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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

08 Dec 2019

DAILY G.K. TEST

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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Amna Nawaz Selected to Moderate US Presidential Debate

  • Amna Nawaz, a Pakistani-American journalist, became the first South Asian American scribe to be selected to moderate a US Presidential debate.
  • Nawaz works as a senior national correspondent for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) news programme News Hour and will co-moderate the sixth Democratic primary debate on December 19, 2020 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California along with PBS managing editor Judy Woodruff.
  • Nawaz, who was born in the US state of Virginia, joined PBS News Hour in April 2018. Prior to joining the News Hour, Nawaz was an anchor and correspondent at the ABC News, where she covered the 2016 US Presidential election.
  • Nawaz was also a foreign correspondent at the NBC News, reporting from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey, and the broader region.

Iran Releases US Student in Prisoner Swap

  • An American graduate student, who had been held for three years in Iran on suspicion of espionage, was freed and shifted to an American military base in Europe.
  • Chinese-born Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University PhD student, was conducting research in Tehran when he was arrested there on espionage charges in August 2016.
  • Wang was sent to Iran's notorious Evin Prison and sentenced to 10 years.
  • As per Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Wang's release comes as a prisoner swap between the two countries.
  • In exchange for Wang's release, the US freed Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani.
  • Soleimani, an Iranian stem cell scientist, was arrested by the US law enforcement upon landing in Chicago in 2018.

U.S. Resumes Talks with Taliban

  • Washington resumed talks with the Taliban in Qatar, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted diplomatic efforts that could end America's longest war.
  • In September 2019, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees.
  • It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.
  • But that same month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort dead and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to join secret talks at his US retreat at Camp David after the killing of an American soldier.

ENVIRONMENT

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Oceans Running Out of Oxygen

  • Climate change and nutrient pollution are driving the oxygen from our oceans, and threatening many species of fish.
  • That's the conclusion of the biggest study of its kind, undertaken by conservation group IUCN.
  • While nutrient run-off has been known for decades, researchers say that climate change is making the lack of oxygen worse.
  • Around 700 ocean sites are now suffering from low oxygen, compared with 45 in the 1960s.
  • Researchers say the depletion is threatening species including tuna, marlin and sharks.
  • The threat to oceans from nutrient run-off of chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphorus from farms and industry has long been known to impact the levels of oxygen in the sea waters and still remains the primary factor, especially closer to coasts.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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CIL Eases Payments for NRS Customers

  • A new payment facility, earlier extended only to big power generating companies, will now be extended to non-regulated sectors (NRS) such as steel, sponge, cement and aluminium industries by Coal India Ltd. (CIL).
  • Buyers will now be given a 'letter of credit' and thus, they do not need to make 100% advance payment as earlier. The facility is extended to micro, small, medium enterprises and independent power plants as well. In 2018-19, about 73 million tonnes (MT) of coal was supplied to the NRS sector, of a total coal off take of 608 MTs.
  • CIL board green-flagged the proposal to extend the letter of credit facility, allowing the sectors the payment of coal value through irrevocable revolving letter of credit mode for coal supplies through rail mode.

VA Tech Wabag to Foray Into South Africa

  • Water treatment solution provider VA Tech Wabag Ltd. will foray into the South African market as part of its expansion programme.
  • VA Tech Wabag has operations in 30 countries.
  • The company recycles 423 million litres of water per day (MLD) in India and 1,250 MLD globally. It plans to close the current fiscal with revenue of Rs. 3,000 crore compared with Rs. 2,781 crore last year.

Personal Income Tax Rate May be Cut

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman indicated that the government may soon relax the personal income tax burden to provide relief to individuals and boost consumption by putting more money in the hands of people. The relief, if provided, will come amid a downturn in the economy led by tepid demand and sluggish private investment.

SPORTS

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South Asian Games: India Crosses the 200-mark

  • India breached the 200-mark in medal count, backed by a century of gold, in the South Asian Games as the swimmers and wrestlers produced strong performances.
  • With a whopping 49 medals, including 29 gold, on Saturday (7-12-2019), India tally stood at 214 (110 gold, 69 silver, 35 bronze).
  • Nepal was in the second spot with 142 (43 gold, 34 silver, 65 bronze).

Smith Approached to Become SA Director of Cricket

  • Former captain Graeme Smith is set to become Cricket South Africa's (CSA) director of cricket, the governing body's president Chris Nenzani announced.
  • If Smith agrees to take the job he will have just over two weeks to put a selection panel and coaching staff in place before the first of four Tests against England, starting in Centurion on December 26, 2019.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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India Hires Lobbying Firm to Boost Ties with US, Provide Strategic Counsel

  • India hired a second lobbying firm to negotiate the complex US decision-making system and to influence outcomes, filling a void left two years ago by a firm that had collapsed under scrutiny of a special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in American elections in 2016.
  • Cornerstone Government Affairs, a Washington DC firm with offices in multiple states, registered itself as a representative of the Republic of India with the US justice department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a requirement for Americans representing foreigners.
  • Cornerstone Government Affairs replaces the Podesta Group, which shut down in 2017 after its work for the government of Ukraine came under scrutiny of Special Counsel Robert Muller in relation to the investigation into Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. No charges were filed against Podesta Group.

Elections in 27 Districts in TN on December 27, 30

  • The Tamil Nadu State Election Commission announced elections to rural local bodies in 27 districts of the state in two phases.
  • This follows a Supreme Court order, which gave the government four months' time to complete delimitation of its nine reconstituted districts and conduct elections.
  • In the first phase, on December 27, areas covering 156 panchayat unions will go to the polls to elect 260 ward members of district panchayats, 2,546 members of panchayat unions and 37,830 members of panchayats. The second phase, on December 30, will witness elections in areas covering 158 panchayat unions. The electors will choose 255 ward members of district panchayats, 2,544 members of panchayat unions and 38,916 members of village panchayats.

Lobbying for Major Portfolios by Disqualified MLAs

  • Disqualified MLAs, who contested bypolls from the BJP, have already begun intense lobbying for key portfolios in the promised Cabinet expansion after the bypoll results. Several leaders made a beeline to Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa's residence in the city to hold talks with him.
  • Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj K.S. Eshwarappa's statement that only those who win the bypolls will make it to the Cabinet seems to have created jitters among some disqualified MLAs who are not sure of their victory.
  • However, the Chief Minister is said to have promised ministries to a few "key candidates", whatever be the result. The assurance has been to make them MLCs and induct them into the Cabinet.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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Delhiites Participate in Sleep Out at CP

  • With mattresses and blankets laid out in Connaught Place's Central Park, Delhiites spent their night sleeping out in the open to raise awareness against homelessness.
  • Joining hands with the global fundraising event World's Biggest Sleep Out, the national capital was among the 50 cities across the world which participated in the affair.
  • As per Indu Prakash, the national coordinator for WBSO, over 50,000 people participated across the 50 cities to raise $50 million to help the homeless.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Troy Museum Shortlisted for European Award

  • A museum in the ancient city of Troy -- now in present-day Turkey -- was shortlisted for the European Museum of the Year Award.
  • Opened in 2018 in the western Turkish province of Çanakkale, the Museum of Troy was shortlisted for the award organised by the European Museum Forum, supported by the Council of Europe.
  • The museum is one of the most important contemporary archaeological museums in the world.
  • The winner of the European Museum of the Year Award will be announced at a ceremony at the end of the annual conference of the European Museum Forum, which will be held in Cardiff, Wales, from April 29 to May 2, 2020.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Free Ride Scheme for Women in Chittoor

  • The Chittoor police launched the "Free Ride Scheme" for women in Chittoor municipal corporation limits, to provide secure transportation for them during nights.
  • According to Superintendent of Police S. Senthil Kumar, the scheme would be made available for women in need of emergency services between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. He said the unique service would be operational in Chittoor corporation limits initially and would soon be extended to Madanapalle, Palamaner, Chittoor, Puttur and Sri City sub-divisions soon.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Measles Outbreaks Continue Unabated

  • Even as India successfully carried out the vaccination of over 324 million children between 9 months and 15 years the unprecedented global measles crisis is set to enter the third year. According to a report released by WHO, 4,13,000 measles cases were reported by mid-November in 2019 as against 3,53,236 reported cases in 2018. Measles cases more than doubled in 2018 compared to 2017.
  • India initiated one of the world's largest Measles-Rubella campaign to eliminate measles and control rubella in the country. As of November 5, this year (2019) more than 324 million children and adolescent have been vaccinated with one dose of MR vaccine in 34 states.
  • However, reported measles cases continue to rise for the third straight year globally. Five countries — Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine — accounted for nearly half of all measles cases in 2018.

Mission Buniyaad Improved Students' Reading Levels

  • The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), after a study carried out in 30 government schools, found out that the Mission Buniyaad scheme had led to a marginal improvement in reading and mathematics proficiency levels of students.
  • Launched in April 2018, the scheme aims to improve learning levels of students studying in classes 3 to 9 in government schools. The objective was to ensure that students would be able to learn grade appropriate texts and solve basic mathematics problems.
  • Students had been given tests at the beginning of the session in April 2018 and at the end of the three-month intervention in June 2018. The report analysed these tests of over 2,000 students from 30 government schools in northeast Delhi and found out that there had been a 12% and 20% increase in students studying in Classes 3 to 5 when it came to reading stories in Hindi and solving divisions respectively. For students in Classes 6-9, the increase had been 15% and 25% respectively.

ART AND CULTURE

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Ancient Site Older than Göbeklitepe Unearthed

  • The latest archeologic excavations in southeastern Turkey discovered an ancient site older than Göbeklitepe, known as the oldest temple in the world.
  • İbrahim Özcoşar, the rector of Mardin Artuklu University, said that the discoveries at Boncuklu Tarla (Beaded Field) in the southeastern province of Mardin resemble those unearthed in Göbeklitepe, an archeological site located in the southeastern Şanlıurfa province, and even 1,000 years older.
  • The excavation work began in 2012 at the Boncuklu Tarla in Dargeçit district that dates back to the Neolithic period.
  • The area is known to have been home throughout history to the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Romans, Seljuks, and Ottomans, among others.
  • This area is important in terms of being one of the first settled areas of humanity and shows that the first people to have settled here were believers.

Vienna Opera House Stages First Opera by Woman

  • In a historic moment, Olga Neuwirth's Orlando is all set to become the first Opera to be opened by a woman. Staged at the Vienna opera house was Olga's adaption of Virginia Woolf's Orlando.
  • The piece reportedly deals with duality and trans identity. Over its 150 years of existence, the Vienna State Opera has seen several star performers and has also experienced unique historic moments in its incredible musical journey.
  • However, the one significant accomplishment it was yet to fulfil is staging an opera that was written by a woman.
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