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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

13 Dec 2019


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Gotabaya Assures Media Freedom under His Govt.

  •  Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assured that media freedom will not be hindered in any form during his tenure.
  • His assurance came amid concerns among sections over media freedom in Sri Lanka after the November 2019 presidential election. Several journalists and dissidents in Sri Lanka were targeted in the past.

Human Rights Not Part of 2+2 Talks, But J&K to Come Up: US

  •  As per the Trump administration's point person for South Asia, human rights issues aren't part of the second India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue in Washington next week though Kashmir-related matters and India's threat perceptions are expected to be on the agenda.
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will meet their US counterparts Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo in Washington next week for a comprehensive review of cross-cutting foreign policy, defence and security issues.
  • During the meeting, the two sides are expected to sign the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), which will allow US companies to share sensitive proprietary technology with Indian private firms and not just state-owned partners, marking another milestone in the growing partnership.

Bangladesh Ministers Call off Visits

  •  Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. K. Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan called off visits to India hours after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, which has generated concern and debate in the neighbouring country.
  • Officially, Dhaka attributed Momen's decision to his participation in events related to Victory Day, observed on December 16 to commemorate the surrender of Pakistani forces in the 1971 war of liberation and Bangladesh's emergence as an independent state.
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India Lost 9.4mn Trees in 4 Years

  • India lost 9.4 million trees across forest areas to development projects over the past four years (2015-16 to 2018-19), the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) informed the Rajya Sabha.
  • The loss of trees can be equated to the loss of 20.8 crore kg of carbon dioxide per year, which would have otherwise been stored by 9.4 million trees. According to the Forest Survey of India.
  • According to data tabled by the ministry, of the 94,98,516 trees lost in India over four years, Maharashtra recorded the second highest after Telangana (15,26,663). Meghalaya (371), Kerala (725), Mizoram (748), Delhi (3,236), and Tamil Nadu (5,970), however, recorded least tree-felling over the same period.

Deepest Point on Land Found in Antarctica

  •  The deepest point on continental Earth was identified in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier.
  • This ice-filled canyon reaches 3.5 km (11,500ft) below sea level. Only in the ocean are the valleys deeper still.
  • The discovery was illustrated in a new map of the White Continent that revealed the shape of the bedrock under the ice sheet in unprecedented detail.
  • Its features will be critical to our understanding of how the polar south might change in the future.
  • For comparison, the lowest exposed land on Earth, at the Dead Sea shore, is just 413 m (1,355ft) below sea level.
  • This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica's ice sheet.
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Industrial Output Shrinks and Inflation Rises

  •  India's industrial output shrank while inflation swelled, highlighting challenges for policymakers battling an economic slowdown amid surging food prices.
  • Factory output contracted 3.8% in October 2019 after shrinking 4.3% in September, in sharp contrast with an 8.4% expansion in October in 2018. Retail inflation continued to surge in November, fuelled by soaring food prices, as prolonged rains dampened vegetable supplies.
  • Retail inflation surged 5.54% in November as food price inflation measured by the Consumer Food Price Index rose 10% in November from 7.89% in October.

Paytm Parent Raises Rs. 4,724 cr

  •  One 97 Communications Ltd, which operates digital payments company Paytm, raised Rs. 4,724 crore (around $660 million) from Alipay Singapore E-commerce Pvt. Ltd, SVF Panther (Cayman) Ltd, T Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund Inc. and others.
  • The board of directors of One 97 Communications recently approved the allotment of 2,592,472 equity shares at $254.58 a share.
  • Alipay Singapore E-commerce invested Rs. 1,433 crore, SVF Panther (Cayman) invested Rs. 1,430 crore and T Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund invested Rs. 704 crore.
  • Paytm competes with companies such as Google Pay and PhonePe in the highly competitive digital payments domain in India.

Future Retail Looks to Raise up to $400 mn

  •  Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail Ltd, which runs the Big Bazaar chain of stores, is looking to raise up to $400 million by selling dollar bonds.
  • The money will be used to buy retail assets from Future Enterprises Ltd as part of a planned group restructuring exercise.
  • The company hired investment banks Barclays, Standard Chartered, JPMorgan and UBS to help raise the dollar bonds. The company is expected to hit the markets in January 2020 for the bond issuance. 
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Nova Innovation to Develop Tidal Array in Canada

  •  A Scottish energy firm was granted a licence to deploy a tidal array in Canada.
  • Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation said that the move would lead to 15 new turbines being installed in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, by 2023.
  • The project will provide enough electricity to power 600 homes.
  • In 2016, Nova said that its offshore tidal array at Bluemull Sound off Shetland had become the first in the world to deliver electricity to the grid.

 First  Liquid Hydrogen Ship Debuts in Japan

  •  The world's first liquefied hydrogen carrier made its debut at a shipyard in Japan, a step towards tapping the carbon-free energy potential of the element. Kawasaki Heavy Industries christened the tanker Suiso Frontier at a ceremony at the Kobe Works yard.
  • The ship will be used for technology demonstration to establish a hydrogen energy supply chain. The construction is expected to be complete by late 2020.
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La Liga Appoints Rohit as its Indian Brand Ambassador

  •  Indian opener Rohit Sharma was appointed as the first-ever Indian brand ambassador of Spain's top division football league--La Liga.
  • As a result, Rohit became the first non-footballer personality in the history of La Liga to have joined hands with the league. The development came in the wake of a series of initiatives taken by La Liga in India since 2017.  
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Sena Gets Home, NCP Finance, Congress Revenue

  • After Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and six ministers were sworn in, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government announced the allocation of portfolios.
  • Among key portfolios, the Shiv Sena got home and urban development departments, while NCP bagged finance. Revenue, energy and public works departments are with the Congress. The ministers said some changes are likely in the allocations between the three parties.
  • Thackeray did not retain any portfolio, although he may keep a few portfolios such as general administration and Marathi language.
  • The NCP bagged 16 ministerial berths, while the Shiv Sena got 15 and the Congress 12.

Indigenous Groups seek Strict Regulations

  •  Meghalaya does not come under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regimen -- as no government permission is required to enter the state -- but in November 2019, the Meghalaya Cabinet approved amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act 2016, which will lead to regulations that would require non-resident visitors to register themselves in the state.
  • The Act requires a visitor, who desires to stay for more than 24 hours in the state, to fill an online application and get permission for entry. This is ILP by another name. Some tribal communities believe that CAB would enable rights to outsiders in the state. On Tuesday, the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, which sent Agatha Sangma to Parliament, saw her effigies being burnt in several places.
  • While most of Meghalaya is covered under Sixth Schedule of Constitution and is outside the CAB's ambit, there is a large area (10 square km) within Shillong city called the European Ward, which will fall under CAB purview.

Indonesia Foreign Minister Arrives to India on 2-day Visit

  •  Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L. P. Marsudi arrived in Delhi on a two-day visit to attend the combined session of the Indian Ocean Dialogue and the Delhi Dialogue XI.
  • The visiting dignitary is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and the two ministers will also simultaneously attend the sixth Joint Commission Meeting between India and Indonesia at the Hyderabad House.
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GRSE Hands Over Landing Craft Utility Amphibious Ship to Indian Navy

  •  Adding to the country's maritime security prowess, warship builder Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) delivered a Landing Craft Utility (LCU) to the Indian Navy.
  • The amphibious ship, that can transport and deploy main battle tanks, armoured vehicles, troops and equipment from ship to the shore, is seventh of eight such vessels being built for the Navy by GRSE.
  • These ships can also be deployed for multi-role activities like beaching operations, search and rescue, disaster relief operations, supply and replenishment and evacuation from distant islands.
  • The LCU is 62.8 metres long, 11 metres wide and has a displacement of 830 tonnes, with a low draught of 1.7 metres.

The J-10 Fighter: China's Very Own F-16 That Is Now For Sale

  •  Like the F-16, the J-10 boasts a highly agile, aerodynamically unstable airframe which is stabilized by a computer in its fly-by-wire flight control system.
  • China has been showcasing its Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon single-engine fighters prominently since 2018. The latest J-10C model is comparable with modernised variants of the classic American F-16 Fighting Falcon tactical fighter with capabilities including beyond-visual-range engagement, precision air-to-ground strike, digital glass cockpit instruments, in-flight refueling and electronic warfare.
  • In November 2019, the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group hawked an export model at the Dubai air show dubbed the J-10CE. But while the 1980-era F-16 continues to be exported forty years after its introduction and remains widely operated in over two dozen air forces, Beijing is still looking for its first J-10 export customer.
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Dushyant Dave Elected Supreme Court Bar President

  • Senior advocate Dushyant Dave won the election to the post of president of the executive committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association beating his nearest rival, senior advocate Vikas Singh.
  • This would be Dave's third stint as bar president of the top court. He had first served as president in 2014-15 and was re-elected to the post in 2015-16.
  • Advocate Kailash Vasdev was elected Vice President. He defeated senior advocates V Shekhar and Pradeep Rai.
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National Cocoa Day

  •  National Cocoa Day is celebrated on 13th December.
  • The Mayans are credited with creating the first chocolate beverage around 2000 years ago. Culturally, cocoa became an essential part of the Aztec civilization by 1400 AD.  After the drink found its way from Mexico through the New World, Europeans popularised the chocolate drink. However, it has undergone multiple changes since then.  Until the 19th century, drinkers used hot chocolate medicinally to treat ailments such as stomach diseases. 
  • The health benefits of drinking hot cocoa abound. Cocoa contains significant amounts of antioxidants that may help prevent cancer. They have also shown that the cocoa bean helps with digestion. The flavonoids found in cocoa also have a positive effect on arterial health.
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Rajya Sabha Passes IFSC Authority Bill

  •  The Rajya Sabha passed the International Financial Services Centres (IFSC) Authority Bill, 2019, which proposes to set up a unified financial regulator in IFSCs in India.
  • An IFSC caters to customers outside the jurisdiction of the domestic economy.

President Kovind Gives Assent to CAB

  •  President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, turning it into an Act.
  • According to an official notification, the Act came into effect with its publication in the official gazette on December 12, 2019.
  • The President's assent came amid widespread protests in several north-eastern states, especially Assam and Tripura, with several civil society groups, students' unions and local parties seeking it immediate withdrawal, contending that it would threaten the interests of indigenous people.

RS Clears Bill on SC/ST Quota for LS, Assemblies

  •  Parliament approved a Constitution amendment bill to extend quota to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years.
  • The Constitution (126th) Amendment Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha with 163 members voting in favour and none against. Lok Sabha had passed the bill earlier this month. Reservation for members of SCs and STs, given for the past 70 years in Lok Sabha and state assemblies, was due to end on January 25, 2020. The reservation for Anglo-Indians in the form of nomination is, however, set to expire on January 25 as the bill does not extend the facility to the community.
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Magic Mushroom Medicine Passes First Clinical Safety Trial

  •  A UK-based mental health start-up has reportedly taken a step closer to getting its psilocybin medicine licensed for the treatment of depression.
  • According to the Financial Times, psychiatrists at King's College London found no serious negative effects during the first controlled clinical study of psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms.
  • The psilocybin was produced synthetically, rather than being extracted from magic mushrooms, by London-based company Compass Pathways.
  • The development comes as interest grows on both sides of the Atlantic around the use of psychedelic drugs to treat psychological conditions.
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Financial Aid for Holding Art, Cultural Events

  •  Delhi is likely to witness more numbers of poetry, literature and art events in the days to come, with the city government rolling out a new scheme under which financial assistance will be offered to eligible non-government organisations for organising such cultural events.
  • Under the scheme, non-government bodies would get opportunity to avail financial assistance up to Rs. 25 lakh for an event, depending on its merit, or for a planned set of cultural events spread across one full year.
  • Each grant will be sanctioned after evaluation by a five-member committee chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the arts and culture portfolio in Delhi. The amount sanctioned will depend on factors such as type of event, scale of the programme, artistes, location and tenure of event.

Nagaland Hornbill Festival Attracts 2.69 Lakh Visitors

  •  The Hornbill Festival, an annual function showcasing the culture, arts, handicrafts and food of Nagaland, attracted a record 2,69,811 visitors this year, a significant rise in footfalls, compared to the previous year. The 10-day event was organised to showcase the tradition and culture of the 27 tribes of Nagaland.
  • Organised by the state government, the annual showpiece tourism event provides a platform for promoting cultural heritage and inter-tribal interactions. The aim of the festival is to revive and protect the rich culture of Nagaland and display its extravaganza and traditions.
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Harry Potter First Edition Bought for 1p Sells for £1000s

  •  A signed first edition Harry Potter book that was bought for 1p was sold for £2,300 at auction.
  • Mark Cavoto had bought the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 1998 hardback online and was unaware it was signed by J. K. Rowling until it arrived.
  • The Derbyshire businessman owns about 1,500 Harry Potter books and makes money by buying and re-selling them.
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