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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

30 Oct 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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India, Saudi Arabia To Establish Strategic Partnership Council To Coordinate On Important Issues

  •  India and Saudi Arabia have agreed to establish a Strategic Partnership Council, resolved to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorist operations and signed 12 MoUs in various areas of mutual interests, taking the bilateral relationship to the next level.
  • The Strategic Partnership Council Agreement was signed by Prime Minister Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in Riyad.
  • The Council will be an all encompassing bilateral mechanism which will cover an entire spectrum of relationship between the two countries.

Sri Lankan Cabinet Approves MCC Grant Of 480 Million From US

  •  Sri Lankan Cabinet has approved the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant of 480 million US dollars from the US Government.
  • Earlier, President Maithripala Sirisena had said that he will not approve the deal after the main opposition had raised concerns over the agreement. 
  • MCC consists of grant funds for traffic management in Colombo, road construction island-wide and land administration improvements covering the whole country.

US House Advances Bill Imposing Sanctions On Turkey Over Syria

  • The United States House of Representatives approved legislation aimed at imposing sanctions on Turkish military and government officials over Ankara's military operation against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.
  • The 403-16 vote is the latest rebuke of Trump's decision to withdraw US forces from northeast Syria and leave Kurdish allies without military support as Turkey launched an operation in the area.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Microsoft Set To Invest $200  Mn In Ola, Boost Connected Car Tie-Up

  •  Ride-hailing company Ola is set to unveil a connected car project in partnership with Microsoft Corp., which will also invest around $200 million in Ola's parent, ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
  • Microsoft will acquire around 4.5% in ANI Technologies as part of the deal.
  • The project, which began in 2017, aims to connect cars with Internet of Things sensors, and the transmitted data is stored in the cloud.
  • The car is thus tracked not only for its location through GPS, but also for the quality of its engine and for relaying information needed by vehicle insurers.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Mars InSight's Mole Has Partially Backed Out of Its Hole

  •  After making progress over the past several weeks digging into the surface of Mars, InSight's mole has backed about halfway out of its hole.
  • Preliminary assessments point to unusual soil conditions on the Red Planet. The international mission team is developing the next steps to get it buried again.
  • Meantime, the lander's seismometer — the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or, SEIS — continues to collect data on marsquakes in order to provide a better understanding of the Mars interior and why Earth and the Red Planet are so different today after sharing similarities billions of years ago.
  • The French space agency, Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and its partners provided the SEIS instrument to NASA.

US Air Force Space Plane Back On Earth After Two-Year Mission

  •  The US Air Force's mystery space plane is back on Earth, after 780 days in orbit following a record-breaking two-year mission.
  • The X-37B landed at Kennedy Space Centre of National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Florida.
  • The Air Force is mum about what the plane did in orbit after launching aboard a SpaceX rocket in 2017.
  • The mission sets a new endurance record for the reusable test vehicle. US officials said that this latest mission has successfully completed its objectives.
  • This was the fifth spaceflight by a vehicle of this sort. No. 6 is planned for 2020 with another launch from Cape Canaveral.

SPORTS

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England Fined £2,000

  • England have been fined £2,000 for crossing the halfway line as they lined up in a V formation to face the haka before their Rugby World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand.
  • World Rugby rules stipulate teams must remain within their own half of the pitch to receive the challenge.
  • Referee Nigel Owens and his team had to usher several England players back as they strayed over halfway.
  • England won the game 19-7 and will play South Africa in final.

Swaroop Singh Kuntal Becomes Fastest Indian To Complete Ironman Malaysia

  •  Langkawi Island became the fastest Indian to complete Ironman Malaysia in a record timing of 12 hours and 14 minutes.
  • The Ironman Malaysia was organised on October 26, 2019 at Langkawi Island in Malaysia. Athletes from all over the world participated in the event.
  • Ironman consists of 3.8 km of sea swimming followed by 180 km cycling and finally 42.2 km of running. All events are required to be done in a cut- off time of 17 hours.
  • Ironman Malaysia is one of the toughest competitions because it has an elevation of around 3000m in the 180 km cycling course.
  • During cycling maximum temperature reached 38°C and while running it reached 35°C. These harsh conditions tested the mental toughness and physical strength of the athletes.

Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh Captain Banned Over 'Corrupt Approaches'

  •  Bangladesh Test captain Shakib Al Hasan has been given a two-year ban for "failing to report corrupt approaches".
  • The 32-year-old accepted three charges relating to requests for "inside information for betting purposes".
  • The approaches came during an international tri-series also involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in January 2018, and that year's Indian Premier League.
  • Shakib is the top all-rounder in the one-day international rankings and has played 338 matches for Bangladesh.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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M Venkaiah Naidu Unveils 15-Point Reform Charter For Effective Functioning Of Parliament, State Legislatures

  • Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu unveiled a 15-point reform charter as the basis for a new 'political normal' to enable effective functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • Mr Naidu dwelt at length on the present pitfalls of Parliamentary democracy while delivering the first Arun Jaitley Memorial Lecture on Strengthening of Parliamentary Institutions in the Country at Delhi University.
  • Mr Naidu called for a new political consciousness urging all the stakeholders to review their mindset with regard to their roles and responsibilities.

India To Adopt Brazil Model Of Human Milk Bank

  •  The Centre has set a target of ensuring at least 70 per cent infants to have access to breast milk by the year 2025.
  • The Target will subsequently be increased to 100 per cent. India has taken inspiration from Brazil's success in the field of human milk bank and thus has decided to adopt a similar model in creating a wide network of human milk banks.
  • Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey, after returning from BRICS Health Ministers' Conference in Brazil said that the member countries have decided to take coordinated efforts to reduce infant mortality rate, increase the access of breast milk to the infants and ensuring affordable medicine to all.

Govt Forms Secretaries' Panel On Steps To Ease Financial Stress In Telecom

  •  Days after the Supreme Court ordered telecom companies to pay as much as Rs 1.42 trillion in past statutory dues, the government is constituting a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) under the Cabinet Secretary to suggest measures to mitigate financial stress in the sector.
  • While the terms of reference of the panel do not explicitly mention the Supreme Court ruling of October 24, 2019, it has been asked to look at suggestions for deferring of payments for spectrum as well as re-look at the obligation to fund a universal service fund for operators.
  • The panel -- which will comprise secretaries of ministries of finance, telecommunication and law, among others -- is expected to meet shortly and submit recommendations in a time-bound manner.

DEFENCE

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Philippine Army Shows Interest To Buy India's BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile

  •  The Philippine Army has shown a keen interest in buying the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, regarded as the world's fastest supersonic missile, in order to strengthen its coastal defences.
  • Major General Reynaldo Aquino, the Vice Commander of the Philippine Army, confirmed this over the weekend while undertaking a tour of the visiting Indian Navy Ship (INS) Sahyadri docked in the country's capital Manila.
  • Philippine Army wants BrahMos missile as its First Land-Based Missile System Battery (1LBMS).

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Narendra Singh Tomar, Avinash Rai Khanna Named Central Observers For BJP Legislative Party meet

  •  Union Minister and senior BJP leader Narendra Singh Tomar and Party Vice President Avinash Rai Khanna will be the Central Observers for the BJP Legislative Party meeting scheduled to be held in Mumbai. Party President Amit Shah took the decision in this regard. 
  • Anup Kumar Singh takes charge as new DG of National Security Guard
  • Senior IPS officer Anup Kumar Singh has taken charge as the new Director General (DG) of National Security Guard (NSG).
  • A 1985-batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, Singh's appointment was approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The NSG is a counter-terrorism unit under the Ministry of Home Affairs. It was raised in 1984.

Sadako Ogata: First female UN Refugee Chief Dies At 92

  •  A Japanese academic and diplomat who became the first female to be appointed UN High Commissioner for Refugees has died aged 92.
  • Sadako Ogata worked on some of the largest crises of the decade during her time in service from 1991 to 2000.
  • Challenges included helping Kurdish refugees fleeing from Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, and the Balkans War.
  • She was known for her great passion in working to protect the "defenceless and dispossessed".

Nirmal Purja: Ex-Soldier Climbs 14 Highest Mountains in Six Months

  •  A Nepali mountaineer and former British Marine has climbed the world's tallest 14 peaks in six months - beating an earlier record of almost eight years.
  • Nirmal Purja reached the top of his 14th mountain, Shishapangma in China.
  • Purja, 36, joined the British Army in 2003 and became a Royal Marine in 2009.
  • His climbing career began when he walked to Everest base camp in 2012 and, instead of returning as planned, decided to climb the entire mountain.
  • He was already the holder of numerous records - including the fastest "double-header" of two mountains higher than 8,000 metres - and was awarded the MBE, a civilian honour, by the Queen in 2018.
  • Nepalese soldiers have served in the British Army - specifically the Brigade of Gurkhas - for more than 200 years.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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World Savings Day

  •  The World Savings Day was established on October 30, 1924, during the 1st International Savings Bank Congress (World Society of Savings Banks) in Milan, Italy.
  • The Italian Professor Filippo Ravizza declared this day the "International Saving Day" on the last day of the congress.
  • In the resolutions of the Thrift Congress it was decided that 'World Thrift Day' should be a day devoted to the promotion of savings all over the World.
  • In their efforts to promote thrift, the savings banks also worked with the support of the schools, the clergy, as well as cultural, sports, professional, and women's associations.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Greta Thunberg Declines Environmental Prize

  •  The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has refused to accept an environmental award, saying the climate movement needed people in power to start to "listen" to "science" and not awards.
  • The young climate activist, who has rallied millions to her "Fridays for Future" movement, was honoured at a Stockholm ceremony held by the Nordic Council, a regional body for inter-parliamentary cooperation.
  • She had been nominated for her efforts by both Sweden and Norway and won the organisation's annual environment prize.
  • But after it was announced, a representative for Thunberg told the audience that she would not accept the award or the prize sum of 350,000 Danish kroner (about $52,000 or €46,800). "The climate movement does not need any more awards," she wrote on Twitter.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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TN Becomes First State To Enact Law On Contract Farming

  •  Tamil Nadu has become the first State in the country to enact a law on contract farming with President Ram Nath Kovind giving assent to the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) Act.
  • The law would safeguard interests of farmers during times of bumper harvest or fluctuating market prices. The farmers would be paid at a pre-determined price, which had been arrived at the time of signing agreements with buyers.

Free Bus Ride Scheme Might Be Extended To Senior Citizens

  •  The free-ride scheme for women on Delhi public buses might be extended to senior citizens, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said as the initiative took off.
  • This scheme will help in women empowerment by bridging the gender gap that exists in society, the chief minister said on his mobile application 'AK App'.
  • Bus rides for senior citizens and students might be made free too in the coming days, Kejriwal said on the app, which was launched by him ahead of the assembly polls.

New Odisha Initiative: Meal In Exchange For Plastic Waste

  •  In an effort to raise awareness about the perils of using plastic, the Kotpad Notified Area Council (NAC) in Koraput district is providing free meals to the poor in exchange for a kilogram of plastic waste.
  • The programme entails a meal for anyone who brings a kilogram of used polythene bags, plastic bottles and cups, adding, it is being carried out under the State government's 'Aahar' scheme.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Indians Are Second-Most Sleep Deprived After Japan

  •  India has emerged as the least-active country among 18 countries including the US, the UK, Japan and Singapore, walking an average of 6,533 steps daily, according to a report by fitness solutions firm Fitbit.
  • Indians were also the second-most sleep deprived after Japan, getting an average night sleep of 7 hours 1 minute.
  • Based on aggregated and anonymised user data insights from 18 countries, the Fitbit report found that "Indians are the least active and log in only 6,533 steps daily, the least amongst all 18 countries which is 3,600 steps lesser than the average of the most active country — Hong Kong".
  • Average active minutes (32) also fare the lowest in the grid.

IIM Calcutta Best B-school In India, Bags 17th Spot Globally In FT Ranking

  •  Of the few Indian Institute of Managements (IIM) that have secured a place in the Master in Management Rankings 2019 released by the Financial Times, IIM Calcutta leads the way.
  • IIM Calcutta has bagged the 17th rank globally, jumping six places, for its 2-year Masters in Business Administration programme (earlier Post Graduate Programme in Management).
  • IIM Calcutta has improved its ranking from 2018 when it had secured the 23rd spot. It is ahead of the other four Indian institutes listed in FT Ranking.
  • The institute has also taken over IIM Ahmedabad for the top spot in the country.

TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

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Australia's 'Backpacker Tax' Ruled Invalid By Court

  •  Australia has used a so-called "backpacker tax" to illegally tax foreign workers from eight countries, according to a landmark ruling.
  • In 2017, the government imposed a controversial 15% tax rate on two visa categories for working holiday-makers.
  • But a court found the levy was in breach of existing treaties with the UK, US, Germany, Finland, Chile, Japan, Norway and Turkey.
  • About 150,000 foreigners travel to Australia every year on working holiday visas, with many finding work in the farming and hospitality industries.

IRCTC Introduces OTP-Based Refund System For Booking Through Travel Agents

  •  Railway passengers who book their train tickets through travel agents, but end up cancelling the tickets, or cannot travel as the ticket continues to be on the waitlist, can now get a text message directly from IRCTC, regarding the exact refund amount that they are supposed to get from it. 
  • To enable this, the passenger is required to provide the number to the IRCTC authorised agent at the time of booking e-ticket.
  • Under this new process, whenever a ticket booked through the authorised IRCTC agent is cancelled by the customer or a fully waitlisted ticket, IRCTC will send a one time password (OTP) through SMS to the passenger's mobile number.
  • The passenger is supposed to share the OTP to the ticket booking agent, as the ticket booking agent can claim the refund amount only after he shares the OTP.

Gatwick Trial Cuts Plane Boarding Time By 10%

  •  The frustration of waiting for someone to put their bag in an overhead locker may soon be over if a trial to get people on planes quicker is successful.
  • Gatwick says it is working with EasyJet to try out new ways to board passengers at the London airport.
  • They include boarding people in window seats first, starting at the back, followed by middle then aisle seats.
  • Gatwick said different boarding methods could reduce the journey from airport gate to seat by about 10%.
  • The airport operator says that the window-to-aisle seat pattern of boarding is best suited for individuals and business passengers.

ART AND CULTURE

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Nagaland Partners With Madhya Pradesh Under 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat'

  •  Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat' programme has brought in the states of Nagaland and Madhya Pradesh as one to celebrate the spirit of national integration through a deep and structured engagement between the two states.
  • The Directorate of Higher Education of Government of Nagaland as the nodal department of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat' has conducted various activities undertaken in partnership with Madhya Pradesh.
  • With Madhya Pradesh as a partner state, Nagaland under this programme has the endeavour of sharing and learning knowledge of culture through various activities undertaken by the nodal department- the State directorate of Higher Education along with Art & Culture, Tourism, Industries and Commerce.

Nirmala Sitharaman Releases Special Commemorative Coin Of Paramahansa Yogananda

  •  Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has released a special commemorative coin on Paramahansa Yogananda to mark his 125th Birth Anniversary.
  • Ms Sitharaman said, Paramahansa Yogananda was a great son of India, who became so recognized globally.
  • She said, the importance lies in his universal message of bringing harmony among mankind and making it so acceptable globally even when communications modes were limited.
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