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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

10 Sep 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Kremlin Suffers Losses in Moscow City Vote

  •  Preliminary results showed that Allies of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suffered significant losses in Moscow city council elections, but mostly held their own in other local polls across the country.
  • Results of the elections highlighted the Kremlin's troubles in the Russian capital, which has been roiled in recent weeks by a wave of protests, while demonstrating its firm grip on politics elsewhere in the vast country.
  • Beyond Moscow, the Kremlin was still able to demonstrate its full control of the political situation, winning all 16 of the governor's races.
  • In St. Petersburg, Mr. Putin's longtime associate, Aleksandr D. Beglov, who was described by Russian news outlets as a "gaffe machine," won 65 percent of the votes.

Iran is Installing New Centrifuges

  •   According to the UN's atomic watchdog, Iran is preparing to use more advanced centrifuges, another breach of limits set in the country's slowly unraveling nuclear deal with major powers.
  • Iran had already announced the step, its latest violation of the 2015 agreement as it tries to pressure European signatories to find a way to maintain oil shipments and ease the toll of US sanctions on the Iranian economy.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that its inspectors verified the installation of new centrifuges. 
  • The nuclear deal was meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives.
  • Its collapse started with the US withdrawing from the deal in 2018 and imposing increased sanctions. The other signatories — UK, France, Germany, China and Russia, as well as the EU — have been struggling to salvage the agreement and find a way to meet Tehran's demands.

Sudan's Cabinet Sworn In

  •  Sudan swore in its first Cabinet since the military ousted autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 following mass pro-democracy protests.
  • The new members include Sudan's first woman Foreign Minister, Asmaa Abdalla, along with three other women, in an apparent acknowledgement of Sudanese women's participation in the uprising.
  • The Cabinet is part of a power-sharing agreement between the military and pro-democracy demonstrators, which also includes a joint military-civilian sovereign council and a legislative body that is supposed to be formed within three months.
  • The three bodies are to govern Sudan for little more than three years until elections can be held.
  • Eighteen Cabinet ministers were sworn in before the country's top judge, Babaker Abbas, as well as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the sovereign council.

ENVIRONMENT

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Researchers Unearth New Mass-extinction

  •  A team of scientists has concluded that earth experienced a previously underestimated severe mass-extinction event, which occurred about 260 million years ago, raising the total of major mass extinctions in the geologic record to six.
  • Notably, all six major mass extinctions are correlated with devastating environmental upheavals -- specifically, massive flood-basalt eruptions, each covering more than a million square kilometers with thick lava flows.
  • Scientists had previously determined that there were five major mass-extinction events, wiping out large numbers of species and defining the ends of geological periods: the end of the Ordovician (443 million years ago), the Late Devonian (372 million years ago), the Permian (252 million years ago), the Triassic (201 million years ago), and the Cretaceous (66 million years ago). 
  • And, in fact, many researchers have raised concerns about the contemporary, ongoing loss of species diversity -- a development that might be labelled a "seventh extinction" because such a modern mass extinction, scientists have predicted, could end up being as severe as these past events.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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SBI Caps to Prepare Debt Recast Proposal

  • Bulk tea producer McLeod Russel India Ltd., appointed SBI Capital Markets for preparing a debt recast proposal, which would involve restructuring of interest rates and conversion of short-term loans to long-term ones.
  • Earlier at the annual general meeting, chairman and managing director Aditya Khaitan told shareholders that in hindsight, lending to group company McNally Bharat was a 'mistake'.
  • MRIL's total debt stands at Rs. 1,700 crore. In recent times, the company has been forced to sell its assets to reduce debt.
  • With gardens in West Bengal and Assam, MRIL was the single largest bulk tea producer in India. However, of late, its position has slid following the sale of a number of tea estates.

Registration of Steel and Iron Imports, a Must

  •  In a bid to clamp down on the dumping of iron and steel imports, and also the over-and under-invoicing of these products, the government has removed these items from the 'free' category and has made it mandatory for importers to apply in advance for a registration of their import.
  • The new system will come into effect from November 1, 2019.
  • This comes at a time when India has been at the receiving end of large amounts of steel dumping due to the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.
  • This Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS) will require the importer to submit advance information on an online portal for the import of the items mentioned in the notification and obtain an automatic registration number.
  • This number can be obtained by paying a minimum fee of Rs. 500 and maximum of Rs. 1 lakh, depending on the value of the imports.

H-Energy and KSPL Ink Pact

  •  Hiranandani Group energy arm H-Energy signed a port service agreement (PSA) with Kakinada Seaports Limited (KSPL) to develop a liquified natural gas (LNG) regasification and reloading terminal at Kakinada port.
  • KSPL has the concession for Kakinada Deep Water Port from the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
  • The PSA signed through H-Energy's wholly owned subsidiary East Coast Concessions Private Ltd. (ECPL) would help the company to develop an LNG hub at the Kakinada Port catering to the needs of domestic customers in the state of Andhra Pradesh and shall supply LNG through small LNG vessels to H-energy's upcoming Kukrahati LNG terminal in the state of West Bengal and neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar.

L&T Bags Major Order from CIDCO

  •  Infrastructure company Larsen & Toubro's construction arm 'The Buildings & Factories Business of L&T Construction' bagged a contract from the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO) to construct 23,432 dwelling units at various locations in Navi Mumbai.
  • The value of the contract was not disclosed but the order falls under the 'major' category, which ranges between Rs. 5,000 crore and Rs. 7,000 crore.
  • According to L&T, the project, being part of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), envisages construction of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Low-Income Group (LIG) type of dwelling units.

Global Tender Floated for Procuring RRTS Coaches

  •  The NCR Transport Corporation (NCRTC), which is constructing the regional rapid transit system (RRTS) project, has floated a global tender for designing, manufacturing, supply testing, commissioning and comprehensive maintenance of standard gauge coaches including their maintenance at Duhai (Ghaziabad) and Modipuram (Meerut) depot of the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS corridor.
  • The tender is floated under the 'Make in India' initiative of central government.
  • The total length of the Delhi-Meerut corridor is 82 kilometres. The NCRTC has started work on the 17-kilometre priority stretch from Sahibabad to Duhai in Ghaziabad. The stretch has four stations: Sahibabad, New Bus Adda, Guldhar and Duhai. 

SBI Cuts Rates for the Fifth Time

  •  State Bank of India (SBI) cut its lending and deposit rates across all tenures, the second such reduction in the past one month.
  • The country's largest bank said it has reduced lending rates by 10 basis points (bps) across all tenors.
  • The one-year marginal cost of lending rate (MCLR) will stand reduced to 8.15% from 8.25% with effect from September 10.
  • This is the fifth consecutive cut in MCLR in FY20.
  • SBI also reduced its deposit rates by 20-25 bps and bulk deposit rates by 10-20 bps across tenures. In view of the falling interest rate scenario and surplus liquidity, SBI also realigns its interest rate on term deposits w.e.f. September 10, 2019.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Scientists Unearth Largest Dinosaur Fossils

  •  Researchers from Japan have unearthed a new species of dinosaur which measured eight-metres long and weighed close to five tonnes.
  • After studying around 350 bones and 70 taxa, researchers from Hokkaido University found out that the skeleton once belonged to a herbivorous dinosaur known as 'hadrosaurid'.
  • Initially, in the year 2013, they found a tail in northern Japan and thereafter excavated the whole skeleton, which was underneath 72 million-year-old marine deposits in the town of Mukawa.
  • Researchers named the dinosaur as 'Kamuysaurus japonicus,' which comes from "kamuy," the language of the indigenous people of northern Japan.
  • The duck-billed dinosaur, which weighed almost as much as an Asian elephant, is believed to be a nine-year-old adult who lived in coastal areas, known to be a rare habitat for those diverse groups of reptiles.

China's Giant Telescope Picks up Signals from Deep Space

  •  Chinese astronomers have detected repeated fast radio bursts (FRB), mysterious signals believed to be from a source about 3 billion light years from the Earth, with the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built.
  • Scientists detected the signals with the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) and they are carefully cross-checking and processing them.
  • FRBs are the brightest bursts known in the universe. They are called "fast" because these blips are very short, only several milliseconds in duration. But there is no reasonable explanation for their origin.

SPORTS

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Rafael Nadal Wins His 19th Grand Slam

  •  Rafael Nadal captured his 19th career Grand Slam title by winning the US Open final, outlasting Russia's Daniil Medvedev to seize his fourth crown in New York.
  • The Spanish left-hander moved one shy of Roger Federer's all-time men's record 20 Grand Slam triumphs and became the second-oldest New York champion in the Open era after Ken Rosewall in 1970 at age 35.

Sergio Ramos Equals Iker Casillas Record

  •  Sergio Ramos equalled Iker Casillas' record of 167 international appearances for Spain as he started their Euro 2020 qualifier against the Faroe Islands in Gijon. 
  • The Real Madrid centre-back made his international debut 14 years ago in a friendly match against China.
  • Sergio was part of the Spain sides which lifted the  2010 World Cup, Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 titles.
  • He took over the Spain captaincy in 2016 after goalkeeper Casillas' final match and would set a new record  in October 2019 if he plays against either Norway or Sweden.
  • He is now only nine caps short of the European record held by Italian stopper Gianluigi Buffon (176) and 17 adrift of Egyptian Ahmed Hassan's world record of 184. 

Kieron Pollard named as West Indies New ODI and T20 Captain

  •  Kieron Pollard was named as West Indies' new ODI and T20I captain. Jason Holder remains the West Indies Test captain.
  • Pollard takes over the ODI side despite not having played an ODI since October 2016.
  • Pollard takes over the ODI role from Holder who has captained the side since 2015.
  • Since his ODI debut in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, Pollard has played in 101 ODI games. No cricketer has played more than his 451 T20 matches across the world and he was part of West Indies' T20 World Cup winning campaign in 2012. 

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Ex-CAG Asks EC to Make Dissent Notes Public

  •  India's former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Vinod Rai, called for the Election Commission of India (ECI) to make dissent notes public in its final Model Code of Conduct orders, and described the controversy that erupted over the issue during the 2019 general elections as avoidable.
  • In the middle of the Lok Sabha elections, election commissioner Ashok Lavasa recused himself from all ECI meetings on MCC issues, after the poll panel did not include his dissent note in the final orders while clearing top leaders (including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah) of violation charges.
  • The commission maintained that there was no precedence of making dissent notes a part of the final order as these are not part of quasi-judicial hearings.

Congress to Appoint Preraks

  •  Following a series of electoral setbacks, the Congress would soon have groups of preraks or motivators across the country to envision, design and deliver training skills to its workers as part of efforts to scale-up its mass contact programmes.
  • The preraks would inspire and inform the workers about the party's ideology and history besides preparing them to engage with the masses on a regular basis.
  • The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), has pracharaks or full-time volunteers to take the organisation's ideology to the masses.
  • Pracharaks organise shakhas (camps) and undertake voluntary social work but are forbidden from participating in electoral politics in principle. The preraks will have no such bar.

Political Parties Urge EC to Retain National Party Status

  •  Three political parties — the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Trinamool Congress (TMC), and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) urged the Election Commission to allow them to retain their national party status, pointing out that they should be given a chance to improve their electoral performance in the upcoming assembly elections in as many as four states.
  • Assembly elections are due in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Haryana later  in 2019 while Delhi will go to polls in January 2020.
  • Representatives of the three parties also said in 2016, the poll panel had amended its rules, whereby national and state party status of political parties are to be reviewed every 10 years instead of five.

DEFENCE

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IAF's 17 Squadron May be Revived

  •  The Indian Air Force is expected to resurrect its 'Golden Arrows' 17 Squadron which would be the first unit to fly the multi-role Rafale fighter jets.
  • IAF chief BS Dhanoa would resurrect the 17 squadron at an event at the Ambala Air Force Station as it prepares to receive the Rafale jets.
  • The 'Golden Arrows' 17 Squadron was commanded by Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa during the Kargil war in 1999.
  • The squadron, which operated from Bhatinda air base, was disbanded in 2016 after the IAF started gradual phasing out of Russian-origin Mig 21 jets.
  • The squadron was formed in 1951, and initially it flew de Havilland Vampire F Mk 52 fighters. India is expected to receive the first Rafale jet by September 2019.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Gyanesh Bharti South Corporation's New Commissioner

  •  The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) is set to get a commissioner after three months of the post lying vacant.
  • The ministry of home affairs (MHA) issued an order appointing senior IAS officer, Gyanesh Bharti, for the job.
  • Bharti is an officer with the Union Territory cadre, of the 1998 batch. He was posted as joint secretary, cabinet secretariat, with the Government of India before being repatriated to his parent cadre in July 2019.
  • The north corporation's commissioner, Varsha Joshi, was holding the additional charge of SDMC after the previous south body commissioner, Puneet Kumar Goel, was transferred to Goa in June 2019.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Visitor's Award 2019

  •  Recipients of Visitor's Awards 2019 for research in various fields were announced by President's Secretariat. The award would be conferred by President Ram Nath Kovind at an event to be held at Rashtrapati Bhavan later.
  • The Awards will be presented for Research in- Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences and Technology Development.
  • The following are the recipients of the 2019 Award: Professor Sibnath Deb, Professor Sanjay Puri, Professor Asad Ullah Khan, Dr. Pratima and Dr. Shaon Ray Chaudhuri.
  • The Visitor's Awards were instituted in 2014. Since 2014, President annually confers Visitor's Awards in various categories to the recipients.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Panel to Review Division of Assets and Liabilities

  •  The Centre has constituted a three-member committee to look into distribution of assets and liabilities of Jammu and Kashmir between two successor Union territories, which will come into existence on October 31, 2019.
  • Former defence secretary Sanjay Mitra will be the chairman of the committee, retired Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Arun Goyal and retired Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS) officer Giriraj Prasad Gupta will be its members.
  • As per Section 84 of the Act, the assets and liabilities of the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir have to be apportioned between the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
  • The apportionment of the assets and liabilities of the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir shall be subject to the recommendations of a committee constituted by the central government.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Country's First Global Trade Centre for Women

  •  In a major initiative to accelerate women entrepreneurship and secure gender parity, the Kerala government would set up the country's first International Women's Trade Centre (iWTC), in consonance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in Kozhikode.
  • A key project of the state's Gender Park under the Department of Social Justice, it is envisaged as a safe space away from home for women to harness their entrepreneurial capabilities, set up or expand their businesses and get their products marketed globally.
  • The first phase of iWTC, being executed under the Gender Park's "Vision 2020", is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

Eklavya Schools for Tribals

  •  Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would launch Eklavya schools exclusively for the tribal students of the country on September 12, 2019.
  • The central government has given approval to set up 462 Eklavya residential schools on the lines of Navodaya schools.
  • The residential school would have 450 tribal students from class six to twelve. Around Rs. 10,000 crore would be spent.
  • All the 462 schools would be opened in Jharkhand, Odisha, North eastern and other states in next two years.

Tamil Nadu Ranks Lowest in Coverage of Iodised Salt

  •  According to a first-of-its-kind national survey to measure the coverage of iodised salt, Tamil Nadu has the lowest consumption of iodised salt despite being the third biggest producer of salt in the country.
  • The study showed that 76.3% of Indian households consumed adequately iodised salt, which is salt with at least 15 parts per million of iodine.
  • The five worst performers were Tamil Nadu (61.9%), Andhra Pradesh (63.9%), Rajasthan (65.5%), Odisha (65.8%) and Jharkhand (68.8%).
  • The survey was conducted by Nutrition International in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Indian Coalition for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD).
  • The survey tested the iodine content in samples of cooking salt from households to estimate the coverage of iodised salt.
  • Gujarat produces 71% of salt in the country, followed by Rajasthan at 17% and Tamil Nadu at 11%. The rest of the country accounts for a mere 1% of salt produced.

TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

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Namaskar Sewa by Air India

  •  Air India plans to launch its Namaskar Seva, a meet and greet service where a airline personnel will assist flyers from the airport entry gate and assist them till the aircraft seat.
  • The service can be availed by the customers soon and it will be available for all the passengers travelling by the airline.
  • Earlier, the airline was providing the same service for its first class passengers.
  • Namaskar Sewa would be offered to the passengers for a nominal fee. There is a feedback that at times, business and economy class passengers faced some issues at airports and did not have a pleasant experience. With Namaskar Sewa, the airlines is aiming to address those issues.
  • The airline plan to focus this service on its international passengers more, especially those flyers who are in transit. Air India plans to keep a team of three personnel to help passengers register for the service.
  • The airline plans to roll out the initiative in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports. 
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