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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

23 Aug 2019


US and Taliban Resume Talks On Ending America's Longest War

  •  A United States envoy and the Taliban resumed negotiations on ending America's longest war. 
  •  U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also met one-on-one with the Taliban's lead negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. 
  • Baradar is one of the Taliban's founders and has perhaps the strongest influence on the insurgent group's rank-and-file members.
  • Some in Afghanistan fear that Taliban fighters who reject a deal with the U.S. could migrate to other militant groups such as the brutal local affiliate of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Kabul wedding over the weekend that killed at least 80 people.

Trump Looking To End Birthright Citizenship

  •   US President Donald Trump said his administration was "seriously" looking to end the citizenship right for babies born to non-citizens - a 140-year-old constitutionally mandated law, that has been abused by undocumented immigrants and those involved in so-called "birth tourism."
  • Ending the law is a long-shot proposition as it was established by the US constitution's 14th amendment in 1868, which was enacted in the aftermath of the civil war to grant citizenship rights to African-Americans.
  • "All persons born or naturalised in the US, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the US and of the State wherein they reside," it reads.

India, France Conclude Path Breaking Roadmap On Digital Technology Partnership 

  •  India and France concluded a path breaking road-map to make digital technology a transformative factor in their societies, to fight terror, to foster economic growth, sustainable development and secure enhanced internet access which is essential to bridge digital divide. 
  • France and India affirm their commitment to an open, reliable, secure, stable and peaceful cyberspace. International law, and in particular the Charter of the United Nations, is applicable and is essential to maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, peaceful and accessible Digital environment.
  • They reaffirm the importance of promoting, and implementing voluntary norms of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace as well as confidence and capacity-building measures developed within the framework of the United Nations.
  • This ensemble is the foundation of peace and security in cyberspace.
  • France and India recognise that the rapid development of digital technology and its use must be accompanied by a cooperative, coherent, determined and resolute action by the international community, aimed at guaranteeing the sovereignty of States over the Digital Infrastructure located within the territory of the States as well as the protection of online human rights and freedom of expression. 
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Chhattisgarh Elephant Reserve May Lead To Mining Ban

  •   Days after the Chhattisgarh government announced the setting up of the Lemru Elephant Reserve (LER), officials indicated that this could automatically lead to a ban on the mining activity in the region, especially in Hasdeo Arand forest, known for its high quality coal reserves.
  • There are two operational coal mines in this region and they are not included in the proposed reserve. There are about 19 coal deposits in LER, on which the cabinet will take decision in due course.
  • An area of 1,995 sq kms falling in four forest divisions — Korba, Kathghora, Surajpur and Dharamjaigarh — will be declared an elephant reserve.

NASA Scientists Fly Over Greenland To Track Melting Ice

  •  NASA scientist Josh Willis is now closely studying the phenomenon in hopes of figuring out precisely how global warming is eating away at Greenland's ice. 
  • Specifically, he wants to know whether the melting is being caused more by warm air or warm sea-water. The answer could be crucial to Earth's future.
  • Water brings more heat to something frozen faster than air does, as anyone who has ever defrosted a steak under the faucet knows.
  • Greenland contains enough ice to make world sea levels rise by 20 feet if it were all to melt. In a single day this month, it lost a record 13.7 billion tons (12.5 billion metric tons) by one estimate
View Month Wise


Amazon Picks Up 49% Stake In Future Coupons

  •  Kishore Biyani-led Future Group, Amazon acquired a 49% stake in a group entity Future Coupons Ltd. Amazon has agreed to make an equity investment for stake comprising both voting and non-voting shares.
  • The promoters have also agreed to certain share transfer restrictions on their shares in the Future Retail for the same tenure.
  • Future Retail operates Biyani's popular retail chain of Big Bazaar and other smaller format retail outlets under EasyDay and Heritage Fresh across more than 400 cities through digital platforms and over 1,500 stores.
  • The retail chain operator recorded a revenue of ₹5,149 crore, a y-o-y jump of 13.5% over the same period in 2018.

Fuel Supply To Air India Stopped At Six Airports

  •  Jet fuel supply to state-run carrier Air India has been stopped at six domestic airports because of unpaid dues to fuel provider, Indian Oil Corp (IOCL).
  •  IOCL, for years, has propped up the debt-laden airline by infusing equity to keep it alive - the government injected 39.75 billion rupees ($553 million) into Air India in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2019.

 World Bank Bans Chinese Companies For Financial Crimes

  •  The World Bank debarred China Railway Construction Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiaries, China Railway 23rd Bureau Group Co and China Railway Construction (International), for nine months, citing misconduct during the procurement process for the 'East-West Highway Corridor Improvement Project' in Georgia. 
  • This project is part of China's mega Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). 
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Russian Robot Travels To Space LAUNCH SITE

  •  Known as Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research (FEDOR), the Skybot F-850 is the first humanoid robot to be sent to space by Russia. The silvery 'anthropomorphic' robot stands 1.80 metres (5-foot-11 inch) tall and weighs 160kg. 
  • NASA was the first to send a humanoid robot, Robonaut 2, to space in 2011.
  • FEDOR is of the size of an adult human and can emulate movements of the human body. 
  • FEDOR blasted off in a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft. The robot will dock at the International Space Station  with 660kg of cargo including medical supplies and rations for the crew at the station.

IIT Delhi Startup Sanfe Launches Reusable Sanitary Pads Made From Banana Fibers

  •  Sanfe, an IIT Delhi-incubated startup for designing and developing products for improving female health and hygiene, launched the first-of-its-kind reusable sanitary pads, made with composite banana fiber, which can last up to two years (around 120 washes).
  • Sanfe Reusable Pad is developed by Sanfe's co-founders Archit Agarwal and Harry Sehrawat, who are also 4th year IIT Delhi students, based on inputs from several IIT Delhi professors.
  • The reusable pads are ultra-thin and are highly absorbent with Quadrant True Lock Technology, which makes the pad leak proof and avoids creating any rashes. A patent has also been filed for the design. A pack of two pads is priced at ₹199.
  • These reusable sanitary pads can be used up to 120 times, after washing them in cold water with detergents after every use.
  • With these reusable sanitary pads, Sanfe is trying to address the huge problem of disposable pad waste burdening the planet.

Amazon, Microsoft, Intel Putting World At Risk Of Killer AI

  •  Amazon, Microsoft and Intel are among leading tech companies putting the world at risk through killer robot development, according to a report that surveyed major players from the sector about their stance on lethal autonomous weapons. 
  • Dutch NGO Pax ranked 50 companies on whether they were developing technology that could be relevant to deadly AI, whether they were working on related military projects, and if they had committed to abstaining from contributing in the future.
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Vikram Rathour Appointed India's Batting Coach

  •  Former opener Vikram Rathour will replace Sanjay Bangar as India's batting coach while Bharath Arun and R Sridhar were retained as bowling and fielding coaches. 
  • The senior national selection committee headed by MSK Prasad  recommended 3 names each for all the support staff positions.

India's Davis Cup Match In Pakistan Pushed To Nov

  •   The International Tennis Federation (ITF) postponed India's Davis Cup Asia/ Oceania Group I tie against Pakistan to November 2019 under "exceptional circumstance" after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) requested to either postpone the tie scheduled to take place in Islamabad from September 14-15, 2019 or shift it to a neutral venue.
  • The revised dates of the tie will be confirmed before September 9, 2019. The All India Tennis Association (AITA) had requested ITF to either postpone the tie scheduled to take place in Islamabad from September 14-15 to November or shift it to a neutral venue 'suo motu' at ITF's cost in the wake of the rising diplomatic tension between the two countries.
  • The Indian team members had also expressed their reservation on travelling to Pakistan.
  • The ITF's Davis Cup Committee reviewed India's request  and decided to postpone the tie.

Nataraj Breaks National Record, In Backstroke Final

  •  Teenage swimmer Srihari Nataraj broke his own national record twice in 50m backstroke on way to qualifying for the final at the World Junior Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
  • Nataraj first clocked 25.63 sec in heats to improve upon his national record of 25.83, set at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea in July, 2019. The 18-year-old Bengaluru boy reduced the record further with a timing of 25.52 in the semi-final.
  •  Nataraj had achieved the 100m backstroke Olympic 'B' selection mark with a timing of 54.69 sec. He finished the final at seventh place, clocking 54.85 secs.
  • Since the 50m backstroke is not there at the Olympics, Nataraj will be eyeing the 200m backstroke event on Saturday to have another shot at Olympic qualification. He holds the national record in that event too with a timing of 2:02.08 sec.
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24th Meeting Of Western Zonal Council At Panaji

  •  Union Minister for Home Affairs, Shri Amit Shah chaired the 24th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Panaji (Goa). Other dignitaries attending the meeting included Chief Minister Gujarat, Shri Vijay Rupani, CM Maharashtra, Shri Devendra Fadnavis, CM Goa, Dr. Pramod Sawant and Administrator of the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Shri Praful Patel and senior officers from the Central and State Governments.
  • Addressing the meeting, Shri Shah welcomed all the members of the Council to the 24th meeting and hoped that this would be a fruitful meeting where all the issues having Centre-State and inter-State ramifications will be resolved with consensus.  
  • The Home Minister stated that the West Zone has been instrumental in giving impetus to the Indian economy as the States of the Zone are contributing around 24% to the GDP and 45% to the total exports of the country.  

Government To Achieve Housing For All Two Years Ahead Of 2022 Target 

  •  The Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs is set to achieve its target of providing housing for all in 2020 itself, two years before its stated deadline of 2022.
  • The 2022 target of a pucca home with basic facilities in the name of the lady of every household in the country will be achieved two years in advance as stated in the National Real Estate Development Council's(NAREDCO) convention in New Delhi. 

UP Designates 10 Cities As 'Model Electric Mobility Cities'

  •  Ten cities in Uttar Pradesh, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency of Varanasi, have been designated as 'Model Electric Mobility Cities' in a policy being rolled out by the Yogi Adityanath government that aims to attract investments worth Rs 40,000 crore into electric vehicle manufacturing by 2024. 
  • Uttar Pradesh, which touts itself as an automobile manufacturing hub with plants of India Yamaha Motor, Honda and New Holland in Greater Noida, and TATA Motors' unit in Lucknow, is rolling out attractive incentives for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers and aims to create 50,000 new jobs in the area. 
  • In its maiden policy on electric vehicles (EVs), a copy of which was seen by ET, the state promises 100% waiver of registration fee and road tax for the first 100,000 purchasers of EVs. It also plans to set up 200,000 electric charging stations by 2024 and put 1 million EVs, including 1,000 buses, on the road by then. 
  • The policy names Varanasi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Agra, Prayagraj, Kanpur, Mathura, Ghaziabad, Meerut and NOIDA as 'model EM cities' where efforts will be made to convert 70% of public transport vehicles to EVs by 2030. NOIDA will be the pilot city for this project in 2020. 
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Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Targeted By 2022

  •  The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will unveil the Tejas Mark II with a heavier stand-off weapon capacity in the 75th year of India's independence, in 2022, and the long-awaited indigenous fighter, which will be manufactured by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), will go into production by 2025-2026.
  • DRDO's ADA finalised the design of the 17.5 ton Tejas Mark II (Mk-II) in December 2018, and is expected to lock in the design of the fifth generation twin-engine stealth fighter for Indian Air Force (IAF) by the end of the year, 2019. 
  • The Mk II will have the same weight as the Mirage, Jaguar and Grippen but with a heavier GE 414 engine. The qualitative requirements were frozen in late 2018, in full consultation and with the approval of the IAF, two years after the project was redesigned.
  • The 4.5 generation fighter will go into production after the Tejas LCA (light combat aircraft) order of 123 aircraft to replace the air force's ageing MiG-21s is completed.

 Doval To Head Panel On CDS Terms

  •  The Union defence ministry has set up a high-powered committee under National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval to implement the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) decision to create the much awaited post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and also frame the terms of references for this post.
  •  The NSA-headed implementation committee will submit its report in the next six weeks. Given that the present Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa will retire on September 30, 2019 it is expected that Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat will be the front runner for the post of CDS.
  • As per the CCS recommendations, the CDS will retire at the age of 64. Gen Rawat becomes the COSC after Dhanoa. He completes three years as Army Chief on December 31, 2019 and is due to retire on the same day.
  • According to the officials, the members of the committee, apart from the NSA, will be the Cabinet secretary, the defence secretary, and the secretary, expenditure and COSC.
  • A letter on the Cabinet decision to be implemented has already been issued by the defence ministry to NSA and the committee's members

Over 100 Terrorists Ready at Launchpad in PoK

  •  A high-level alert has been sounded in several Indian cities including New Delhi after intelligence reports indicated that about 100 Pakistan-backed terrorists, including Afghans, are set to infiltrate into the country to carry out major attacks in these cities and in Jammu & Kashmir. 
  • Fifteen terrorists from Afghanistan under the Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are presently based in Leepa Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), readying for cross-border action. The Indian area opposite the valley is Tangdhar, one of the most active areas along the Line of Control for terrorist activities. 
  • A company of Pakistani Special Service Group commandos has broken up into small groups and are positioned in PoK opposite the Keran and Poonch sectors in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • It is not clear how many groups are operational. 
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23 August - European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism

  •  European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, also known as Black Ribbon Day in some countries, is an international day of remembrance for victims of totalitarian regimes, specifically Stalinism, Communism, Nazism and Fascism. It is observed on 23 August and symbolizes the rejection of "extremism, intolerance and oppression"
  • It was designated by the European Parliament in 2008/2009 as "a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarianand authoritarian regimes, to be commemorated with dignity and impartiality" and has been observed annually by the bodies of the European 
  • Union since 2009, 23 August was chosen to coincide with the date of the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a 1939 non-aggression pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany which contained a protocol dividing Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland into designated German and Soviet spheres of influence.

23 August: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

  •  The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) saw the beginning of the uprising that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
  • It is against this background that the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is commemorated on 23 August each year.
  • This International Day is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples. In accordance with the goals of the intercultural project "The Slave Route", it should offer an opportunity for collective consideration of the historic causes, the methods and the consequences of this tragedy, and for an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.
  • International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in a number of countries, in particular in Haiti (23 August 1998) and Goree in Senegal (23 August 1999).

Solapur To Host First Ever Terry Towels Expo

  •  The textile town of Solapur will host one of the world's biggest exclusive expos for terry towels to woo international buyers who will be able directly source from local manufacturers. This will be the first ever expo of its kind.
  • The local units supplying to the domestic and exports markets are collectively generating a sales revenue of ₹1,200 crore and the objective is to grow this revenue multifold by directly dealing with international buyers.
  • Organised by the Textile Development Foundation of Solapur in association with Global Network (International Trade Advisory) and supported by Ministry of Co-operative, Marketing and Textile, Maharashtra, the expo will showcase a variety of towels along with unique jacquard woven terry towels and bath linen products.
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JNU Professor Meeta Narain Awarded The Pushkin Medal 2019

  •  Professor Meeta Narain of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been conferred with the Pushkin Medal 2019 for her contribution to Russian studies abroad.
  • Pushkin medal is the highest honour given by the Russian government to scholars, of Russian language and literature, including both citizens as well as foreign nationals.
  • Narain has contributed towards re-writing of Russian studies textbooks for graduate students after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
  •  Her works are now being used in departments of Russian language studies at various universities of India, in many former Soviet nation institutes, Europe, the US and other countries.

A 12-member Selection Panel Constituted For All National Sports Awards

  •  Government of India has constituted a 12-member selection panel for national sports awards.
  • This panel will select the national sports awards for athletes and coaches. This selection panel including six-time world champion boxer M. C. Mary Kom and former football captain Bhaichung Bhutia among others.
  • National sports awards will be given away on National Sports Day, August 29, 2019, the birth anniversary of hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand.
  •  According to the Sports Ministry, it is a new idea of one selection committee for all the awards.
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Ministries Call Truce, Higher PF Rate To Stay

  •  The Union government may soon notify the 8.65% interest rate that was offered in 2018-19 by the Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) as differences over the rate between the labour ministry and the finance ministry have been sorted out.
  • The matter was resolved after labour minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar recently met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and explained that the organisation is left with a sufficient surplus even after paying 8.65% interest rate to its 46 million subscribers.
  • CBT is chaired by the labour minister and has representation of central and state government officials, trade unions and industry bodies. 
  • The EPF interest rate is determined by CBT, which is the apex decision-making body and the same is notified by the labour ministry after taking concurrence of the finance ministry.
  •  In a meeting of CBT on February 19, 2019, the trustees decided on a rate of 8.65% for FY-19 but the finance ministry wanted EPFO to cut the rate by at least 10 basis points. 
  • The government could not notify the rate because of the finance ministry's objection, which led to the delayed disbursal of interests in subscribers' accounts by almost five months.
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Launch Of The Book 'The Diary Of Manu Gandhi' In New Delhi

  •  The National Archives of India, in collaboration with Oxford University Press, has published The Diary of Manu Gandhi 1943-44. Edited and translated by Tridip Suhrud, currently provost at the CEPT University, Gujarat, the book will be launched at New Delhi's Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. 
  • Manu is Mahatma Gandhi's great-niece. She joined him in 1943 as an aide to the Mahatma's ailing wife, Kasturba, when the couple was in the Aga Khan Palace prison in Pune. Manu remained with Gandhi until his assassination. She wrote 10 diaries, which years after her death were handed over to the National Archives. The first volume of The Diary of Manu Gandhi is a record of her life with Gandhi in 1943 and 1944. 
  • Authenticated by Gandhi himself, the entries in the diary throw light on his life as a prisoner and the "spiritual and educational pursuits of an adolescent woman who takes up writing as a mode of self-examination".
  • It is the subsequent volumes of her diary, which are to be published, that have references to Gandhi's controversial experiments with celibacy.
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Union Ministry Of Tourism Organizes One-Day National Conference Of Tourism Ministers

  •  One-Day National Conference Of Tourism Ministers was inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Tourism & Culture Shri Prahlad Singh Patel. 
  •  The conference was attended by State Tourism Ministers of 19 States.The meeting focused on various issues related to the development and promotion of Tourism in New Delhi. It suggested better coordination between the Centre and State to increase the number of tourists in India and work towards removing negative impressions.
  • The Tourism Minister Shri Prahlad Singh Patel launched the Hindi version of the New Incredible India portal at the conference. He announced that the Ministry is planning to launch the new Incredible India website in Arabic, Chinese and Spanish.
  • Mr. Patel also launched the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator Certification (IITFC). IITFC is a digital initiative online programme where one can learn about tourism at their own time, space, path, and pace.
  • Night tourism:
  • The Ministry has also decided to open 10 historical monuments till 9 PM for common visitors across the country. This move aims to promote night tourism across the country.
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