget 2019-20 to provide potable water to every rural household by 2024, in step with the government's larger thrust on water conservation and providing safe drinking water to all parts of the country.
  • A model law for water-sector regulatory authorities at the state level is likely to cover issues such as dispute resolution, regulating supply at the time of crisis, water entitlement rights and regulation of bulk users. Legal provisions will also apply on processes for mandatory recycling and re-use of water.

National Medical Commission Bill Approved

  •  The Union Cabinet approved the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019 that allows the setting up of a medical commission in place of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the repeal of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
  • The Bill is likely to be introduced in the current session of Parliament. It was first introduced in Parliament in December 2017, but lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
  • According to the provisions of the Bill, the common final-year MBBS exam will be known as the National Exit Test (NEXT) and will act as the licentiate exam to practise medicine, as criteria for admission to post graduate (PG) medical courses and for screening foreign medical graduates.
  • The NEXT will also be applicable to institutes of national importance such as the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences in order to have a common standard in medical education in the country.
  • The Bill proposes that the National Medical Commission will have four autonomous boards: under-graduate medical education board, post-graduate medical education board, medical assessment and rating board and ethics and medical registration board.
  • The NMC and the boards will ensure a dynamic and modern educational environment, achieving the norms in global standards.

More Power to NIA

  •  Indian Parliament approved a legislation that grants more power to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), including the mandate to probe terror attacks on Indians and their properties in other countries.
  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Amendment Bill, piloted by union home minister Amit Shah, was cleared by the Rajya Sabha, where most opposition parties, barring the Left, supported the legislation. The Lok Sabha has already approved the bill. 
  • The latest amendments will enable NIA to additionally investigate offences related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber- terrorism, and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908. 
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