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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

06 Dec 2019


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Sajith Premadasa Named Leader of Opposition

  • Sajith Premadasa, the United National Party (UNP) leader who lost to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential election, was named the Leader of the Opposition in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
  • Following a meeting of the party's parliamentary group, the party leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed to nominate Premadasa in his place.
  • Wickremesinghe would thus leave the job he had continuously held since 1994 barring short periods between 2001-2004 and 2015 to November this year, his two prime ministerial stints.

Maldives Wants to Restructure Debt to China

  • According to Maldives Foreign Minister, his country needs to restructure its massive debt to China, which has put the Indian Ocean archipelago in a difficult situation.
  • As per Abdulla Shahid, the country's Chinese debt currently totals about $1.4 billion.
  • The Chinese loans were given for housing projects, a bridge connecting the airport island with the capital island, Male, and for some state-owned enterprises.
  • As per Shahid, the loans were unreasonable borrowings by the previous government.
  • Since the government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih came into power last year, Maldives has begun a shift away from China toward traditional ally India.

US Indicts Hackers Linked to Russian Intel Agencies

  • The US justice department unveiled indictments of two Russians with ties to their country's intelligence services, who ran a major global cyber theft operation under the name Evil Corp.
  • An indictment unsealed in Pittsburgh named Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev as the main figures in a group which inserted malware on computers in dozens of countries to steal more than $100 million from companies and local authorities.
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COP25 to Help Nations Deal with Damage of Climate Crisis

  • The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) underway in Madrid is significant because of negotiations on two key issues - resolution of carbon markets dealt with in Article 6, which is pending to be finalised in the Paris Rulebook, and Loss and Damage under Article 8 of the Paris Agreement.
  • The COP will attempt to put in place a system to help vulnerable countries deal with irreversible or permanent losses from climate change such as ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity (dying coral reefs), sea level rise, desertification or extreme weather events including potentially fatal heat waves, hurricanes or cyclones. India is the fifth most vulnerable country globally to climate change impacts, according the Global Climate Risk Index 2020 published by environmental think tank Germanwatch.
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) put out a paper (not a negotiating text) on what parties to the convention think about compensating loss and a review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (L&D).
  • The L&D Mechanism was established at the 19th session (COP 19) in Warsaw, Poland in November 2013.
  • It aims to promote the implementation of approaches to addresses loss and damage like enhancing knowledge and understanding of risk, strengthening dialogue and action and support, including finance.
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India's Forex Reserves Cross $450 Billion for the First Time

  • Reserve Bank governor Shaktikanta Das said that foreign exchange reserves continue the upward journey surging to a new high of $451.7 billion.
  • Since the beginning of the current financial year, the forex kitty has gained by $38.8 billion as of December 3, the largest in recent year.
  • The reserves have been surging to new highs every week for the last few months and this is the first time that they have crossed the $450 billion mark.

RBI Lays Down Guidelines for Payments Banks' SFB Licence

  • As per the final guidelines on on-tap licensing for SFBs of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Payments banks willing to convert themselves into small finance banks (SFBs) can apply for such a licence only after five years of operations.
  • Existing payments banks (PBs), which are controlled by residents and have completed five years of operations, are also eligible for conversion into small finance banks after complying with all legal and regulatory requirements of various authorities and if they conform to these guidelines.
  • The minimum capital for setting up an SFB has been mandated at Rs. 200 crore, adding for primary (urban) co-operative banks (UCBs), which wish to become SFBs, the initial requirement of net worth will be Rs. 100 crore, which will have to be increased to Rs. 200 crore within five years from the date of commencement of business.

GKN Aerospace Opens Wiring Facility

  • GKN Aerospace officially opened its new facility for Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems (EWIS) in Pune.
  • According to the company, GKN Aerospace Leadership together with Maharashtra government officials, as well as investment partners and customers, came together to recognise GKN Aerospace strengthening its footprint in the region and the importance of the fast-growing aerospace market in India.
  • The site will focus on the assembly of wiring systems for commercial aircraft and aero-engines like the Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737, 777X and Boeing 787. The Pune facility will operate alongside the existing joint venture for wiring systems in Bangalore, which is serving the defence market.
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NASA's Solar Mission Sends Spectacular Data Trove

  • NASA's Parker Solar Probe, having survived its closest encounter so far with the Sun, sent back a spectacular trove of data on its corona, the super-hot outer edge of its atmosphere.
  • The car-sized probe, launched in August 2018, will come within some six million kilometres of the Sun's surface during a series of fly-bys at other distances and trajectories over seven years.
  • It is hoped it will allow a better understanding of the solar wind and electromagnetic storms, which can cause chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.
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ICC Extends its OPPO Tie-up

  • The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the extension of its global partnership with smartphone brand OPPO till the end of 2023.
  • The Chinese smartphone major had in July 2019 opted out of its deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, passing on the Team India sponsorship rights Byju's and still taking a major cost for the transfer deal. But it continues its innings with the global governing body for the sport.
  • OPPO as part of the revised contract will continue to be the official mobile handset and headset partner of the ICC and all associated ICC events starting with the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2020 in South Africa and both the men's and women's T20 World Cups in Australia 2020.

G. S. Lakshmi Set to Make History

  • G. S. Lakshmi from India is all set to go down in the history books of cricket as she has been appointed the match referee for the third series of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2 which will kick off in UAE this weekend.
  • This is the second significant achievement for Lakshmi this year, following her appointment as the first woman in the ICC International Panel of Match Referees in May.

India's Medal Rush Continues at South Asian Games

  • Led by strong performances from the wushu players and swimmers, India breached the 100-mark by winning a whopping 50 medals on the fourth day to consolidate its top position in the South Asian Games (SAG).
  • India secured its best medal haul on a single day so far in the Games to lead the table with 58 gold, 41 silver and 19 bronze for a total of 118. Nepal is far behind in the second spot with 36 gold, 26 silver and 34 bronze, followed by Sri Lanka (16 gold, 31 silver, 52 bronze) at third.
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Mumbai Court Declares Nirav Modi a Fugitive Economic Offender

  • A special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court declared diamantaire Nirav Modi, who is wanted in connection with a $2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank (PNB), a fugitive economic offender (FEO), empowering investigators to start seizing his assets in India, the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.
  • Special judge for PMLA cases, V. C. Barde, declared Modi an FEO on a plea by the Enforcement Directorate, which investigates money laundering offences. Under the FEO Act, which came into force in August 2018, a person can be declared a fugitive economic offender if a warrant has been issued against him or her for an offence involving Rs. 100 crore or more, and he or she has left the country and refuses to return to face the law.

No Subsidised Food in House Canteens

  • The much-debated food subsidy in Parliament canteens is set to be abolished from the budget session of Parliament next year after Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla got full backing of party leaders on this issue. The MPs will be given food cards linked to their bank accounts, which can be swiped at canteens to pay bills.
  • The subsidy in Parliament canteens, run by the Northern Railways, came up during a meeting of party leaders chaired by Birla.

Northeast Chief Ministers Soften Stand on CAB

  • Most of the Chief Ministers of the Northeast have softened their stands on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), set to be introduced in Parliament soon. This is a departure from their earlier stands, when they unequivocally opposed the legislation granting Indian citizenship to undocumented individuals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.
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IAF Places Orders for 7 Squadrons of Akash SAM System

  • Satisfied by the consistent and reliable performance by the indigenous Akash Missile System, Surface to Air Missile (SAM) an additional order for seven more squadrons has been placed by the Indian Air Force. This is by far the highest order placed by the service for the Akash Missile System.
  • The Missile System designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and produced and commissioned by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) performed well in integrated Air Defence (AD) exercises conducted from time to time by IAF.
  • The number of missiles fired in Ex- Vayu Shakti 2019 or Crossbow-18, the Akash Missile System successfully intercepted and destroyed unmanned aerial targets.

Indian Army Requires 200 Armoured Fighting Vehicles

  • Amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, the Indian Army is looking for close to 200 armoured fighting vehicles for deployment in different sectors in the frontier with Pakistan.
  • The army recently announced its plan to procure 198 wheeled armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) for reconnaissance and support to tank regiments in mechanised warfare. The vehicles are meant for replacing the army's ageing Soviet origin BRDM combat reconnaissance patrol vehicles. The requirement came out in a Request for Information issued for procuring these equipment.
  • The army plans to use these AFVs in the plain sectors of Punjab and Rajasthan. It wants that these AFVs should be able to operate in not only developed areas in this region, but in riverine terrain as well. The wheeled AFV should be provided with high mobility, adequate armour protection and armament configuration, suitable to destroy enemy tanks and undertake local protection.
  • The army is searching for AFVs that have a service life of 32 years and which can operate in temperatures reaching upto 45 degrees Celsius and as low as 0 degrees. It has also made it clear that the AFV should have a payload of at least 2 tons, which should include ammunition and four crew members. Importantly, the AFV should be transportable by IL-76 and C-17 transport aircraft and by railway, which will allow the army to quickly mobilise this specialised fleet in the regions that it wants during a contingency.
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C. M. Muthiah Passes Away

  • C. M. Muthiah, veteran athlete, coach and one of India's best-known sports administrators, passed away. He was 85 and is survived by his wife and daughter.
  • Muthiah, a contemporary of the great Milkha Singh, was a five-time National decathlon champion from 1956-60 and became the first Indian to participate at the World University Games in Budapest in 1954. At the 1958 Tokyo Asian Games, he missed a decathlon medal by 82 points.
  • In his years as a coach at the National Institute of Sport (Patiala) from 1962, Muthiah trained the likes of T.C. Yohanan (long jump) and V.S. Chauhan (decathlon), both Asian Games gold medallists, Satish Pillai, Asian Games long jump medallist, and V.R. Beedu among others.
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FICCI Young Leaders Summit 2019

  • FICCI Young Leaders Forum is organising the first ever FICCI Young Leaders Summit. It will be held on December 09, 2019 at ITC Maurya, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi.
  • The summit aims to be the most comprehensive platform for all the young entrepreneurs from diverse fields. It will provide an excellent opportunity to come together to exchange unique ideas, share the best practices, to know the various market trends & solutions, listen to dynamic speakers and for networking etc.
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Award for Nurse Who Died of Nipah

  • Lini PN, a nurse from Kerala who died while treating a patient suffering from the Nipah virus after she contracted the deadly disease during its outbreak last year, was posthumously awarded the National Florence Nightingale Award 2019, which recognises meritorious services rendered by nurses. Lini's husband, Sajeesh Puthur, received the award from President Ram Nath Kovind.
  • National Florence Nightingale awards were instituted in the year 1973 by the Indian government as a mark of recognition for the meritorious services rendered by nurses.
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Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 Gets Rajya Sabha Nod

  • The Rajya Sabha gave its consent to the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, replacing an ordinance that was used to slash corporate tax rates to stimulate growth.
  • The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was cleared by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha, for returning to the Lower House. The amendment replaces an ordinance that reduced the tax rate for domestic companies from 30% and 25% (for those with annual turnover of over Rs. 400 crore) to 22% if they don't claim certain exemptions under the Income Tax Act. The rate for new domestic manufacturing companies set up after October 1 was lowered to 15%.
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Tripura Announces Super 30 Scheme

  • Tripura's BJP-IPFT government announced a new educational scheme 'Super 30' with effect from the 2020-21 academic year to fund coaching fees of school students from the science stream in Kota-based entrance coaching centres every year. The scheme will train them to crack engineering and medical entrance examinations, such as JEE or NEET.
  • As per Tripura Board of Secondary Education (TBSE), 3690 students appeared in science stream in the senior secondary stream this year. While many of them apply in entrance coaching centres, most don't get their shot due to lack of resources to enroll in the best coaching classes of the country.
  • 'Super 30' will involve Rs. 2.40 lakh coaching fee for every student on an average annually. The project would be started on a pilot basis with an initial financial involvement of Rs. 72 lakh in the first year and Rs. 1.44 crore in the next year.
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Union Cabinet Approves Land Monetisation at Pragati Maidan to Build a Five-star Hotel

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the plan and authorised India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) to transfer 3.7 acres of land at Pragati Maidan on a 99-year fixed leasehold basis at a price of INR 611 crore in favour of the SPV, which will be formed by India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) for development and operation of a five-star hotel.
  • The implementation of the International Exhibition and Convention Centre (IECC) project is in full swing and is scheduled to be completed in the year 2020-21.
  • In order to ensure completion of the hotel project at Pragati Maidan in a fast track mode, the SPV will take necessary steps including selecting a suitable developer and operator third party through a transparent competitive bidding process to construct, run and manage (directly or through a professional brand) the hotel on a long-term fixed lease basis.
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Penn Museum Hands over Ancient Clay Tablets to Iraqi Embassy

  • Archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Museum delivered the fragments of 387 clay tablets to Iraq's embassy in Washington D.C. in the start of a repatriation process. The museum's researchers determined that the tablets, which were excavated nearly a century ago in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, were used to document economic transactions—similar to modern day receipts.
  • The tablets were retrieved between 1922 and 1934 during excavations jointly sponsored by the Penn Museum and the British Museum. Roughly 7,500 tablets and fragments were brought to Philadelphia under a loan agreement with the Iraqi government stating that they would be researched at the university museum and then returned.
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