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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

22 Jul 2019

ENVIRONMENT

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Mahalaxmi rly workshop is first to get 'zero scrap' tag

  •  The Mahalaxmi EMU workshop has earned the reputation for being the first 'zero scrap' workshop of the Indian Railways.
  • V.P. Pathak, a member of the Material Management of Railway Board, visited the workshop at Mahalaxmi and appreciated the efforts made by officials to create the first 'zero scrap' workshop in the Indian Railways.
  • He also announced an award of Rs 25,000 for the workshop.
  • The workshop has been able to achieve this feat by segregating the ferrous and non-ferrous material and keeping the materials in separate bins provided in each section.
  • After collecting the scrap from all the sections, it is handed over to stores for further disposal.
  • The workshop has maintained the MPCB norms of the state government and the National Green Tribunal.

Arctic ocean ice melting faster than normal

  •  Ice covering the Arctic Ocean reached the second-lowest level recorded for this time of year after July temperatures spiked in areas around the North Pole.
  • The rate of ice loss in the region is a crucial indicator for the world's climate and a closely-watched metric by bordering nations jostling for resources and trade routes. This month's melt is tracking close to the record set in July 2012.
  • This year's heatwave in the Arctic Circle has led to record temperatures in areas of Alaska, Canada and Greenland, extending long-term trends of more ice disappearing.
  • Ice flows are melting faster than average rates observed over the last three decades, losing an additional 20,000 square kilometers of cover per day — an area about the size of Wales.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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World Bank to Support AP with over $1 billion

  •  The World Bank, which has dropped a loan proposal for Amaravati project, said it continues to support Andhra Pradesh with over a billion USD programme that covers health, agriculture, energy and disaster management sectors.
  • This includes a new 328 million USD support to the state's health sector, signed with the Andhra Pradesh government on June 27, 2019.7.22.
  • The World Bank's statement comes in the backdrop of its dropping a 300 million USD loan proposal for the Amaravati Sustainable Infrastructure and Institutional Development Project.
  • The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has been informed that the proposed project is no longer under preparation following the government's decision.

Suzlon gets bad loan tag from Union Bank of India

  •   State-run Union Bank of India has tagged Suzlon Energy Ltd as a bad loan and more banks are expected to follow suit as the stressed wind turbine maker has struggled to repay its lenders.
  • In the quarter ended June 30, Union Bank has updated the status of the account as non-performing in the central bank's Central Repository of Information on Large Credits database.
  • Under the Reserve Bank of India's asset classification guidelines, banks have to set aside 15% of their outstanding loans to a non-performing account as provisions.
  • To be sure, banks have to set aside money for every loan they make, but the quantum is just 0.4% till it remains standard.
  • Loans are classified into three major categories: standard, substandard and doubtful, depending on their repayment trends.
  • Emails sent to Suzlon, Union Bank of India and State Bank of India, the leader of the lenders' consortium to Suzlon, remained unanswered till the time of going to press.
  • The Pune-based company, led by founder Tulsi Tanti, reported a total debt of Rs. 11,141 crore as of 31 March, 2019.
  • This isn't the first time Suzlon has defaulted on bonds. In 2012, it defaulted on payments of $221 billion, forcing the firm into corporate debt restructuring.  

GST Council to decide on tax cut on EVs

  •  The GST Council, chaired by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, will meet on July 25, 2019 and decide on lowering tax rates for electric vehicles.
  • The 36th meeting of the Council, which will happen through video conferencing, is also likely to decide the valuation of goods and services in solar power generating systems and wind turbine projects for the purposes of levying GST.
  • The Council, which has state finance ministers as members, in its meeting last month, had referred the issue relating to GST concessions on electric vehicle and chargers and hiring of e-vehicles, to an officers committee.
  • The recommendations of the committee is likely to be placed before the Council on July 25, 2019.7.22.
  • To push domestic manufacturing of e-vehicles, the Centre proposed to the Council to slash GST rates to 5% from 12%. GST rate for petrol and diesel cars and hybrid vehicles is already at the highest bracket of 28% plus cess.
  • The Council will also consider tax structure for solar power projects. The Delhi high court had in May asked the GST council to take a relook at the taxation structure following industry petition.
  • The government had earlier this year said that for the purpose of taxing solar power projects, 70% of contract value would be treated as goods—taxable at 5%, and balance 30% as services—taxable at 18%.
  • Further, the Council may also look at taxation of lotteries. 

Xiaomi May Discontinue Poco Brand

  •  Xiaomi may well be looking at killing its sub-brand Poco, say analysts, with one of the top executives responsible for its development quitting amid the Chinese handset maker's renewed push on the mid-to-premium price segment through another subbrand,
  • Redmi. This price segment was previously catered through the Poco sub-brand.
  • Poco was launched to give highend chosen few specs at mid-range prices, with clear compromises on design language.
  • It was launched as an upgrade option for large Xiaomi base without breaking bank required to buy a flagship phone. It saw a mixed response
  • But now, with this aggressive pricing of K series by Xiaomi with its absolute flagship specs, hardware, and design, the reason for the existence of Poco as a brand is in doubt.

Kohli to Launch Innerwear Range Under 'one8'

  •  Cricket captain Virat Kohli is set launch a men's innerwear range under his 'one8' brand in association with Artimas Fashions, a subsidiary of Lux Industries.
  • Kohli is the highest-paid sports celebrity in the country.
  • He has a Rs.110-crore deal with German sports and athleisure brand Puma for one8-branded apparel, footwear and accessories.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Robots help produce new class of antibiotics

  •  Researchers have used robotics to engineer a common gut bacterium to produce a new class of antibiotics, a "breakthrough" that could be vital for the ongoing battle against antimicrobial resistance.
  • These antibiotics, known as class II polyketides, are also naturally produced by soil bacteria and have antimicrobial properties which are vital in the modern pharmaceutical industry to combat infectious diseases and cancer.
  • The naturally produced Escherichia coli bacteria are difficult to work with as they grow in dense clumps that are incompatible with the automated robotic systems used for modern biotechnology research, said researchers from The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
  • By transferring the production machinery from the soil bacteria into E coli, the team is now making this class of antibiotics accessible for much more rapid exploration.
  • This breakthrough could be vital for the ongoing combat against antimicrobial resistance, as recently developed automated robotics systems can now be used to create new antibiotics in a fast and efficient way.
  • By combining the bacterial production machinery with enzymes from plants and fungi, it was possible to produce new chemical compounds not previously seen in nature.
  • Using this plug-and-play platform, it will now be possible to explore and engineer polyketides using robotic systems to develop new and diversified polyketides in an automated, rapid and versatile fashion.

Genome India Project Set for Oct Launch

  •  India will launch its first human genome mapping project by October 2019, a move that will help researchers get closer to developing effective therapies for treating diseases such as cancer.
  • In the first phase called the Genome India project, the genomic data of 10,000 Indians will be catalogued.
  • A genome is an organism's complete set of DNA, including all its genes. It contains all the information needed to build and maintain that organism.
  • By sequencing the genome, researchers can discover the functions of genes and identify which of them are critical for life.
  • The DBT said it will build on its own experience of genomic cataloguing and rope in 22 partner organisations including public health institutions that have obtained regulatory ethical clearances.
  • Investigators in hospitals will lead the data collection through a simple blood test from participants and the information will be added to bio banks.
  • Across the world, predictive diagnosis and precision medicine based on the genetic makeup of patients are emerging fields in the treatment of diseases such as cancer and other genetic disorders.
  • The Genome India project will aim to make predictive diagnostic markers available for some priority diseases such as cancer and other rare and genetic disorders.
  • The DBT has started establishing diagnostic labs for genetic testing and counselling services and a programme to train clinicians to produce skilled personnel to set up more such labs.
  • The department has also initiated an outreach programme to provide genetic diagnosis and counselling to families affected by common genetic disorders in certain districts. The Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, was led by an international team of researchers looking to sequence and map all the genes – together known as the genome – of human beings.

SPORTS

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 Netherlands Wins 'Mini Worlds Chennai' title

  •  A team of school students from the Netherlands won the Mini Worlds Chennai 2019 tournament in the Tamil Nadu capital by defeating a team from Hong Kong.
  • The three-day tournament, held by the Indian Schools Debating Society (ISDS) with sponsorship from the Ramco Group of companies, was India's first international debating tournament in the World Schools format. 
  • A total of 15 teams — from 12 nations and three from India— participated in the tournament. The Indian team was knocked out in the semi-finals by Hong Kong. The 90-minute final was adjudicated on the motion.

Sathiyan-Archana Win Mixed Gold

  •  India added another golden chapter to the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships when its mixed doubles pair of G Sathiyan and Archana Kamath defeated Singapore's Peng Yu En Koen–Goi Rui Xuan 3-0 in the final.
  • The gold count, on the penultimate day of the championships, stood at three.
  • This had, in a way, avenged the earlier loss of A. Sharath Kamal and Sreeja Akula in the semi-final by the same Singaporean pair as well as the defeat of Sharath in the quarter-finals by Peng.
  • The Indian pair was on top in the final as they piled on the agony of their rivals, particularly on a tired Peng who could not cope with the pressure applied by the topseeded duo.
  • But the second-seeded Sharath Kamal squandered three match points and then the quarter-final, shattering his hope.
  • Though Sharath failed to go past the semifinals in mixed doubles, he would definitely rue the loss to the younger Peng in the quarters.
  • The other Indians that made the grade included top-seeded G Sathiyan, who beat Nigerian Bode Abiodun 4-0 and Harmeet Desai who beat Sushmit Sriram 4-1.
  • Sanil Shetty joined Sharath when he went down to England's Thomas Jarvis 1-4.
  • Earlier, the top-seeded Ho TinTin of England beat the unseeded Archana Kamath, the reigning national champion, 4-1 to enter the women's semi-finals.
  • But the second-seeded Madhurika Patkar and fourth seed Ayhika Mukerjee easily followed the English woman in the last-four stages while Sreeja Akula defeated Sutirtha Mukherjee 4-2 even as Madhurika downed Krittiwika Sinha Roy 4-1 and Ayhika beat Mousumi Paul in straight games.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Raghuram Rajan Front Runner of IMF Managing Director's Post

  •  Former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan is among the front runners for the post of International Monetary Fund's managing director, days after Britain's Foreign Office was urged to back an Indian for the job.
  • The IMF role fell vacant after current MD Christine Lagarde announced her resignation after she was nominated by the European Council as president of the European Central Bank.
  • Her resignation takes effect from September 12.
  • As demands grow for the next IMF MD pick to be from outside Europe and America — as British foreign affairs committee chairman Tim Tugendhat wrote in a letter to foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt – The Sunday Times mentioned 53-year-old Rajan among the likely candidates.

Johnson Tipped to Win Race to be UK PM 

  •  Pollsters and bookmakers have predicted an overwhelming win for former foreign secretary Boris Johnson in the election for the next Conservative leader to replace Theresa May as the UK prime minister.
  • Barring a major upset, Johnson is far ahead of his rival, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, in the polls.
  • The election was prompted by May's resignation after parliamentarians failed to agree on a Brexit deal that carves out conditions for UK's exit from the EU.
  • May will appear at her last Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons and later, hand over reins to the next PM.

MP Ramchandra Paswan Dies at 57

  •  Lok Janshakti Party MP from Bihar's Samastipur Ramchandra Paswan died, following a brief illness. He was 57.
  • Ramchandra Paswan, the younger brother of Union minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, breathed his last at 1.24 pm at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi. He was admitted to the hospital after suffering a heart attack.
  • His body will be kept at his residence in New Delhi, at the LJP office in Patna for paying last respects. He will be cremated in the Bihar capital.
  • He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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India enters 37-year period of demographic dividend

  •  Since 2018, India's working-age population (people between 15 and 64 years of age) has grown larger than the dependant population — children aged 14 or below as well as people above 65 years of age.
  • This bulge in the working-age population is going to last till 2055, or 37 years from its beginning.
  • Many Asian economies — Japan, China, South Korea — were able to use this 'demographic dividend', defined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as the growth potential that results from shifts in a population's age structure.
  • This transition happens largely because of a decrease in the total fertility rate (TFR, which is the number of births per woman) after the increase in life expectancy gets stabilised.
  • Japan was among the first major economies to experience rapid growth because of changing population structure. The country's demographic-dividend phase started in 1964 and ended in 2004.
  • China entered this stage in 1994 — 16 years after Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms started in December 1978.
  • Although its growth accelerated immediately after the reforms, the years of demographic dividend helped sustain this rate for a very long period.
  • In the 16 years between 1978 and 1994 (post-reform, pre-dividend) China saw eight years of double-digit growth. In the 18 years since 1994 there have been only two years when China could not cross the 8% growth mark.
  • Analysing the demographic dividend data for two of the four Asian tiger economies shows similar patterns.
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