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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

10 Dec 2019


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Sri Lankan Group Wants Bill to Include Tamil Hindus

  • A group of Tamil Hindus criticised the government for what it called the overlooking of Hindus from Sri Lanka from the list of persecuted minorities who will be able to seek citizenship in India.
  • Maravanpulavu K. Sachitananthan, leader of the Sri Lankan Shiva Senai, a group of Hindus in the island nation, said that the situation for Hindus in Sri Lanka was not different from their situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But the bill has conveniently ignored the 10,000-year-old history of the Hindus in Sri Lanka.

Yemen Peace Deal Deadline Expires

  • The Yemeni government and southern separatists have failed to meet a deadline to establish a power-sharing government, an ominous sign for hopes of a wider deal to end years of war.
  • The Riyadh Agreement signed on November 5, 2019 stipulated the creation within 30 days of a new 24-member cabinet.

Putin and Zelensky Sit Down for Peace Talks for the First

  • President Vladimir Putin of Russia met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine for the first time at a summit in Paris to try to end five years of war between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed separatists.
  • Both sat down at the French presidential palace along with the leaders of France and Germany for talks focused on reviving a 2015 peace agreement for eastern Ukraine that has largely stalled. Since 2014, the war has killed 14,000 people, emboldened the Kremlin and reshaped European geopolitics.
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Climate Change: 1.9 Billion People Rely on Natural Water Towers

  • Scientists have assessed and ranked the importance of Earth's great "water towers".
  • These are the 78 mountainous regions that are able to generate and then store vast quantities of water.
  • They deliver it in a controlled way to major populations living downstream.
  • The Dutch-led team finds Asia's Indus basin - fed by the Himalayan, Karakoram, Hindu-Kush, and Ladakh ranges - to be the most important storage unit on the planet.
  • Its waters, produced at high elevation from rain and snow, and draining from lakes and glaciers, support more than 200 million people settled across parts of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan.
  • But the Indus water tower, the researchers point out, is also the most vulnerable on their list of 78.
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State Bank Cuts Lending Rate

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) announced the reduction in its marginal cost of fund based lending rate (MCLR) by 10 basis points across all one-year products with immediate effect.
  • This is the eighth consecutive cut in MCLR by the lender this fiscal. The new one-year MCLR has been cut to 7.9% from 8%.
  • The reduction comes as the Reserve Bank of India, in a surprise move earlier this month, left the key policy rates unchanged at 5.15%.

Yes Bank Stalls Blackstone Deal

  • Coffee Day Group's proposed sale of its Global Village Technology Park to private equity firm Blackstone Group Lp hit a hurdle, with the debt-laden group's largest creditor, Yes Bank, signalling its reluctance to give approval to the Rs. 2,800 crore deal.
  • The sale of the 90-acre tech park on the outskirts of Bengaluru is to be used for repaying the debts of Cafe Coffee Day's (CCD) associate firms and their promoters. Founder VG Siddhartha committed suicide in July, 2019.
  • Coffee Day Group firms and their promoters have total debts of at least $1 billion and Yes Bank is the single-largest lender to the group and its promoters, with an exposure of at least Rs. 1,500 crore.
  • Yes Bank put a condition that it will give its "no objection" to the Blackstone deal only if Coffee Day agrees to repay the entire loan taken by the group from Yes Bank or at least the loans taken by Coffee Day's subsidiaries Tanglin Developments Ltd (which owns the tech park) and Sical Logistics.

Sanofi to Buy Synthorx

  • France's Sanofi agreed to buy California-headquartered biotechnology firm Synthorx in a cash deal worth about $2.5 billion as it steps up a push in the lucrative field of cancer drugs under its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
  • Sanofi offered to buy all the outstanding shares of Synthorx common stock for $68 per share in cash, or a 172% premium to Synthorx's.
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Sustainable New Material for Carbon Dioxide Capture

  • In a joint research study scientists have developed a new material for capturing carbon dioxide. The new material offers many benefits -- it is sustainable, has a high capture rate, and has low operating costs.
  • The new material is a bio-based hybrid foam, infused with a high amount of CO2-adsorbing 'zeolites' -- micro porous alumino silicates. This material has been shown to have very promising properties. The porous, open structure of the material gives it a great ability to absorb the carbon dioxide.
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Russia Banned from International Sports for Four Years

  • In a significant decision, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided to ban Russia from international sports including Olympics 2020 for four years over a doping scandal.
  • Russia was accused of manipulating laboratory doping data and Wada's Compliance Review Committee (CRC) earlier in 2019 declared that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was non-compliant over inconsistencies in a key database of athletes' test results.
  • According to a report, the anti-doping body took this unanimous decision in the wake of Russia's attempt to conceal, obfuscate and frustrate attempts to unmask the beneficiaries of a state-powered doping program, remarkable for its sophistication and scope.

Manohar Not to Run for a Third Term

  • The first independent chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Shashank Manohar, told his ICC director colleagues that he will not run for a third two-year term in May 2020.
  • Manohar, who has been the independent chairman since June 2016, will bring an end to his office at the ICC annual conference at Cape Town in July next year.
  • Manohar had resigned in March 2017, eight months after taking over, but persuaded by colleagues, he continued. He was re-elected unopposed in June 2018.
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UP Government Extends Municipal limit of Ayodhya

  • The Uttar Pradesh cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, approved the extension of the boundaries of Municipal Corporations of several districts including Ayodhya, Gorakhpur and Firozabad. The cabinet decided to give nod to the proposal of including 41 villages in Ayodhya district.
  • Apart from this, approval was also given for the creation of 16 new Nagar Panchayats, four Nagar Panchayats and one Nagar Palika Parishad in the state.
  • Accordingly, Banda in Shahjahanpur, Payagpur in Bahraich, Itwa, Bharatbhari and Badhanichafa in Siddharthnagar, Dahgawan in Badayun, Karba Musanagar in Kanpur Dehat, Ate in Jalaun, Chowmukha in Gorakhpur, Lohta in Varanasi, Fazilnagar and Dudahi in Kushinagar, Daranagar Kadadham in Kaushanbi, Gaighat in Basti, Nawabganj in Farrukhabad, Makhanpur in Firozabad got the cabinet nod as new Nagar Panchayats.

BJP Sweeps By-elections to Assembly Constituencies in Karnataka

  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept by-elections to assembly constituencies in Karnataka, winning 12 of the 15 seats. This means the BJP government in the state is safe — the party needed to win six of the 15 to stay in power. This also means the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have clearly lost ground in the state. All 15 constituencies were won by the two parties in 2018, with the Congress winning 12 and the JD(S) three seats. This time the Congress won two, and the JD(S) none.

Northeastern States Up in Arms against Legislation

  • The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019, in the Lok Sabha led to a fresh round of protests against the controversial legislation in three northeastern states — Assam, Manipur and Tripura.
  • States in northeast such as Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, which have inner line permit (ILP) regime, and Sixth Schedule areas in Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya have been kept outside the ambit of CAB. The entire northeast will witness a shutdown on Tuesday due to an 11-hour general strike called by North East Students Organisation (NESO), which comprises main student bodies of seven states in the region.
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Arms Sales of Top Indian Firms Drop

  • According to the latest data released by a leading Stockholm-based think-tank that tracks the weapons industry, the combined sales of three Indian companies that figure among the world's 100 top arms suppliers stood at $5.9 billion in 2018, a drop of 6.9% compared to the previous year (2018).
  • The sales fell during the one-year period because of fewer orders from the Indian armed forces, showed the figures published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The three Indian companies on the list of top 100 global arms firms are Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the Indian Ordnance Factories and Bharat Electronics Limited; they accounted for 1.4% of the arms sales of the top 100 companies.

France to Ramp up Joint Patrols with India

  • France will ramp up joint patrols and operations with India's armed forces in the Indian Ocean to protect the interests of both countries counter illegal activities and ensure an international rules-based order.
  • Vice Admiral Didier Maleterre, joint commander of French forces in the Indian Ocean and the United Arab Emirates, indicated that China's presence at a string of civilian and military facilities, including Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Gwadar in Pakistan and Djibouti, has security implications for the Indian Ocean region.
  • In 2020, a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft of the Indian Navy will go to Reunion Island, a French possession in the Indian Ocean, to conduct joint patrols with French frigates in strategic areas such as the Mozambique Channel.
  • The two sides are also looking at joint patrols and operations in the north-western Indian Ocean, including the Gulf of Aden, and greater coordination in the Strait of Hormuz, which saw several attacks on tankers in 2019.
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Maoist Leader Ramanna Dies

  • As per reports, Maoist leader Ravula Srinivas, alias Ramanna, who carried a reward of Rs. 40 lakh on his head, died in Bastar forests of Chhattisgarh.
  • Ramanna was a member of the all-powerful the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist).

Sri Lanka Appoints Suresh Sallay as Spy Chief

  • Sri Lanka for the first time named a military officer to head the country's main intelligence agency. The head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) was replaced by brigadier Suresh Sallay, a former head of military intelligence. The appointment of Suresh Sallay comes after Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected President.
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Human Rights Day

  • Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  • The theme of 2019 is "The Year of Indigenous Languages: Promoting and Deepening a Human Rights Culture".
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Diwali-Power of One Awards

  • Four eminent diplomats were honoured with the 'Diwali – Power of One' award in recognition and of their work, especially at United Nations (UN), for a secure and peaceful world. The winner were honoured with the 'Power of One' awards during a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York, United States. The award annually honours those who have made exemplary contributions in upholding the values that the United Nations stands for.
  • The award is conferred to former High-Level UN diplomats or Permanent Representatives or those diplomats who will soon finish their tenure at world organisation for working selflessly towards helping form a more secure, peaceful and perfect world for all.
  • The four diplomats are:
• Kairat Abdrakhmanov (Kazakhstan)- Former Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to UN
• Nicholas Emiliou (Cyprus)– former Permanent Representative of Cyprus to UN
• Frantisek Ruzicka (Slovakia)- Former Chef de Cabinet to President of 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and Permanent Representative of Slovakia to UN
• Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine)– Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN
The awards which have now come to be known as 'Oscars of Diplomacy' were established by Diwali Foundation USA, Inc in 2017.

British Stars Nominated for Golden Globe Awards

  • British stars are well represented in this year's Golden Globe nominations, with Rocketman's Taron Egerton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge up for awards.
  • Waller-Bridge is up for a lead actress prize for Fleabag, while her Irish co-star Andrew Scott is also nominated.
  • Marriage Story, a Netflix production, is the most nominated film, having received six citations in all.
  • The Irishman, another Netflix film, and Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, have five nominations each.
  • The Crown, Chernobyl and US crime thriller Unbelievable lead the way on the TV side of things, having received four nominations apiece.
  • Marriage Story and Martin Scorsese's The Irishman are both up for best film drama, as are Joker, The Two Popes and Sam Mendes' World War I epic 1917.
  • Tarantino's film is up for best musical or comedy, alongside Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit, murder mystery Knives Out, Elton John biopic Rocketman and comic biopic Dolemite Is My Name.
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Citizenship Bill Clears Lok Sabha

  • The Lok Sabha passed a controversial bill that grants citizenship to religious minorities from three Muslim-majority countries in India's neighbourhood after a fierce nine-hour debate in which opposition parties alleged the draft legislation violated the Constitution by linking faith to citizenship.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) 2019 seeks to amend the 1955 Citizenship Act by granting citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Jains who entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.

Bill on Maritime Piracy Tabled

  • A bill that provides for strict punishment, including death penalty or life imprisonment, to those involved in piracy at sea was tabled in the Lok Sabha. Congress's Shashi Tharoor opposed the introduction of the bill, saying that the provision of automatic death penalty was against the law. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar assured the house that the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill does not have automatic death penalty provision. It is aimed at promoting the safety of India's maritime trade.

Andhra Plans New Law for Justice within Three Weeks

  • The Andhra Pradesh government is planning to bring in a new legislation to fast track the cases pertaining to atrocities on women and children and award punishment to the accused within three weeks. The announcement was made by Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy in the state legislative assembly.
  • The new bill, to be introduced in the state assembly, envisages completion of investigation within a week, trial in two weeks and awarding punishment within three weeks. "If the accused in the rape and murder cases are caught red-handed and the evidences including DNA reporters are strong, they would be sentenced to death death within three weeks.
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India Rises in Human Development Index

  • According to a report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), India climbed one spot to 129 among 189 countries in the 2019 human development index.
  • In 2018, India's human development index (HDI) value of 0.647 had put it at 130 rank.
  • In India, 27.1 crore people were lifted out of poverty from 2005-06 to 2015-16, UNDP India resident representative Shoko Noda said while releasing the UNDP's development report 2019.
  • Noda said that the steady progress of India was due to nearly three decades of rapid development, which had seen a dramatic reduction in absolute poverty, along with gains in life expectancy, education, and access to health care.
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Netflix Leads Pack as Apple Lands First Nod

  • Apple Inc's TV news drama The Morning Show scored three Golden Globe nominations, putting it in the running for its first major Hollywood awards as a new player in the crowded streaming market.
  • Digital video pioneer Netflix Inc dominated the field, landing 17 nominations in TV categories plus 17 more for movies, including leading contenders Marriage Story and The Irishman.
  • The Golden Globe winners, determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, will be announced at a red-carpet ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, on January 5, 2020.
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North Korea Opens Mountain Spa, Ski Resort

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened a new mountain spa and ski resort that's intended for people to enjoy "high civilisation under socialism" is another example of the country using tourism exemptions in sanctions to build revenue for its broken economy.
  • Kim cut the ribbon during the ceremonial opening of the Yangdok Hot Spring Cultural Recreation Centre and praised his soldiers for creating a "miracle and prefect edifice" that serves the ruling party's efforts to guide people to modern civilisation.
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