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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

05 Dec 2019

DAILY G.K. TEST

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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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India and US to Talk Emerging Threats, Challenges

  • India and the US will further cement their special strategic relationship with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar meeting their US counterparts, Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo, for the two-plus-two dialogue in Washington on December 18, 2019 with the focus being on Indo-Pacific and the early conclusion of India's hardware purchases from the US.
  • The only other country with which India holds a dialogue in the two-plus-two format is Japan.
  • According to reports, the forthcoming dialogue will be important as it will synergise positions and views of the foreign and defence ministries of the two countries and try and achieve convergence in terms of a common view on emerging global threats and challenges.

China Fumes over US House Bill on Uighurs

  • As per China, the bilateral cooperation with Washington will be affected in important areas after the US House of Representatives passed a bill that called for targeted sanctions against Beijing for the arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
  • Beijing's reaction came after the US House passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act 2019, which seeks to sanction Chinese government officials including the Xinjiang Communist Party of China (CPC) secretary Chen Quanguo.
  • More than a million Uighur Muslims are said to be held in re-education camps in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwest, many without having committed any crime.

Pakistan Submits Report to FATF

  • Seeking to escape the black list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Pakistan submitted its compliance report to the terror funding watchdog, hoping for another extension till June 2020 as the present deadline of February is too short for the country to comply with all 27 action plans sought by the group.
  • FATF has already granted an extension till February 2020, and kept the country on its grey list till then. It warned that Islamabad would be put on the blacklist if it did not comply with the remaining 22 out of 27 points related to anti-money laundering and terror financing.
  • The first formal response from the FATF is awaited till this December-end, said economic affairs minister Hammad Azhar. A meeting is likely in Sydney in January, 2019 in which the Pakistani delegation will be given an opportunity to defend the compliance report. The FATF's plenary review meeting will take place in February 2020 in Paris to decide the fate of the country.

ENVIRONMENT

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Govt. Maps 32 Tiger Corridors, Develops Conservation Plan

  • The Centre mapped tiger corridors inside and outside protected areas across the country and developed a conservation plan for the big cats, which includes a strategy to streamline infrastructure projects with mandatory inclusion of safe passages.
  • Union Minister of state for environment Babul Supriyo released the details of the plan in Rajya Sabha. The plan has been formulated keeping in view the all India tiger estimation results released in July, 2019 that showed there were 2,967 big cats in the country and that there has been a 6% annual increase in their numbers since 2006.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), under the Union environment ministry, published a document, titled Connecting Tiger Populations for Long-term Conservation, in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun. The document mapped 32 major corridors and detailed the tiger conservation plan under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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PrimeInvestor.in Unveils MF Rating Tool

  • PrimeInvestor.in, an investment research as a service (RaaS) platform for retail investors, launched its mutual fund rating (MF) tool, Prime Ratings. The tool is an attempt to overcome the limitations of other MF rating systems now available for retail investors. It uses a more diverse combination of risk and return metrics and looks at fund categories based on their characteristics and investment purpose and not just their SEBI-defined category. It also spreads ratings out into a smoother curve which provides better distinction between funds.
  • PrimeInvestor.in was co-founded by Srikanth Meenakshi, Bhavana Acharya and Vidya Bala.

Bharti Airtel Board Okays Raising $4 bn

  • Telecom operator Bharti Airtel's board approved raising $4 billion through equity dilution and debt funding.
  • The board for now gave its go-ahead to raise up to $3 billion and also approved raising an additional $1 billion.
  • The telecom major desperately needs cash to pay off its statutory dues apart from debts.
  • Airtel had reported a net loss of Rs. 23,044 crore for the quarter ended September 30, on Rs. 28,450 crore provisions towards adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues.

First Debt ETF Gets Cabinet Approval

  • The Union cabinet cleared Bharat Bond ETF, India's first exchange-traded fund housing corporate bonds issued by state-run companies. The ETF is expected to attract retail investors to government debt, with units priced as low as Rs. 1,000.
  • ETFs invest in a basket of securities representing an index, security or commodity, and are traded on the stock exchange like any listed security. The Bharat Bond ETF will be managed by Edelweiss Mutual Fund.
  • The ETF will have two maturities—one maturing in three years and the other in 10 years, with yields ranging from 7.10 - 7.85%. Under regulations issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, every ETF must have at least eight companies, and no single issuer can have more than 15% weight in the fund.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Mars Rover Hopes to Grab a Piece of History

  • British engineers have begun testing technologies that will be needed to bring samples of Martian rock to Earth.
  • The Airbus team is training a prototype rover to recognise and pick up small cylinders off the ground.
  • It's a rehearsal for a key part of a multi-billion-dollar project now being put together by the US and European space agencies - NASA and ESA.
  • Returning rock and dust materials to Earth laboratories will be the best way to confirm if life exists on Mars.

SPORTS

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Arthur to Be Sri Lanka's Next Coach

  • Mickey Arthur, who previously coached South Africa, Australia and Pakistan, is set to take up the next assignment in his coaching career, as head coach of Sri Lanka, ahead of their upcoming two-Test series in Pakistan.
  • Grant Flower will join the set-up as the batting coach, while David Saker and Shane McDermott will take over as bowling and fielding coach respectively. Sri Lanka Cricket has agreed to a two-year contract with the new staff, although Flower will only work with the limited overs team.

Alka Rehani Bhardwaj is CAG Nominee in BCCI Apex Council

  • The BCCI will have senior India Audit and Accounts Service officer Alka Rehani Bhardwaj as the Comptroller and Auditer General (CAG) representative in its Apex Council as per the new constitution approved by the Supreme Court.
  • Rehani Bhardwaj is a 1993 batch IA&AS officer and is currently serving as a Director of Regional Training Institute in Mumbai.
  • As per the SC-approved BCCI constitution passed on August 9, 2018, the apex council will constitute a representative of the CAG as its member.
  • Accordingly, Rehani Bhardwaj will officially become the first government nominee in a BCCI working group.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Delhi Govt. to Start Wi-Fi Hot Spots in City

  • Delhi Chief Minister announced his government would launch free Wi-Fi hot spots across Delhi from December 16, 2019. While the first 100 hot spots will be launched on December 16, 500 more will be added every week.
  • Providing free Wi-Fi was a key poll promise in AAP's manifesto ahead of the 2015 assembly elections.

N-E Groups Divided over Exemption of Areas under ILP and Sixth Schedule

  • The Centre's move to exempt states with inner line permit (ILP) regime and areas under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution from the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 evoked a mixed response.
  • Civil society groups in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh said that they will continue to protest against the divisive provisions, while an influential Mizo group said that they have no further concerns about the proposed law.
  • Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and most of Nagaland barring Dimapur are protected by an ILP regime -- under which non-locals need permission to visit these areas -- while certain areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura are protected under the Sixth Schedule, which applies to tribal-dominated autonomous regions.

Modi Govt. Set to Extend Reservation For SC/ST And Anglo-Indians

  • The Narendra Modi-led government is set to renew the reservation provided to the marginalised communities like Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Anglo-Indians in the Parliament and the state legislatures. The government is likely to further amend Article 334 of the Constitution which proposes to extend the reservation for these marginalised sections for another ten years.
  • The Centre is preparing the Bill to extend the 10 year period of reservation provided to the marginalised communities. The need for an extension of the law was felt as the current reservation provision will end on January 26, 2020, and the government wants to get the approval of the Parliament ahead of the deadline. This move is expected to have massive ramifications on the nation's political landscape. The step will be significant as the BJP is often portrayed as the party against reservation.

DEFENCE

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India Hands over Patrol Vessel to Maldives

  • India handed over a patrol vessel to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) during a video conference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, which also saw the two leaders jointly inaugurating four key developmental projects in the archipelago covering a wide range of sectors.
  • The Patrol Vessel named KAAMIYAAB will be manned by 8 MNDF personnel trained in India and will be a valuable asset for the Maldives in enhancing its maritime security, fostering its blue economy and safeguarding its tourism industry.

LA Police to Use Batman-style Device

  • Two hundred Los Angeles police officers will be trained to use a new gadget designed to snare a person by wrapping them in a cord.
  • The BolaWrap, adopted by several other forces, fires a cord that can entangle an individual's torso or legs from up to 25ft (8m) away.
  • The tether is intended to restrict the person's movement, allowing officers to take action without using force.
  • But civil rights activists have raised concerns over its potential usage.
  • Three devices will be carried by officers in the southern Californian city as part of a 90-day trial starting in January, 2020.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Pichai to Head Parent Alphabet

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai will take over the additional reins of parent Alphabet Inc in place of co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as the sole occupant of the hot seat amid an unprecedented global demand for more safeguards, regulatory scrutiny and taxes.
  • Pichia IIT Kharagpur and Stanford graduate becomes, arguably, the biggest Indian-born CEO on the world stage as Page and Brin said they were stepping aside as leaders of the trillion-dollar Internet behemoth they founded 21 years ago.
  • Pichai, who has run the core Google search business since 2015, will immediately take the reins of Alphabet Inc, the parent of one of the world's most valuable and influential companies.

Former England Captain Bob Willis Passed Away

  • Former England captain and fast bowler Bob Willis has passed away, aged 70 after a short illness.
  • Willis represented England in 90 Tests in an international career spanning 13 years between 1971 and 1984, finishing with 325 wickets at 25.2 - fourth-best for England behind James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ian Botham.
  • He also played 64 ODIs.

Radio 1's First Blind Presenter

  • Lucy Edwards will be Radio 1's first-ever blind presenter.
  • She will be taking over the late morning slot on 28th and 29th December, 2019 and wants to create a show that feels like family.
  • Lucy - who has a YouTube channel and is a freelance reporter and presenter - will have the honour of playing Radio 1's greatest hits during her slots.
  • Lucy has a condition called Incontinentia Pigmenti which affected her eyesight at a young age.
  • She lost sight in her right eye at the age of 11, and in her left eye at 17.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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World Soil Day 2019

  • World Soil Day is observed on 5 December every year. It highlights the problem due to population expansion. It raises the profile of healthy soil. The day encourages governments, organisations, communities, and individuals to work towards improving soil health and its conservation.
  • The day aims to encourage people around the world to engage proactively to improve the health of the soil. The day aims to create awareness about the importance of soil on Earth.
  • The theme for the 2019 World Soil day is 'Stop Soil Erosion, Save our Future'. The day raises awareness on the importance of human well-being and sustaining healthy ecosystems. It focuses on the growing problem regarding soil as the Earth's population continues to expand.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Dr. Sunil Mehra Awarded

  • Paediatrician and executive director of MAMTA Health Institute for mother and child, Dr. Sunil Mehra was recognised for his outstanding contribution in the field of healthcare (under Indo-Swedish collaboration) by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden. The felicitation ceremony was organised at the Embassy of Sweden.

Turner Prize Split Four Ways

  • The four artists nominated for the 2019 Turner Prize will share this year's award after urging the judges not to choose any of them as a single winner.
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Tai Shani and Oscar Murillo got together to write to the prestigious prize's panel.
  • The judges agreed and revealed the move at a ceremony in Margate, Kent.
  • The Turner Prize is Britain's most high-profile contemporary art award. The quartet will share the £40,000 prize money.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Citizenship Bill Approved by Cabinet

  • The Union Cabinet cleared a draft legislation that proposes citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, fulfilling a key election promise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and setting the stage for a parliamentary showdown with opposition parties that have called the move divisive.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, gives Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians if they entered India from the three nearby countries on or before December 31, 2014. It may be placed before Parliament.
  • The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 but is likely to stoke protests in the north-eastern region that has long complained of an influx of illegal immigrants and opposed a previous version of the bill earlier this year.
  • According to the government, the draft bill was aimed at three goals: equity, accountability and innovation; and the bill would apply to those people who were forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion or fear of such persecution in his country.

Rajya Sabha Passes Bill Granting Rights to Illegal Colonies

  • A bill that grants ownership rights to people living in 1,731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi was passed by the Rajya Sabha.
  • The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Bill, 2019, which was passed in the Lok Sabha in November, 2019 is expected to benefit eight lakh families.
  • According to Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri, after the bill gets the President's nod, work on uploading of maps of 1,731 colonies would be completed.

Bar Council Brings Out New Rules

  • In the wake of the recent violent clashes between lawyers and Delhi Police officials in the capital ahead of the Tis Hazari bar association elections, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has notified new rules for lawyers keen to contest elections to bar associations.
  • The rules include prohibiting them from seeking votes in the name of religion, race or caste or exceeding the limit fixed by the apex regulator on election expenditure. These activities, said BCI, would amount to corrupt practices and could lead to suspension of an advocate's practice license if he or she is found guilty. Though the rules were approved by the BCI general council in an April meeting, the notification was issued this week and sent to all the State Bar Councils for circulation among all bar association.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Madhu App for E-learning Launched in Odisha

  • Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched a smart learning app called 'Madhu' for the schools' children in the state. The app which was launched by the Chief Minister was named after Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das and developed by the Ganjan district administration in accordance with the 5T initiative of the Odisha state government.
  • The mobile app is aimed at helping the school students in the state to learn their lessons via videos and tutorials available on the app. The courses have been prepared in a way to make the video lectures more interesting and self-explanatory with the help of high-quality teaching-learning material.
  • The mobile app consists of video lectures and is available in the Odia language by leading subject experts and educationists.
  • The first phase of the app consists of study materials for Mathematics and Science subjects from classes 5 to 8.

Samoa Measles Outbreak

  • Red flags have been erected across Samoa to mark unvaccinated households as the government shut down to deploy all resources to reining in a deadly measles outbreak.
  • More than 4,200 cases of measles have been reported across the Pacific island nation in recent weeks, including 62 deaths -- with 2 fatalities in the last 24 hours. None of the victims were vaccinated.
  • The decision to shut government services for two days is the latest in a series of drastic steps Samoan authorities have taken to stop the outbreak of a disease that was thought to be almost eliminated globally, but has made a dangerous comeback in recent years.
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