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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

02 Dec 2019

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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Six European Nations Join Iran Barter System

  • Paris, London and Berlin welcomed six new European countries to the INSTEX barter mechanism, which is designed to circumvent U.S. sanctions against trade with Iran by avoiding use of the dollar.
  • As founding shareholders of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), France, Germany and the U.K. warmly welcome the decision taken by the governments of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, to join INSTEX as shareholders.
  • The Paris-based INSTEX functions as a clearing house allowing Iran to continue to sell oil and import other products or services in exchange.

China Introduces Mandatory Face Scans for Phone Users

  • China will require telecom operators to collect face scans when registering new phone users at offline outlets.
  • In September, China's industry and information technology ministry issued a notice on safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online, which laid out rules for enforcing real-name registration.

Israel Plans New Jewish Settlement

  • Israel's new hard-right Defence Minister ordered officials to start planning a new Jewish settlement in the heart of the divided West Bank city of Hebron.
  • The announcement came as the prospects of a third snap election since May loomed larger, with Defence Minister Naftali Bennett's New Right party leaning heavily on settlers for support at the polls.
  • The Defence Ministry said that Bennett had instructed ministry departments responsible for the Israeli occupied West Bank "to notify the Hebron municipality of planning a new Jewish neighbourhood in the wholesale market complex".
  • The city is holy to both Muslims and Jews and is a flashpoint for clashes between the two sides.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Temasek in Talks to Invest up to $100 mn in Cure.fit

  • Cure.fit is seeking a valuation of about $800 million post the fundraise, up from its $575 million valuation less than six months ago.
  • Temasek is in talks to invest up to $100 million in health and fitness start-up Cure.fit as the Singapore state investor looks to diversify its strategy and back more tech start-ups.
  • Temasek is actively scouting for late-stage technology investments in India and wants to cut cheques of at least $75 million. Cure.fit needs the capital to grow its food and diagnostics plays, and the deal is expected to close in 6-8 weeks.
  • Cure.fit was founded in 2016 by Mukesh Bansal, co-founder of fashion retailer Myntra, and Ankit Nagori, ex-chief business officer at Flipkart. 

Arcelor, Thriveni in Bidding War for OSPIL

  • Arcelor Mittal is facing stiff competition in its bid for Odisha Slurry Pipeline Infrastructure Ltd (OSPIL), an insolvent company whose single asset could cut the cost of production at Essar Steel by a fifth. Thriveni Earthmovers Pvt. Ltd, one of the country's largest iron ore mine developers and operators, has offered to pay back creditors in full —principal and interest— but over a five-year period.
  • Arcelor Mittal made an upfront cash offer of Rs. 2,200 crore for OSPIL, while Thriveni placed a bid of Rs. 3,300 crore, with Rs. 8 crore of upfront cash and the rest in staggered payments, two people aware of the bid details said on condition of anonymity. OSPIL has Rs. 2,352 crore of principal outstanding to various classes of creditors. With accumulated interest, the outstanding liabilities are Rs. 3,300 crore.

AAI Recommends Privatising Airports in Amritsar, Indore, Four Other Cities

  • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) recommended the Centre to privatise airports at Amritsar, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Raipur and Trichy.
  • The recommendation came as the central government has already privatised airports at Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati for operation, management and development through public-private partnership (PPP) model in February this year. As six airports have already been privatised in February this year, the AAI in its board meeting September decided to privatise six more airports: Amritsar, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Raipur and Trichy.

SPORTS

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Wei, Marin Clinch Syed Modi Titles

  • Asian Games bronze medallist Wang Tzu Wei from Chinese Taipei dashed the only Indian hope at the Syed Modi International Badminton Championship, outplaying Sourabh Verma in the men's final 21-15, 21-17. The women's title went to Rio Olympics gold medallist Carolina Marin, who defeated Thai Phittayaporn Chaiwan 21-12, 21-16.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Nana Patole Elected as Maharashtra Assembly Speaker

  • Senior Congress MLA Nana Patole was elected speaker of the Maharashtra legislative assembly.
  • Pro-tem speaker Dilip Walse Patil made the announcement after BJP candidate Kisan Kathore withdrew his nomination.
  • Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and some senior MLAs then escorted Patole to the Speaker's chair.
  • Thackeray and BJP legislature party leader Devendra Fadnavis lauded Patole's work as legislator and farmers' leader.
  • Patole succeeded Haribhau Bagade of the BJP, who was speaker during 2014-2019 when Fadnavis was the CM.

India Becomes 1st Country to Make Entire Haj Process Digital

  • India became the first country to make the entire process for pilgrims going on Haj completely digital, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi after signing the bilateral agreement for next year's pilgrimage with the Saudi Haj Minister in Jeddah.
  • An online application, e-visa, Haj mobile app, "e-MASIHA" health facility, "e-luggage pre-tagging" providing all information in India itself regarding accommodation and transportation in Mecca and Madina will be provided to 2 lakh Indian Muslims going for Haj in 2020.

Solution to Naga Political Issue Likely Soon

  • Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio greeted people on the occasion of the 57th Statehood Day, contending that the long-awaited solution to the vexed Naga political issue might be in sight.
  • Addressing people at Khouchiezie (Kohima local ground), where the India Reserve Battalion had organised a programme on the occasion, he said that negotiations between Naga Political Groups and the Centre have concluded and people of the state were set to witness history very soon.
  • Maintaining that agriculture continued to be the main occupation of the Nagas, he said that the government had been promoting organic farming in the state as it would double the income of the famers.

DEFENCE

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Engines Fired Up, Basin Trials Next for Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

  • The engines on board the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) being constructed at Kochi have been fired up and the Navy is starting on the next step of basin trials, with expectations that the warship would be ready for operations by 2022.
  • The long-delayed project, which was to be completed by 2018, is now back on track, with senior officers saying that the 37,500-tonne aircraft carrier will initially operate MiG-29K fighters and could also feature indigenous combat aircraft.
  • The carrier, the largest ever warship to be constructed in an Indian yard, is now in its final phase of construction and the Navy could consider operating a limited number of the maritime version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS once it gets fit for service.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Veteran Journalist Bhaskar Menon Passe Away

  • Veteran journalist Bhaskar Menon died following cardiac arrest. The 87-year old Menon, who retired as the Regional Manager (South) of the Press Trust of India (PTI).
  • He had joined the news agency as a Sub-Editor and rose through the ranks before retiring as the head of its regional bureau. Menon was known for his command over English language and sharp editing skills and always insisted on speed and accuracy.
  • He had handled several key news developments, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi May 1991. Menon remained active for many years post his retirement and had taken up the task of analysis of the numerous PTI stories for some years when he used to point out to errors and at the same time applaud where it was due.

Theatre Artiste Paramananda Sahu Dies 

  •  Prominent theatre artiste of Odisha Paramananda Sahu died due to old age-related illness. Sahu had directed and acted in more than a hundred dramas, besides being an artiste in All India Radio and Doordarshan. He had also acted in several Odia and Bengali soaps and received several awards.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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National Pollution Control Day

  • National Pollution Control Day is observed every year on December 2. The aim behind the celebration of this day is to commemorate the people who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident of Bhopal Gas Tragedy that occurred on this day in the year 1984.
  • There are basically three major objectives of National Pollution Control Day. It aims at raising awareness about the increasing air pollution and educating people about how to control and manage industrial disasters. National Pollution Control Day is celebrated to make everyone aware of the significance of the pollution control acts and ways to prevent the industrial pollution that is a result of human negligence.
  • According to the National Health Portal of India, every year around 7 million people globally die due to air pollution.

150th Raman Memorial Conference

  • The 150th Raman Memorial Conference, will be organised on the topic 'novel materials for a sustainable future' on February 14 and 15 by the research students of the Department of Physics, Savitribai Phule Pune University.
  • RMC-2020 is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table. The scope of RMC 2020 novel materials for a sustainable future is to provide a platform for presenting the state-of-the-art knowledge of research on properties, novel synthesis techniques, characterization and applications of materials into electronic, optical, or electrochemical devices, as well as to cover the current challenges related to them.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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No Distance Education Allowed in Hotel Management and Real Estate

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) prohibited distance education programmes in Hotel Management and Real Estate.
  • In accordance with communication received from various regulatory bodies, programmes in Hotel Management, Culinary Studies, and valuation of Real Estate, will not be recognised from academic session 2019-20 and onwards.
  • The order, however, said admissions taken in the recognised Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programme during the recognition period will be recognised till the completion of programme even if the university does not have recognition for further years provided the programme is offered in accordance with UGC norms and territorial jurisdictions.
  • The UGC had notified Open and Distance Learning Regulations in 2017, according to which professional programmes such as medicine, engineering, and architecture, are not permitted to be offered in distance mode.

ART AND CULTURE

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ORI Project to Digitise Manuscripts Regains Traction

  • The Oriental Research Institute (ORI) in the city which is a treasure trove of ancient palm leaf manuscripts enshrining a slice of ancient India's knowledge base will seek the assistance of National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) for digitisation and preservation of the priceless heritage.
  • The University of Mysore under which the ORI functions, consented to ORI collaborating with the NMM for the digitisation and conservation project at a meeting. Hemantha Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, UoM, said that the project will not cost the varsity anything as the NMM was keen to fund it.
  • ORI said that the institute had an agreement with the NMM and used to receive funds for conservation. But once the agreement period lapsed, it was not renewed for almost 5 years. It will now be revived. A MoU will be signed with NMM but finer details as to the nature of NMM's assistance or collaboration will be spelt out later.
  • With this development, the ORI's long-pending project of digitization of manuscripts will receive fresh traction. The digitization of manuscripts is expected to give a fillip to Indological studies as the e-version of the manuscripts will be available online for reference.
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