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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

19 Jul 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Pakistan to Grant Consular Access to Kulbushan Jadhav

  •  A day after the International Court of Justice urged Pakistan to grant consular access to death row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav.
  • Islamabad declared that Mr. Jadhav would be granted the right to get in touch with the diplomats and officials from India.

U.S. Bars Turkey from F-35 Programme

  •  The White House confirmed that Turkey would be excluded from the F-35 stealth fighter jet programme after it purchased a Russian missile defense system in defiance of warnings from Western allies.
  • The U.S.-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.
  • Turkey's Foreign Ministry termed the move unfair, saying that this one-sided step neither complies with the spirit of alliance nor is it based on legitimate reasons.
  • Ms. Grisham said that the U.S. had made multiple offers of its Patriot missile defence system to Turkey, but Ankara acquired the S-400, running counter to a NATO pledge to avoid Russian systems.

Iran Seizes Tanker

  •  Iran seized a foreign tanker smuggling fuel in the Gulf, and the U.S. military commander in the region said that the U.S. would work aggressively to ensure free passage of vessels through the vital waterway.
  • The U.S. blames Iran for a series of attacks on shipping in the world's most important oil artery since mid-May 2019.
  • It was unclear if the impounded ship was the same vessel Iran towed to safety after sending a distress signal. Iranian state television had earlier said it was the same ship but the Revolutionary Guards statement did not confirm that.
  • The Guards said that the impounded ship was smuggling one million litres of fuel in the area of Larak Island in the Gulf and had 12 foreign crew.

Donald Trump Impeachment Bid Crushed

  •  Texas Democrat Al Green filed the resolution after the House voted to denounce Mr Trump's attacks aimed at four US congresswomen as racist.
  • But the measure failed to win enough support, with his fellow Democrats voting overwhelmingly against.
  • Mr. Trump said that the ridiculous attempts to impeach him were now over.
  • This should never be allowed to happen to another President of the United States again.

ENVIRONMENT

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June 2019 Hottest in 140 Years

  •  According to the latest monthly global climate report released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, June 2019 was the hottest in 140 years, setting a global record,.
  • The report said that the average global temperature in June was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average of 59.9 degrees F (15.5 degrees Celsius) and marks the 414th consecutive month in which temperatures were above the 20th-century average.
  • Nine of the 10 hottest Junes over the last 140 years have occurred since 2010.
  • Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as the Hawaii and US Gulf of Mexico regions experienced their hottest Junes on record.
  • Average temperatures in France, Germany, and northern Spain, which have experienced a heat wave, hit as high as 18 degrees F above the normal range, with temperatures in France hitting as high as 114 degrees F (46 degrees C).
  • Meanwhile, the global average sea surface temperature was 1.46 degrees F above the 20th century monthly average of 61.5 degrees F (16 degrees C), tying with 2016 as the highest global ocean temperature for the month on record while Antarctic sea ice fell to its smallest level on record, 8.5% below the 1981 to 2010 average, NOAA data showed.
  • With year-to-date global temperatures setting records, NOAA said there is a 100% chance that 2019 will end among the five warmest years on record, underscoring the need for governments to take collective action to stem a further intensification of climate change impacts.
  • Heat waves currently gripping the US, Europe and elsewhere are likely to get worse, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Artificial Snow may Save Dwindling Ice Sheet in Antarctica

  •  Governments could stop the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from sliding into the ocean and submerging coastal cities by launching a last-ditch engineering project to blanket its surface with artificial snow.
  • Scientists believe that global warming has already caused so much melting at the South Pole that the giant ice sheet is now on course to disintegrate, which would trigger an eventual global sea level rise of at least three metres over centuries.
  • The authors of the new study envisaged using 12,000 wind turbines to pump seawater 1,500 metres up to the surface, where it would be frozen into snow to try to weigh the sheet down enough to stop it collapsing any further. 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Indiabulls' Insurance Foray

  •  Indiabulls Group's foray into the insurance sector is likely to get delayed as the insurance regulator is scrutinising the merger proposal of its housing finance arm and Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) to understand its implications on the capital position of the group.
  • Indiabulls Life Insurance as well as Indiabulls General Insurance have received the R1 approval — which is the first stage, in-principle approval — from the IRDAI.
  • However, since the LVB merger with Indiabulls Housing Finance was announced after the R1 licence, insurance regulatory sources said the entire proposal needs to be revisited in its wake.

EU Fines Chipmaker Qualcomm

  •  The EU hit US chip making giant Qualcomm with an antitrust fine of 242 million euros ($271 billion), in another blow against a tech titan that is fighting global competition battles.
  • The fine is the second mega penalty levelled against Qualcomm by Brussels, which already fined the chipmaker 997 million euros in January 2018.
  • Investigation found that Qualcomm abused (its market) dominance between mid-2009 and mid-2011 by engaging in predatory pricing. 

SEBI Opposes Proposal to Transfer Surplus Money to CFI

  •  Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) strongly opposed the government's proposal to transfer surplus money to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).
  • The capital markets regulator felt that the proposal would result in compromising its autonomy and its ability to function effectively towards the progress and development of the Indian securities market.
  • The government had proposed an amendment to the SEBI Act, which states that the SEBI would constitute a reserve fund and 25% of the annual surplus of the general fund would be put in the reserve fund.
  • Further, the size of such reserve fund cannot exceed the total of annual expenditure of the preceding two financial years.
  • More importantly, the surplus of the general fund, after factoring in all the SEBI expenses and the transfer to the reserve fund, needs to be transferred to the CFI as per amendments proposed in the Finance Bill, 2019.

World Bank Drops Plan to Lend Fund for Amravati Project

  •  The World Bank has dropped its plan to extend a loan of $300 million (nearly Rs. 2,065 crore) to Andhra Pradesh for the construction of Amaravati, the new capital city of the state.
  • An indication to this effect was made on the World Bank's website. 
  • The reason for the cancellation of the loan proposal is not known yet.
  • The newly-formed YSR Congress government headed by Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had pushed the Amaravati capital works down in its list of priorities.

Labour Ministry Rejects Move to Lower EPFO Rate of Interest

  •  The labour ministry rejected the finance ministry's request to reduce the 8.65% interest rate offered in 2018-19 by the Employee Provident Fund Organisation, the government owned pension fund manager, in a move that should bring cheer to 46 million subscribers whose funds are managed by EPFO.
  • As per reports, the labour ministry is of the view that EPFO has sufficient surplus of over Rs. 3,150 crore, mainly earned from investments in exchange traded funds (ETFs).
  • EPFO interest rate is determined by the organisation's Central Board of Trustees (CBT), which does so after assessing the annual returns on the investments.
  • It is the duty of EPFO to pass on the rightful share of the subscribers.
  • EPFO does not take any money from the consolidated fund of the Government of India, and is not obliged to follow the finance ministry's suggestions.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Chandrayaan 2 Launch Rescheduled

  •  Three days after the launch of India's second mission to the moon was aborted, the Indian Space Research Organsation (Isro) announced that the glitch was corrected and Chandrayaan 2 is ready for launch on July 22 at 2.43pm.
  • The new launch timing, however, would leave no margin for error due to a shorter window period.
  • The July 22 launch would be just two days after the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon and Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk its surface on July 20, 1969.

SPORTS

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Indonesia Open

  •  Top Indian shuttler P. V. Sindhu fought hard to progress to the women's singles quarterfinals but it was curtains for Kidambi Srikanth in the men's singles event of the Indonesia Open
  •  Sindhu, seeded fifth defeated unseeded Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark  in a second-round encounter.
  • Eight seeded Srikanth was stunned by NG Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong  in a 39-minute second round contest.
  • Sindhu would next face the winner of the match between Malaysia's Soniia Cheh and-third seeded Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in the last-eight round of the BWF World Tour Super 1000 tournament.

Sachin Tendulkar Inducted into ICC Hall of Fame

  •  Legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was inducted into the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Hall of fame at a ceremony in London.
  • South African pacer Allan Donald and former Australian cricketer Cathryn Fitzpatrick were inducted as well. 
  • The 46-year-old became the sixth Indian to be included in the elite group, after Sunil Gavaskar, Bishan Bedi, Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid. 

Zimbabwe Cricket Suspended

  •  The International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to suspend Zimbabwe cricket with immediate effect.
  • This decision which was taken at the ICC Annual Conference in London was approved following a failure to fulfil their obligation of providing free and democratic elections, with no government interference in administration. 
  • This suspension resulted in funding from the ICC being suspended with participation in ICC events including the upcoming Men's T20 World Cup Qualifier under threat.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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India and Sri Lanka Sign Agreement to Upgrade Rail Track

  •  Sri Lankan government signed an agreement with IRCON International for upgrading of a railway track with Indian concessional financing of around 91.26 million US dollars. 
  • The agreement is for up gradation of over century old track of 130 km located between Colombo and Jaffna in Tamil -majority northern province.
  • The contract agreement was signed by Sunil Kumar Choudhury, Chairman & Managing Director, IRCON International Limited, and L. P. Jayampathy, Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka. 

Alpesh Thakor and Dhaval Singh Zala Join BJP

  •  Former Gujarat Congress MLAs Alpesh Thakor and Dhaval Singh Zala joined BJP in the presence of Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani.
  • Both Thakor and Zala had quit as MLAs, just ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections. Thakor who had been vocal about his differences with the Congress quit the party before the Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2019.
  • A prominent OBC leader and a former MLA from Radhanpur in Gujarat's Patan district, Alpesh Thakor said that he was ignored and insulted in the Congress. Zala was the MLA from Bayad.
  • Both the leaders had earlier met Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel that led to speculations that they might join BJP.
  • The BJP has 104 MLAs in the 182-member Gujarat assembly. The Congress has 71 MLAs.

NCP, CPI, TMC Get EC Notice on Status

  •  The Nationalist Congress Party, the Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India face the prospect of losing their national party status following their performance in the Lok Sabha elections with the Election Commission (EC) issuing them a show cause notice.
  • The EC has asked them to explain why their national party status should not be revoked, sources said. They have been asked to respond to the notice by August 5.
  • The CPI, the BSP and the NCP were facing losing the national party status after the the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well.
  • But, they got a reprieve when in 2016 the EC amended its rules, where it said that the status of political parties would to be reviewed every 10 years instead of five.

DEFENCE

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Russia Offers Sukhoi Su-35 to Turkey

  •  Russia is willing to sell its Sukhoi Su-35 4++ Generation fighter to Turkey after the United States of America refused to sell its F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter to the European nation following the S-400 Triumf air defence missile deal.
  • Turkey's defence leadership is also reported to be considering Russia's Sukhoi Su-57 and Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation fighters. 
  • Russia's Rostec Corporation CEO Sergei Chemezov said that his country is planning to negotiate a deal with Turkey for the Su-35.
  • The Su-35 offer comes within 24 hours of the USA throwing out Turkey from the F-35 Lightning development programme and less than 48 hours after President Donald Trump announced that the Lockheed Martin produced stealth fighter would not be sold to the NATO ally after it took deliveries of the S-400 missile system from Russia.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Saravana Bhavan Owner Rajagopal Dies

  •  Owner of the Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants P. Rajagopal, died in a city hospital. A few days back in July 2019, he surrendered in a sessions court to serve the life sentence awarded to him for abduction and murder of an employee in 2001.
  • The court later allowed him to be shifted to a private hospital for treatment.
  • Rajagopal was named the prime accused in the kidnapping and murder of Prince Santhakumar.

Shah to Head Panel on Air India Sale

  •  As per reports, Home Minister Amit Shah would head a reconstituted group of ministers (GoM) on Air India disinvestment and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari was dropped from the panel.
  • The panel, which is to work out modalities for the sale of Air India, would now have four Ministers — Mr. Shah, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal and Hardeep Singh Puri.
  • The panel, Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM), was first set up in June 2017.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Arbitration Bill Passed

  •  Parliament passed a Bill to set up an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised domestic and international arbitration in India.
  • The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) Bill, 2019, which seeks to replace an ordinance issued in March 2019 by the previous Government, was passed by Rajya Sabha. Lok Sabha had passed the Bill earlier in July 2019.
  • The Bill provides for setting up an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised domestic and international arbitration and to acquire and transfer undertakings of International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution to the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre with effect from March 2, 2019.
  • The Upper House also passed the amendment in the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill Act, 2019 that seeks to make changes in the existing law of 1996.
  • It would now go to Lok Sabha. The Bill was earlier cleared by LS in August 2018 but could not be passed by RS. The Bill lapsed following the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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IIT Madras Launches techMBA Programme

  •  Indian Institute of Technology Madras is launching a first-of-its-kind programme, techMBA, for its undergraduate (UG) students from all the engineering streams.
  • The students taking techMBA programme will be awarded two degrees, Engineering UG degree (B.Tech.) and Master's degree in Management (MBA).
  • The programme would be a part of the Five-Year Inter-Disciplinary Dual Degree (IDDD) programmes and is conceptualised by the Department of Management Studies (DOMS), IIT Madras.
  • The Institute is introducing the programme from the Academic Year 2019-20 and it would have an intake of 25-30 students.
  • Department of Management Studies would offer the foundational techMBA courses during the third and fourth years of all UG programs.
  • The eligibility criteria for opting for the courses in the fifth year are CGPA, departmental aptitude test and/or personal interview.
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