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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

11 Dec 2019

DAILY G.K. TEST

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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Russia Awaits Modi's Participation in Moscow Parade 2020

  • According to Russian Federation Ambassador to India Nikolay Rishatovich Kudashev, Russia was well-prepared to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indian troops at the 75th anniversary of the "victory in the great patriotic war" parade in Moscow on May 9, 2020.
  • Participating in the 72nd International Human Rights Day celebrations under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment here, Kudashev said that Russia wants to further elevate its cooperation with India to new heights in 2020 "which is an extraordinary year due to many reasons".

US Panel for Sanctions over CAB

  • A US commission that monitors religious freedom across the world has asked the Trump administration to consider sanctions against India's leadership if a controversial citizenship bill is approved by Parliament, prompting New Delhi to say that the panel is prejudiced and has no locus standi in the matter.
  • Soon after the Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) 2019 that aims to grant citizenship to religious minorities from three Muslim-majority countries in India's neighbourhood, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said on Tuesday it was deeply troubled by the development because of the "religion criterion in the bill".

Russia and Ukraine Agree to Swap Prisoners

  • The leaders of Russia and Ukraine agreed to exchange all remaining prisoners from the conflict in east Ukraine by the end of the year, but left thorny questions about the region's status unresolved in their first face-to-face meeting.
  • Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spent nine hours in discussions in Paris in a summit brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

ENVIRONMENT

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Sydney Choked by Haze from Australia Bush Fires

  • Wildfires engulfed the Australian city of Sydney in haze so thick in some places it was 11 times worse than the level considered "hazardous," and was apt to trigger fire alarms.
  • The city cancelled ferries and some offices in the downtown area were evacuated.
  • Local health officials advised people to stay indoors as much as possible and those with heart and lung problems were told to avoid all outdoor activity.

Climate May Warm at Least 3°C without Action

  • Despite urgent calls by the UN secretary general asking countries to raise their ambitions and enhance nationally determined contributions (NDCs) at the United Nations Climate Summit in September, a new analysis released at COP25 in Madrid showed that under the current policies global temperatures will see a rise of 3 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and a rise of 2.8° C if all pledges under the Paris Agreement are implemented.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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State Bank Under-reports Bad Loans

  • India's largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI), underreported bad loans and their provisioning by Rs. 11,932 crore and Rs. 12,036 crore, respectively, in 2018-19, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) found, the highest such figures reported by any bank so far.
  • In a stock exchange filing disclosing the central bank's risk assessment report, SBI said that had it taken into account the provisions based on RBI's findings, the bank would have reported a net loss of Rs. 6,968 crore in 2018-19 instead of its reported profit of Rs. 862 crore.
  • However, SBI's remaining impact on the gross non-performing assets (NPAs) in the third quarter of 2019-20 is Rs. 3,143 crore, since some of it has already been recognised in the first two quarters of FY20.

Oil India Keen on Acquiring Full Control of Numaligarh Refinery

  • State-run Oil India Ltd may pitch for full control of Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL. NRL is a subsidiary of state-run Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL).
  • As part of its strategy to divest stake in BPCL, the government in November decided to carve out NRL from BPCL. BPCL holds 61.65% stake in NRL, while Oil India holds 26% and the government of Assam 12.35%.
  • NRL was set up at Numaligarh in Assam's Golaghat district, in accordance with provisions of the Assam Accord signed on August 15, 1985, and has been associated with the industrial and the economic development of the region.
  • The capacity of NRL is being expanded from the present 3 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) to 9 MMTPA at an investment of Rs. 22,594 crore.
  • The expansion project is targeted to be completed in four years and expected to meet the refining requirements of the North-East region.

Reliance Ties up with ADNOC for Chemical Unit

  • Reliance Industries and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) signed an agreement to explore setting up of a facility in UAE to produce ethylene dichloride, which goes into making of PVC that is commonly used in pipes, tubes and cable.
  • Under the terms of the agreement, ADNOC and RIL will evaluate the potential creation of a facility that manufactures ethylene dichloride or EDC adjacent to ADNOC's integrated refining and petrochemical site in Ruwais, Abu Dhabi and strengthen the companies' existing relationship supporting future collaboration in petrochemicals.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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'Horse Ridge', Intel's New Chip for Commercial Quantum Computers

  • Quantum computers aim to carry out tasks in just a few minutes that would take today's best conventional computers thousands of years. But in nearly every photograph of the devices, there's a tangle of wires in the background connected to equipment that controls the quantum computer.
  • Intel Corp announced a chip that it hopes will change that. The Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker announced a chip called "Horse Ridge" that is designed to take all the work being done by the wires and shrink it down to a chip and electronics about the size of a tea cup saucer.
  • Quantum computers remain years away from everyday use but have drawn the interest of major technology companies. In October, researchers at Alphabet Inc's Google said they had created a machine that can outpace conventional computers. Other major technology firms such as International Business Machines and Microsoft Corp are also pursuing the technology.

SPORTS

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India Signs Off with a Record Haul of Medals

  • India ended its South Asian Games campaign with a best-ever medal haul of 312 and finish on top for the 13th time-in-a-row, in the regional multi-sporting event.
  • India collected 174 gold, 93 silver and 45 bronze after 10 days of competitions to surpass the 309 it had won in the previous edition at home in 2016.
  • Sri Lanka was a distant second with 251 medals while Nepal finished with 206.

Arsenal Ends Worst Winless Run in 42 Years

  • Arsenal ended its worst winless run in 42 years by coming from behind at halftime to beat West Ham 3-1 in the English Premier League.
  • Arsenal's nine-match winless streak looked set to reach 10 after a lifeless first half in which the Gunners conceded to West Ham's Angelo Ogbonna. They were booed off at the break.

Memorable Day for Sanjay Yadav

  • Meghalaya all-rounder Sanjay Yadav entered the Ranji records books by taking nine wickets against Nagaland at the Nagaland Cricket Satadium in Sovima.
  • Sanjay moved to Meghalaya from Tamil Nadu as a gust player ahead of the 2019-20 session.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Relief for BJP in Madhya Pradesh

  • Madhya Pradesh Speaker Narmada Prajapati restored the membership of BJP legislator Prahlad Lodhi, who was convicted by a special court in Bhopal, for attacking government official. The Speaker took the decision after the Supreme Court last week upheld the stay granted by the High Court on his conviction.
  • Lodhi is the BJP MLA from Pawai constituency in Panna district.

J&K Administration to Decide on Leaders' Release

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that the situation in the Kashmir valley is normal and maintained that a decision on releasing detained political leaders will be taken by the local administration.
  • Shah's assertion that the central government will not interfere in the matter came after Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury asked the government when political leaders, including sitting Lok Sabha member and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, would be released.

Free Trade Pacts with ASEAN Countries

  • The government informed the Rajya Sabha that India would review lopsided trade agreements with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and secure better deals and that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) failed to address India's concerns on trade deficit, which forced the country to not join the pact.
  • Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Goyal cited growing trade deficit with ASEAN countries during 2010-11 until 2018-19 to state that the earlier trade pacts had been asymmetrical.
  • A major reason has been that India gave much larger market access to some of these countries but received less in return.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Nobel Prize Winner Arnold on Board of Alphabet Inc.

  • Alphabet Inc. named France's Arnold, a Nobel-prize winning chemist, to its board, bringing the internet giant's total number of female directors to three.
  • Arnold, a professor at California Institute of Technology, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work developing the first proteins that can catalyze chemical reactions -- making it more environmentally friendly to develop new drugs and produce renewable energy.
  • Earlier in 2019, Robin Washington, outgoing chief financial officer of Gilead Sciences Inc., joined the Alphabet board as longtime chairman Eric Schmidt and former Google Cloud chief Diane Greene announced plans to step down. Ann Mather, the former CFO of Pixar, joined the board in 2005.

Roxette Singer Dies

  • The lead singer of Swedish pop duo sensation Roxette, Marie Fredriksson, who shot to global fame in the 1990s with hits like It Must Have Been Love, died aged 61 after a long fight with cancer.
  • Marie was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002 but went into remission and made a musical comeback a few years later.
  • By 2016, however, the illness had taken its toll and doctors advised her to stop touring.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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India to Host Key Talks on Indo-Pacific Region

  • India will host two Track 1.5 dialogues this week to highlight its open and inclusive approach to build a "cooperative, free, and rules-based Indo-Pacific" region. The external affairs ministry is organising the 6th Indian Ocean Dialogue and Delhi Dialogue XI in New Delhi during December 13-14 and for the first time these two events will be held consecutively and on similar themes. The two events will intersect on December 13 in a joint ministerial session.
  • The theme for the Indian Ocean Dialogue is "Indo-Pacific: Re-imagining the Indian Ocean through an Expanded Geography", while the theme for the Delhi Dialogue is "Advancing Partnership in Indo-Pacific".

UNIFEC Day

  • On December 11, the anniversary of the creation of UNICEF is remembered.
  • Since its founding, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. Around the world, UNICEF responds when emergencies arise in war-torn countries, the aftermath of natural disasters and disease outbreaks.
  • Headquartered in New York City, it is one of the members of the United Nations Development Group and its Executive Committee.
  • The United Nations General Assembly created UNICEF on December 11, 1946 when children devastated as a solution to the growing need to for emergency assistance for children affected by World War II. Ludwik Rajchman, a Polish bacteriologist, is regarded as the founder of UNICEF and was its first chairman from 1946 to 1950. In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the United Nations System and its name was shortened from the original United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund but it has continued to be known by the popular acronym based on this previous title.

International Mountain Day

  • December 11, "International Mountain Day", was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003. The General Assembly "encouraged the international community to organise events at all levels on that day to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development.
  • Mountains are home of the 15% of the world´s population and a quarter of the world's land animals and plants. They provide freshwater for everyday life to half of humanity. Their conservation is a key factor for sustainable development and is part of Goal 15 of the SDGs.
  • 'Mountains matter for Youth' is the theme of 2019's International Mountain Day.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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PM Modi Bags India's 'Golden Tweet' of 2019

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi bagged yet another social media accolade. His tweet celebrating the Bharatiya Janata Party's victory in 2019 Lok Sabha polls is the most retweeted and liked tweets of the year, according to Twitter.
  • The "Golden Tweet" - as Twitter calls it - was posted by PM Modi on May 23, 2019 and said, "Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again! #VijayiBharat."

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Bill May Give Govt. a Wider Berth on Data Surveillance

  • The proposed law to protect personal privacy in India gives the government more powers to access people's data over reasons such as safeguarding national security as compared to the law recommended by an expert committee, according to a version set to be introduced in Parliament this week.
  • The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which will underpin India's first legal framework to protect privacy after it was held as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in 2017, has been circulated among parliamentarians. MPs are likely to push for the bill to be sent to a joint committee for closer scrutiny.
  • The draft is yet to be tabled in Parliament.
  • The law is based on a draft prepared by the expert committee led by retired justice B. N. Srikrishna, and on the whole, gives ownership of personal data to the individual, defines obligations for any organisation handling such data, and lays down penalties and punishments in case a user's privacy is breached.

Amendments for Stricter Arms Act

  • Parliament cleared changes to the Arms act, making the manufacture and possession of illegal fire arms punishable with a life term in an effort to bring in tighter gun control.
  • The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019, also has a provision for imprisonment of two years or fine, which may extend to Rs. 1 lakh or both for those using firearms in a rash or negligent manner in celebratory gunfire.
  • The amendments were passed by voice vote in the Upper House. The Lok Sabha had approved the bill.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Birth Registrations Doubled in 10 Years: UNICEF

  • Birth registration in India increased from 41% in 2005-2006 to 80% in 2015-2016, according to a new UNICEF report that said one in four of the world's children remains invisible despite significant global progress driven by India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • Twenty-two states have attained birth registration levels of more than 75% in the first year of birth in 2015-16, as compared to eight states in 2005-06.
  • Globally, children under five years, whose births were officially recorded, went up from 63% to 75% over the past decade, but 166 million children are unregistered, shows an analysis of data from 174 countries published in the report called Birth Registration for Every Child by 2030: Are we on track?

Obtaining MBBS Degree Could Get Cheaper

  • In what could prove to be a big relief for medical students, a panel tasked with drafting guidelines for fee structure in private medical colleges is mulling slashing fees for half of graduate and post-graduate seats by 70 per cent and 90 per cent respectively.
  • With the process of constitution of National Medical Commission currently on, the Union Health Ministry has asked the Board of Governors (BoG), vested with powers of the MCI, to prepare draft guidelines for the fee structure in private medical colleges and deemed universities from the next academic session.
  • According to sources, with this reduction planned by the BoG, fees for 50 per cent of MBBS seats in private medical colleges will range between Rs. 6 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh.
  • Currently, in a number of states, including Delhi and Maharashtra, MBBS students are charged Rs. 25 lakh annually.
  • The fee for the three-year PG courses in several medical colleges ranges between Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 3 crore.

TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

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SATTE 2020 Partners With CTC

  • In a bid to further boost the corporate travel segment, SATTE 2020, South Asia's leading Travel and Tourism expo partnered with Corporate Travel Community (CTC) to organise Corporate Travel Day on January 9, 2020. The 27th edition of SATTE is set to be organised from January 08 to 10, 2020 at India Expo Mart, Greater Noida, Delhi – NCR.
  • Under this partnership, CTC will organise two power-packed sessions; 'Airline Programmes + NDC education forum' and 'The Accommodation Outlook and Technology Innovations Education Forum'
  • The Corporate Travel Community is a network of corporate travel buyers and other personnel who manage their organisation's travel portfolios. CTC is part of Informa which under 'Informa Markets' runs hundreds of events and trade shows around the world under more than 550 B2B brands.
  • The aim of the partnership is to create a platform for the corporate travel segment under South Asia's largest travel and tourism exhibition.
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