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General Awareness

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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

25 Nov 2019


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Hong Kong Democrats Cheer Landslide Victory in Local Elections

  •  Hong Kong's democrats romped to a landslide and symbolic majority in district council elections after residents turned out in record numbers to vote following six months of anti-government protests in the embattled city.
  • In a rare weekend lull in the unrest that has roiled the financial hub, democratic candidates across the city of 7.4 million secured more than half of the 452 district council seats for the first time, against a strongly resourced and mobilised pro-establishment Opposition.
  • Almost three million people voted, a record turnout of more than 71% that appeared to have been spurred by the turmoil, almost double the number last time.

North Korea Conducts Artillery Firings

  •  North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un has visited a frontline island and ordered troops there to practice firing artillery.
  • The firing happened when Mr. Kim inspected a military unit on Changrin Islet near the disputed sea boundary with South Korea.
  • It was Mr. Kim's first known visit to frontline troops since he entered nuclear talks with the United States in 2018.

PM Releases Manifesto, Keeps Focus on Brexit

  •  The formal launch of the Conservative Party's election pledges centered around the key plank of PM Boris Johnson's campaign: making Brexit happen. Johnson claimed that his Conservatives are the sole party in next month's (December 2019) election that will actually get Brexit done.
  • Johnson promised to bring his Brexit deal back to parliament before Christmas, with passage likely assured if the Conservatives win a majority in the December 12 (2019) vote.
  • He said that would enable his government to get Britain out of the EU by the January 31 deadline while other parties would slow the process down for months or stop it altogether.
  • The manifesto promised increased spending to recruit 20,000 more police and 50,000 nurses. He said doctors, nurses and health professionals will be offered fast-track visas.
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Sumatra Rhino is Extinct in Malaysia

  •  The Sumatran rhinoceros has become extinct in Malaysia, after the last of the species in the country succumbed to cancer.
  • The Sumatran rhino, the smallest of five rhinoceros species, once roamed across Asia as far as India, but its numbers have shrunk drastically due to deforestation and poaching.
  • The WWF conservation group estimates that there are only about 80 left, mostly living in the wild in Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia.

1st In- Vitro Gives Hope for Endangered Puerto Rican Toad

  •  A critically endangered Puerto Rican toad was for the first time born via in vitro fertilisation as US scientists attempt to save it from extinction.
  • Olaf - named in honour of the frozen semen he came from - is the first of more than 300 Puerto Rican crested toads that hatched after the first attempt failed, Diane Barber, ectotherms curator at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas.
  • Barber was part of a team that travelled to the southwest town of Guayanilla in 2018 to collect semen from six male Puerto Rican crested toads that were later released back into the wild. The scientists were careful to select bigger toads that had what are called "nuptial pads" on their thumbs, which indicate sexual maturity and help them grab on to females.
  • The team, which included scientists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources, among others, preserved the semen in liquid nitrogen as they transported it to the Fort Worth Zoo, where a couple of female toads injected with hormones awaited.
  • The Puerto Rican crested toad was thought extinct until the 1960s and was then rediscovered in the early 1980s.
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Oyo, Apax Runs for Significant Stake in CCD

  • SoftBank-backed hospitality chain Oyo and British private equity firm Apax Partners have joined the race to buy a significant stake in Café Coffee Day (CCD). 
  • Both Oyo and Apax have signed nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) with Coffee Day Enterprises (CDEL) and have initiated discussions to buy the group's coffee business. KKR, TPG Capital and Bain Capital have also signed similar agreements with CDEL and are in the race to buy CCD.

Salcomp Buys Nokia's Defunct Chennai Plant

  •  Salcomp, one of Apple's major component suppliers, has bought Nokia's defunct handset factory near Chennai for close to $30 million (₹215 crore), setting the stage for the revival of the plant that was shut down in late 2014.
  • Salcomp is expected to begin operations at the plant by March 2020, and ramp up exports from there to about $2 billion by investing $300 million over the next five years, said a person familiar with the matter.
  • Once fully functional, the new unit is expected to generate employment for close to 10,000 people, another person said. Salcomp currently operates two units in the same special economic zone in Sriperumbudur where it employs close to 7,000 people.
  • Salcomp's acquisition of the handset manufacturing plant — it was once the world's largest, producing 100 million handsets a year and employing some 12,000 people — coincides with iPhone maker Apple's strategy to expand production in India for the local and global markets. Apple is gradually shifting away from China amid the Sino-US trade war. The American company sources chargers from Salcomp, which is the largest player globally and which has made India a huge base over the past few years.

L'Oréal to Acquire Beauty Brands in India

  •  L'Oréal is actively looking at acquiring Indian beauty brands and startups in the beauty-tech space. Chairman Jean Paul Agon  said that the India unit has been one of the top three fastest growing L'Oréal subsidiaries in the past two years. 
  •  In order to look at startups, L'Oreal have invested in Fireside Ventures, an early-stage investment fund focused on Indian consumer brands.
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Insta's 'Close Friends' on FB Soon

  •  Facebook is going to add one of Instagram's favourite features, 'Close Friends', — to the main app. The feature was added as a built-in privacy tool that let users choose to share content to only a select few. The feature was first spotted inside Messenger by reverse engineering master and frequent tipster Jane Manchun Wong. Instagram made a single Close Friends list with a dedicated button for sharing.

NASA's Alien Hunter Rover in Antarctica

  • NASA scientists are dropping an upside-down underwater rover into the icy oceans of Antarctica. The robot, Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration (BRUIE), is a prototype of the rover that could search for life in frozen alien oceans. It's part of NASA's plans to explore the secret oceans of two distant icy moons, Europa and Enceladus. NASA plans to launch the next spacecraft to Europa in 2025. NASA began testing an alien-hunting underwater rover in Antarctica. Instead of relying on its weight to keep it on the ground, BRUIE relies on buoyancy to keep it afloat. 
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New Zealand Beat England by Innings in First Test

  •  New Zealand wrapped up an impressive innings and 65-run victory over England shortly after tea on the fifth day of the first test at Bay Oval on November 25, 2019 with Neil Wagner running through the lower order.
  • Wagner took three wickets in 17 balls for just one run as England collapsed from 132-5 to 138-8 before tea, then broke a 59-run ninth-wicket partnership between Jofra Archer and Sam Curran after they had threatened to thwart the hosts.
  • The left armer then trapped Stuart Broad in front for a first ball duck to end England's resistance at 197 and end with figures of 5-44 from 19.2 overs.

Australia Thrash Pakistan by an Innings & 5 Runs

  •  Australia duly wrapped up victory over Pakistan by an innings and five runs in the first test in Brisbane but they were forced to wait until late on day four by a magnificent rearguard action from Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. The hosts needed only seven wickets to ensure they would take a 1-0 lead to Adelaide Oval for the second and final match of the series but Azam's second test century and 95 from Rizwan stalled their march to victory. The pair were finally dislodged after a 132-run partnership and the Australian quicks finished the job with the second new ball, dismissing the last four batsmen for 30 runs to maintain Australia's 31-year unbeaten run at the Gabba.

Chelsea Win Battle Of The Ball

  •  Pep Guardiola has built his decade of football success on creating teams that dominate possession but for the first time in his career — one of his teams had less of the ball than the opposition.
  • From Barcelona to Bayern Munich and on to Manchester City, the 'Pep way' has been built around an obsessive attention to keeping hold of the ball.
  • But something strange happened — his City side beat Chelsea in the Premier League without having a majority of the possession.
  • The possession stat of 46.74 during City's 2-1 win was the lowest recorded by a side managed by Guardiola in any of his 381 top-flight matches in charge at his three clubs.
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NSO Survey Debunks Swachh Bharat Claims

  •  The latest National Statistical Office (NSO) survey on sanitation debunked the claims of an open defecation-free or ODF India made by the Centre's flagship Swachh Bharat scheme, although it did record great progress in toilet access and use in rural areas.
  • The survey showed that about 71% of rural households had access to toilets at a time the Centre was claiming 95%. On October 2, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the whole country was ODF with complete access to toilets.
  • The NSO survey was carried out between July and December 2018, with a reference date of October 1. Large States which had been declared ODF – that is, 100% access to toilets and 100% usage – even before the survey began included Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Others which were declared ODF during the survey period included Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • According to the NSO, almost 42% of rural households in Jharkhand had no access to a toilet at that time. In Tamil Nadu, the gap was 37%, followed by 34% in Rajasthan. In Gujarat, which was one of the earliest States declared ODF, back in October 2017, almost a quarter of all rural households had no toilet access, the NSO data showed. The other major States listed also had significant gaps: Karnataka (30%), MP (29%), Andhra Pradesh (22%) and Maharashtra (22%).

Ban on Bodo Insurgents Extended

  •  The central government issued orders to extend the ban on Assam-based Bodo insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) by another five years, citing that the terrorist outfit had continued to indulge in illegal and violent activities intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.
  • The NDFB, formed in 1986, seeks to obtain a sovereign Boroland for the Bodo people.
  • The ministry has extended the ban on NDBF under the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.The ministry said the unlawful activities perpetrated by the NDFB had been "undermining the authority of the government, spreading terror and panic among people, causing carnage and ethnic violence, resulting in killings and destruction of properties of non-Bodos, inhabiting the Bodo-dominated areas in Assam". "For the aforesaid reasons", it added, "the central government is of the opinion that the NDFB's activities are detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of India and that it is an unlawful association".
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Pragya Thakur Nominated to Parliamentary Panel on Defence

  •  Terror-accused MP Pragya Singh Thakur has been nominated to the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Defence.
  • The Bhopal MP will be part of the 21-member consultative committee, which is headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh.
  • Singh is an accused in the Malegaon blasts case. She was fielded by the BJP against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, calling her nomination a "satyagraha" against "false terror cases".

Rajnath Singh Calls for Increased Synergy between DRDO, Domestic Defence Industry

  •  Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and domestic defence industry should explore new ways for enhancing synergy to achieve the goal of self-sufficiency, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said.
  • Addressing the DRDO Industry Synergy Summit 2019 at Hyderabad through video conferencing, Singh said defence public sector units (DPSUs), industry, research institutes and armed forces need to work in tandem to achieve the target of incorporating at least 25 artificial intelligence based products into defence in near future.
  • Singh said under the Defence Production Policy, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has set the target of USD 26 billion for aerospace, defence services and goods by 2025.
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K Pop Star Found Dead

  •  K-pop star and TV celebrity Goo Hara was found dead at her home in Seoul on November 24, 2019.
  • An acquaintance found the 28-year-old dead at her home in southern Seoul and reported it to authorities. The cause of death wasn't immediately known. 
  • Goo made her debut in 2008 as a member of the girl group Kara, which had big followings in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. She later worked as a solo artist and appeared on many TV shows.

Artist Milon Mukherjee passes away

  •  Artist Milon Mukherjee passed away peacefully at the age of 81.
  • Mukherjee, who had worked with the Times of India group for more than 25 years, had created illustrations for more than 21 of its publications during his stint.
  • The Kolkata-born Mukherjee had his first art show in Paris. After that, Mukherjee exhibited his work in shows across the world. He traveled widely during the 60s and 70s through the Himalayas and several countries of Europe.
  • Apart from being a painter and artist he was also an author, singer, actor, poet and a voice-over artist. The Indo-German Society presented him with the Professor Langhammer Painter of the Year award in 1978.
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Guwahati to Host Annual Modi-Abe Summit

  •  An interaction at a 19th century colonial riverside bungalow and a cruise on the Brahmaputra are expected to be among the highlights of the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to be held in Guwahati in mid-December 2019.
  • The two sides zeroed in on Guwahati as the venue for the summit, the dates for which are yet to be formally announced, in view of the focus on India's northeastern states under the Act East Forum launched by India and Japan almost two years ago and the considerable development assistance provided to the region by Tokyo.
  • Modi and Abe are expected to cap the two-day summit with a visit to the new Peace Museum in Manipur's capital Imphal, which commemorates one of the fiercest battles of World War 2 in 1944 in which thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed.
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Taylor Swift Ties Michael Jackson's Record

  •  Taylor Swift tied Michael Jackson's record at the American Music Awards as she collected her 24th win and used her speech to thank her record label for allowing her to freely express herself as an artist.
  • Swift won favorite pop/rock album for "Lover," her first release on Universal Music Group's Republic Records. She released her first six albums on Big Machine Label Group, founded by Scott Borchetta, who owns Swift's master recordings along with music manager Scooter Braun.
  • Swift, who is nominated for five awards, has a chance of surpassing the King of Pop's record. Swift will also receive the artist of the decade award, to be presented by Carole King, at the show. She is also nominated for the top prize - artist of the year - along with Grande, Drake, Halsey and Post Malone, who is the leader with seven nominations.
  • Lizzo, Eilish and Lil Nas X — who also scored six Grammy nominations — are up for new artist of the year along with Ella Mai and Luke Combs.
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Maharashtra Becomes the Only State to Protect Scribes

  •  Even as the political slugfest in Maharashtra continues, President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Bill, 2017, one of the first laws in the country which ensures protection for journalists.
  • The Bill, passed by the Devendra Fadnavis government, has been pending for two years with the Centre and recommends punishment up to three years or a fine of up to ₹50,000 or both in case of attack on mediapersons on duty. Acts of violence against mediapersons will be treated as cognizable, nonbailable and cases under this law will be investigated by an officer not below the rank of DySP/ACP.
  • As per the Maharashtra legislation, the offender shall be liable to pay compensation for damage or loss caused to the property of the mediaperson or the media house as determined by court. The assailant would be liable to reimburse the medical expenditure incurred by the mediapersons in the attack.
  • According to the World Press Freedom Index 2019, India dropped two places on a global press freedom index to be ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the annual 'Reporters Without Borders'.
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Women Fared Better as Salaried Workers: NSO

  •  The share of regular wage earners and salaried employees in the urban workforce increased marginally between April-June 2018 and January-March 2019—from 48.3% to 50%—with women faring better, the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) released by National Statistical Organisation shows.
  • According to data released, the rising trend has been maintained over the last four quarters, with women salaried workers, representing organised sector workers, seeing a 2.1 percentage point increase, compared to 1.5 percentage points for male workers.
  • In all, over a fifth of youths in cities available in the job market were unable to find employment in the last quarter of 2018-19, the PLFS data says. In January-March 2019, for which latest data is available, the survey estimates 22.5% unemployment rate in people aged 15-29 years.
  • Women fared poorly in the labour force participation rate. While it slowed to a three-quarter low of 36% during January-March 2019, women seeking work or in employment (15%) during this period were just around quarter of their male counterparts (56.2%). In both the segments, the slowdown was more pronounced in the 15-29 years bracket.
  • The labour force participation rate is defined as the percentage of population in the labour force and, according to the current weekly status, it is the number of persons either employed or unemployed on an average during a full week preceding the survey period.
  • Gender wise analysis of the data shows that the unemployment rate was significantly higher among women seeking employment. In Q4 2018-19, unemployment rate was 29% among women which was 8 percentage points higher than joblessness among men. This is despite the fact that women have a far lower share in the overall labour force.
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Strong Hotels Body to Shun Zomato Gold Delivery

  •  After a boycott on dine-in, food delivery and search aggregator Zomato is now facing the heat on delivery.
  • The Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), which has 8,000 members nationally, said it is unanimously boycotting delivery services by aggregator Zomato under its Zomato Gold programme with immediate effect, over allegations of delivery from illegally-run kitchens, steep discounts offered for Zomato Gold members and unavailability of delivery executives.
  • Zomato Gold on delivery offers members one free dish each time they place an order. Gold was extended to delivery by Zomato in September 2019, amidst its stalemate with restaurants on dine-in services.
  • Launched in 2017 as a membership programme, Gold service has been opposed by the restaurant industry at large which has alleged it is hurting their profitability deeply.
  • The association demands include crapping of the 'gold service', servicing by only those restaurants which have legal mandatory licences, and an end to alleged arbitrary commissions charged by Zomato and steep discounts which it said were loss-making proposition for restaurants.
  • AHAR has alleged that delivery commissions charged by Zomato go up to 22-25% and asked for a cap of 15% including Goods and Services Tax, adding that the brunt of the increase has to be borne by the customer since the hotels and restaurants are being forced to increase prices.
  • On August 15, 2019, hundreds of restaurants led by the NRAI had logged out of multiple aggregator platforms including Zomato Gold and EazyDiner, over a series of allegations including deep discounting, data masking and uneven commissions. With the exception of Zomato, the restaurants have logged back with other aggregators.
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Original Batman, Robin Costumes to be Auctioned

  •  A pair of Batman and Robin outfits, described as the only known complete costumes worn on the 1960s television show, is going up for auction in Los Angeles and the owner is determined that his childhood comic book heroes stay together. The costumes, worn by actors Adam West and Burt Ward, are just two of more than 200 items of 1960s pop culture being sold from the collection amassed by American John Azarian over 30 years. The Batman and Robin costumes, complete with capes, masks, boots, gloves and tights, are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000 at the December 17, 2019 auction. 

Guj Harappans were First 'Climate Refugees'

  •  The latest excavations at the Karim Shahi and Vigakot sites in Gujarat, dating back to 2,100 BCE and 5th century CE, right on the Kutch-Pakistan international border, have shed light on how climate change in the post-Harappan period in the Kutch region affected ancient human settlements.
  • A team of scientists from IIT-Kharagpur, Deccan College, PRL Ahmedabad, University of Calcutta, and Kachchh University, said the sites may help narrate the story of one of the first climate refugees following decline in rainfall, drying up of rivers, and changing weather patterns, which probably led to migration of settlements.
  • The team published findings of their excavations at Karim Shahi and Vigakot over past three years – estimating the age of the settlements in the range of 3,100-2,300 years before present time (BP) and1,500-1,900 BP respectively.
  • Natural climate change drove out people from their original places. The UN today calls them 'climate refugees'.
  • Gujarat has some of the prominent Harappan sites in India including Dholavira and Lothal, which are nearly 350km from Karim Shahi and Vigakot, which represent the zenith of the Harappan culture. But few sites have depicted cultural continuation after the late Harappan period (1,300 BCE) in the region. Sarkar is among the 13 authors of the research paper on new evidence of early Iron Age to Medieval settlements from the southern fringe of Thar desert and implications to climate-culture co-evolution.
  • The paper argues that reduction in south Asian monsoon is long held responsible for demise of the Harappan settlements or relocation of settlement thereafter.
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