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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

30 Jul 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Donald Trump Appoints New Intelligence Czar

  •  US intelligence boss Dan Coats, who once publicly acknowledged being blinded by White House invitation to the Russian president, is stepping down and would be succeeded by Republican congressman John Ratcliffe, who reportedly impressed President Donald Trump with his aggressive grilling of Special counsel Robert Mueller, clinching the job.
  • Coats's tenure as Director of National Intelligence, an agency created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to oversee and coordinate the work of 16 intelligence services, had been in jeopardy for a while, specially after he admitted being kept out of the loop on the invitation to President Vladimir Putin.

Pakistan Opens Historic Hindu Temple after 72 Years

  •  Pakistan opened a 1,000-year-old Hindu temple in eastern city Sialkot for worship for the first time since partition on the demand of the local Hindu community.
  • The Shawala Teja Singh temple, located in city's congested Dhaarowal locality, some 100-km from Lahore, is more than 1,000 years old, according to the book 'History of Sialkot' by the late Rashid Niaz.
  • The Evacuee Trust Property Board, which looks after the holy places of minorities in Pakistan, opened Shawala Teja Singh.
  • The temple was partially damaged during attacks on temples here in reaction to Babri Mosque in 1992. The ETPB carried out restoration work of the temple on the direction of Board chairman Dr. Amir Ahmed.

ENVIRONMENT

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Iceland to Mark First Glacier Lost

  •  On October 18, 2019, Iceland will issue a plaque that will mark an unusual event, the passing of a glacier lost to climate change. It will be the first monument of its kind.
  • On this day, a plaque will be unveiled to Okjokull -- which translates to 'OK glacier' -- in the west of Iceland.
  • This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world. 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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SBI Reduces Deposit Rates

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) slashed deposit rates on various tenors citing surplus liquidity and falling interest rate scenario.
  • Interest rates were reduced by 50-75 basis points (bps) for time deposits with shorter tenors of up to 179 days.
  • For time deposits with longer tenors, there is a reduction of up to 20 bps in the retail segment and 35 bps in the bulk segment.
  • The bank also cut deposit rates on bulk deposits of Rs. 2 crore and above.
  • The new rates would be effective from August 1, 2019.

NBCC Offers to Take up Unitech's Housing Projects

  •  State-run builder NBCC India Ltd is willing to take over unfinished housing projects from realtor Unitech and complete construction within a timeline, the Centre told Supreme Court in yet another case where the administration would need to step in after homebuyers were left in the lurch.
  • The proposal, which includes setting up a new committee to monitor the construction, was made at a hearing in connection with a case filed by Unitech homebuyers, who say that 16,000 flats have been partially or fully paid for but are yet to be handed over.
  • Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted the NBCC roadmap to a bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah. 
  • NBCC sought Rs. 50 crore as construction fee and two per cent of the entire project for due-diligence before it undertakes the construction work. The committee, the NBCC suggested, will arrange for funds as required and approve sample flats.

Pfizer to Merge its Generics Drug Business

  •  Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. agreed to spin off its generic drugs business and combine it with Mylan, a move that leaves Pfizer with more profitable innovative drugs, including cancer drug Ibrance and pneumonia vaccine Prevnar.
  • The move, which brings blockbuster treatments Viagra, EpiPen and Lipitor under one umbrella, is part of a years-long effort by Pfizer to split into three parts—innovative medicines, lower margin generic drugs business and consumer healthcare.
  • Under new chief executive officer (CEO) Albert Bourla, Pfizer has also been beefing up its cancer treatment pipeline as some of its older treatments face competition.
  • The new company, to be based in the US and incorporated in Delaware, would be led by Michael Goettler, president of Pfizer's generics unit, Upjohn.

Amazon to Launch Online Food Delivery Service in India

  • Amazon.com Inc. is planning a foray into the burgeoning online food delivery business in India this year (in 2019)  in a move that could raise competition in an increasingly crowded market.
  • The Seattle-based company is working with local partner Catamaran, founded by informational technology industrialist Narayana Murthy, and has begun hiring staff for the new operation. Amazon is aiming to launch the new service delivering from restaurants ahead of India's month-long festive season, which starts in September 2019.
  • The industry is dominated by local start-ups Swiggy, backed by Naspers and Tencent, and Zomato, which counts Sequoia as an investor. Uber Technologies launched its India food delivery service in 2017 but was unable to keep pace with the local market leaders. 
  • As per reports, Amazon was in talks to buy Uber Eats. 

Grab to Invest $2 Billion in Indonesia

  •  Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm Grab would invest $2 billion into Indonesia over five years using capital received from Japan`s SoftBank Group Corp, which wants to increase its exposure to the region`s most populous market.
  • The investment would go toward creating a next-generation transportation network and transforming how critical services, like healthcare, are delivered.
  • Singapore-headquartered Grab said that SoftBank would invest the US$2 billion into the country through Grab, to drive the digitization of crucial services and infrastructure.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Reliance Jio Launches 'Jio Saarthi'

  •  Reliance Jio launched a digital assistant 'Jio Saarthi' to make it easier for users to recharge online. The voice assistant has been integrated in Reliance's MyJio app and supports Hindi and English languages for now. Reliance plans to add 12 regional languages in the near future.
  • The Jio Saarthi voice assistant essentially guides users through every step of making an online recharge.
  • For instance, it helps locate where to tap to enter card details or how to find your card number or expiry date and where to enter it. While the feature has been integrated within the MyJio app, Reliance Jio would send a notification to users who have never done an online recharge.

Chandrayaan 2

  •  According to ISRO, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the Earth was raised for a third time to reach a highly elliptical orbit of 276 x 71792 km. The on-board propulsion system was fired for 989 seconds.
  • The third manoeuvre was completed successfully and the spacecraft parameters are all normal for now.
  • The propulsion systems have to be fired two more times on August 2 and 6 (2019) to increase the apogee or the point on the orbit farthest from the Earth.
  • A total of six manoeuvres had been planned in the 23-day duration that Chandrayaan 2 would spend going around the earth – one to increase the perigee or the point on the orbit closest to the Earth and five others to the apogee.
  • However, the rocket carrying Chandrayaan 2, India's heaviest GSLV Mark III, "over-performed" on the day of the launch giving a boost of 6,000 km to the spacecraft.
  • This reduced the number of manoeuvres to five – one to increase the perigee and four to increase the apogee – till the spacecraft left Earth-orbit and started its journey towards the moon.
  • The spacecraft will be injected in a trans-lunar orbit (orbit between Earth and moon) on August 14, 2019 with the parameters 266 x 4,13,623 km. The spacecraft is scheduled to reach a lunar orbit of August 20, 2019.

SPORTS

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Anjum Moudgil Betters World Record

  •  The World Championship silver medallist, the first to win the Olympic quota for shooting for Tokyo, Anjum shot better than the World record to beat Mehuli Ghosh by 1.7 points for the women's air rifle gold in the 12th Sardar Sajjan Singh Sethi Masters shooting championship at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Tughlakabad.
  • In the absence of the World No. 1 and World record holder Apurvi Chandela (252.9) and junior World Cup gold medallist Elavenil Valarivan it was literally a two-horse race.
  • After shooting the third best score in qualification, 0.3 point behind Mehuli, Anjum was a class act in the gripping final.

World Deaf Youth Badminton Championship

  •  Tamil Nadu girl Jerlin Anika won the gold medal in the World Deaf Youth Badminton Championships held in Taipei in July 2019.
  • Anika bagged four medals in the championship, one gold, two silver and one bronze.
  • The 15-year-old Anika is a tenth standard student in the Ouvaiyar government in Madurai. She started learning badminton from the age of eight years.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Goa Dy Speaker in Citizenship Row

  •  Isidoro Fernandes, newly elected deputy Speaker of the Goa legislative assembly denied claims that he is a Portuguese citizen after a purported copy his birth certificate being registered in Portugal emerged online and sparked a controversy.
  • Fernandes said that there was no truth in the allegations and claims that he was a Portuguese citizen were false.
  • The deputy Speaker's denial came after lawyer-activist Aires Rodrigues produced a copy of the registration of Fernandes' birth in Portugal and alleged that he was a Portuguese citizen
  • As per Rodrigues, the current Canacona MLA had obtained Portuguese Nationality on 22nd April 2014 and demanded that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant should immediately drop Fernandes if he does not resign on his own.

Farooq Abdullah Warned the Centre

  •  Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah warned the Centre against any move to abrogate Articles 35A and 370 that accord special status to the state and its people.
  • The former CM and National Conference leader said that Articles 35A and 370 should not be removed. It forms our foundation. There is no need to remove it. We are Hindustani but they (Article 35A & Article 370) are important for us.
  • This comes days after another former CM Mehbooba Mufti warned that any attempt to tinker with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir would blow up in its face
  • The comments of top leaders come came after a central government order allowed additional 100 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) to be deployed in Jammu and Kashmir to reinforce counter-insurgency operations and maintain law and order.

Karnataka Speaker Resigns

  •  Karnataka Assembly Speaker K. R. Ramesh Kumar announced his decision to step down moments after the state's freshly-minted Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa cleared the trust vote by a voice vote.
  • Kumar's announcement came a day after he disqualified 14 more lawmakers from the assembly on petitions filed by the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular.
  • In all, Ramesh Kumar disqualified 17 rebel lawmakers  who had attempted to exit the assembly which led to the collapse of the H. D. Kumaraswamy government.

Yediyurappa Wins Trust Vote

  •  The three-day-old BJP government in Karnataka headed by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa proved its majority with ease in the Assembly by winning the confidence motion by voice vote.
  • Soon after the trust vote and the passage of the Finance Bill for a period of three months along with the supplementary budget, Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar, who had disqualified 17 rebel MLAs of the Congress and the JD(S) over the last few days, tendered his resignation.

Goyal Backs Out of RCEP Meeting in China

  •  Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal backed out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Intersessional Ministerial meet in China in order to participate in the extended session of Parliament that would now run till August 7, 2019.

New Governors Take Charge

  •  Former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel took oath as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, replacing Ram Naik.
  • Lalji Tandon assumed charge as the new Governor of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Lalji, who was earlier the Governor of Bihar, vacated his position for Phagu Chauhan, who was sworn-in as the 40th Governor of Bihar. 
  • Former BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh, Anusuiya Uikey assumed charge as the Governor of Chhattisgarh.
  • She replaced newly-appointed Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel who was holding additional responsibility of Chhattisgarh. Patel was given the charge of Chhattisgarh following the death of Governor Balram Das Tandon in 2018.
  • Seven-times MP from Chhattisgarh's Raipur Ramesh Bias took the oath as the 18th Governor of Tripura. 

DEFENCE

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India Hands over Two Fast Interceptor Boats to Mozambique

  •  Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is on a three-day visit to Mozambique, handed over two Fast Interceptor boats that would be used for coastal surveillance.
  • The two India-made boats were handed over at a ceremony at the Mozambican Naval Headquarters with the handing-over certificate being signed by the Director-General, Coast Guards of India, K. Natarajan, and Chief of Mozambican Navy. 
  • A four-member Indian Coast Guard team will be assisting with training, support for maintenance and operation of the two boats.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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India's First Woman Legislator

  •  Google Doodle celebrated Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi, a surgeon, educator, lawmaker and social reformer, on her 133rd birth anniversary.
  • Dr. Reddi devoted her life to public health and fought the battle against gender inequality.
  • The Government of Tamil Nadu announced that government hospitals in the State would celebrate her birth anniversary as 'Hospital Day' every year.
  • Born in 1886 in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, Dr. Reddi was the first Indian girl student in the Department of Surgery at Madras Medical College.
  • This was just one of her many firsts. She became one of the first women doctors in India in 1912, and the first woman house surgeon in the Government Maternity Hospital, Madras.
  • She co-founded the Women's Indian Association in 1918, and as the first woman member (and vice president) of the Madras Legislative Council — making her the first woman legislator in India — she helped raise the minimum age for marriage for girls and pushed the Council to pass the Immoral Traffic Control Act, and the Devadasi system abolishment Bill.

Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation Gets New Chairperson

  • The Union Culture Ministry appointed journalist Kanchan Gupta the chairperson of the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation till May 2020, weeks after Union Culture and Tourism Minister of State (independent charge) Prahlad Singh Patel was nominated to the post.
  • On July 3, 2019, Mr. Patel had been nominated to the post of chairperson of the foundation, which is headquartered in Kolkata, with effect from May 16, 2019 till the tenure of the foundation.
  • In a notification on July 25, the Ministry partially modified its July 3 notification, nominating Mr. Gupta with immediate effect till May 15, 2020 or till further orders, whichever is earlier.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Sudarsan Pattnaik Wins People's Choice Award in U.S.

  •  Renowned Indian sand artist and Padma Awardee Sudarsan Pattnaik won the People's Choice Award at a prestigious sand sculpting festival in the U.S., wowing the American public with his sculpture that highlighted the message of combating plastic pollution in oceans.
  • Mr. Pattnaik was among the 15 top sand artists selected from across the world to participate in the 2019 Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival in Boston, Massachusetts. He won the People's Choice Award for his sand sculpture 'Stop Plastic Pollution, Save Our Ocean'.
  • The award-winning sculpture showed a turtle caught in a plastic bag and a fish with plastic trash such as slippers, bottles and glass inside its body.
  • The tail of the fish is in the mouth of a human, signifying how plastic pollution in the oceans is adversely impacting human beings also when they consume sea food.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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SPPU Committee Recommendation

  •  The Aroon Adsul committee submitted new recommendations for upgrading the rules and regulations of the Savitribai Phule Pune University's (SPPU) earn and learn scheme. The committee submitted a draft to the management council for approval after a meeting was held on July 26, 2019.
  • Adsool, former vice-chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University and currently the chairman of Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), said that whenever a student takes admission in any department at the SPPU, he/she would need to get a reference letter from the head of the department (HOD).
  • Along with that, the student would have to submit their Aadhaar card, bank account number and also thumb impression.
  • Only after this process, the student would be given the earn and learn code (ELC), which was introduced in the system recently.
  • After getting enrolled under this scheme, every student now would give an undertaking in which the student would give assurance to the university to have 75 per cent minimum attendance in his respective class where he is studying.
  • If the attendance is less than 75 per cent, then the particular student will not get the payment under this scheme for that particular month. If the student remains absent for three months with less than 75 per cent attendance, then he/she will be removed from this scheme.

Medical Commission Bill Passed

  •  The Lok Sabha passed the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019 (NMC) with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assuring the House that the Bill, which seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, would go down in history as the most revolutionary step taken to improve medical education in India.
  • According to him, no powers of the State government would be taken away by the Centre through this Bill.
  • A motion for consideration of the Bill was passed by 260-48 votes after a division of votes was sought and the Bill was then passed by a voice vote.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Red Wine Can Treat Depression

  •  Researchers have found a compound present in red wine which can treat depression and anxiety.
  • According to Ying Xu, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo in the US, the plant compound resveratrol displays anti-stress effects by blocking the expression of an enzyme which controls stress in the brain.
  • Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.
  • The findings shed light onto how neurological processes are impacted by resveratrol, a compound having numerous health benefits and found in the skin and seeds of grapes and berries.
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