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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

18 Dec 2019


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Musharraf Sentenced to Death

  • A Pakistani court sentenced former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to death on charges of high treason and subverting the Constitution in a case related to the emergency he imposed in 2007.
  • This is the first time in Pakistan's history that a former Army Chief has been sentenced to death. The powerful army, usually considered immune from prosecution, expressed its opposition to the verdict and said that Musharraf can never be a traitor. The Imran Khan government would review the special court's decision.
  • The former President, who was born in Old Delhi, has been living in Dubai and is said to be very ill and unlikely to travel home to face the sentence. Pakistan and the UAE have no extradition treaty and Dubai authorities are unlikely to arrest him.

China Drops Plea for Discussion on Kashmir at UN

  • As per reports, France and other permanent members of the UN Security Council thwarted an effort by China, acting on behalf of Pakistan, to discuss the situation in Kashmir.
  • China pushed for a meeting of the UN Security Council behind closed doors — the second such effort since an earlier meet on the Kashmir issue in August. At that time, China's attempt to have an open and formal meeting of the Security Council was rebuffed by members of the body, which agreed to hold only closed consultations.
  • France and other permanent members of the Security Council conveyed to China the body was not the best forum to discuss the Kashmir issue, which ought to be handled bilaterally by India and Pakistan. Non-permanent members of the council, such as Germany and Poland, too, showed no inclination for a discussion on Kashmir.
  • The Chinese side subsequently withdrew its note seeking the meeting on Kashmir.

Boris Seeks to Rule out Brexit Delay

  • The Brexit debate resumed with the Boris Johnson government announcing that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to be placed before parliament will block any delay beyond December 2020.
  • The UK is due to leave the EU on January 31, 2020 but will move into a "transition" phase, when nothing will change in practice, with the UK remaining in the EU single market and the customs union until December 31, 2020.
  • London and Brussels are expected to finalise a trade agreement during the transition period for arrangements in place from January 1, 2021.
  • The transition period can be extended by mutual agreement for up to two years. But PM Johnson is ruling out the extension, which also makes it possible for the UK to leave without a deal.
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Coldest Day in 22 Years

  • December 17, 2019 was bitingly cold in Delhi. It was so chilly that the temperature recorded at 2 pm was only 1.8 degrees more than that recorded at 3 am, making the day the coldest in 22 years.
  • According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), the maximum temperature on Tuesday was 12.2 degrees Celsius, while the minimum was 10.4 degrees Celsius.
  • Scientists said that temperature hit the lowest since December 28,1997, when the maximum (day) temperature had touched 11.3 degrees Celsius.
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Elgi Equipments Acquires Michigan Air Solutions

  • Elgi Compressors USA Inc, a subsidiary of Elgi Equipment Limited, acquired Michigan Air Solutions, one of the largest independent air compressor distributors in Michigan.
  • With this acquisition, Elgi has expanded its presence in the US.
  • According to Jairam Varadaraj, Managing Director, Elgi Equipments Ltd, Michigan Air Solutions complements Elgi's global growth strategy, and brings significant market reach and scale, that will add further value to our product offerings and go-to-marker plan across the region.
  • Elgi's acquisition of Michigan Air is a continuation of strategy to invest in select, inorganic opportunities to gain presence in the North American market.

Telecom Body Defers Zero IUC by a Year

  • The telecom regulator deferred by a year a plan to scrap a levy charged by operators for handling incoming calls from rival networks, offering relief to older telcos that generate a part of their revenue from interconnect usage charges (IUC).
  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will now scrap IUC from 1 January 2021 instead of next month. As a result, operators will continue to earn 6 paise a minute for every mobile call they receive on their networks till 31 December, 2020.

BSNL to Save Rs. 1,300 crore in FY20 with VRS Offer

  • State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) said that post VRS, it expects to save Rs. 1,300 crore in wage bills this fiscal after the scheme becomes effective in January, 2020.
  • In all, 78,569 employees have opted for the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS).
  • On January 31, 2020, the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) will be effective.
  • As per CMD P.K. Purwar, the goal is that people who have applied for VRS, their application should be considered and approved.
  • Mr. Pawar said that after the VRS, BSNL will have around 70,000 employees, but added that the company has an option to hire contractual employees from third parties as and when required.
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Star Named after Indian Scientist, Exoplanet Gets a Sanskrit Name

  • A yellow-white dwarf star in the constellation Sextans, located 340 light years away, was named Bibha, which means "a light beam" and refers to Bibha Chowdhuri, a pioneering Indian scientist who was the first woman researcher-faculty at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in 1949.
  • Bibha's exoplanet was christened Santamasa, a Sanskrit word that means "clouded", which refers to the nature of the exoplanet's atmosphere.
  • The names of the two astronomical bodies were announced by the Paris-based International Astronomical Union (IAU) along with the names of 111 sets of exoplanets and host stars.
  • Bibha and Santamasa symbolise what the physical and lighting conditions of the HD 86081 system could be.
  • Earlier this year, IAU, which is celebrating 100 years of its existence, threw open IAU100 NameExoWorlds campaigns assigning various countries with the task of naming a star and its exoplanet.
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2020 Tokyo Olympic Games: India's Hockey Programme

  • Indian men will take on New Zealand in their opening hockey match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics while the women's team will play Rio Games silver medallist the Netherlands on July 25 as the draw for the quadrennial extravaganza was announced in Tokyo.
  • Indian men, clubbed with defending champion Argentina, world No. 1 Australia, Spain, New Zealand and host Japan in Pool A.
  • Indian women are in Pool A along with the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa.

Ellyse Perry Bags ICC Awards for Best Women's Cricketer and ODI Player

  • Australian all-rounder Ellyse Perry won the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award for the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year and was also named as the ICC Women's ODI Player of the Year.
  • Perry had a stellar year across formats, with three hundreds, including one in the Women's Ashes Test. She averages 73.50 from 12 ODIs this year, where she has also taken 21 wickets, including a national record 7/22. She became the first player to complete 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in T20I cricket.
  • Named as T20I Cricketer of the Year for the second year running, Alyssa Healy entered the record books in October, scoring a world record 148* off 61 balls against Sri Lanka – the highest score by a woman in T20Is. The wicket-keeper batter reached her half-century off 25 balls and her maiden hundred off just 46, for the fastest century ever by an Australian man or woman.
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Govt. Aims to Provide Broadband Access to All Villages by 2022

  • The government said that all villages in the country will have broadband access by 2022, as it launched the ambitious National Broadband Mission entailing stakeholder investment of Rs. 7 lakh crore in the next three to four years.
  • The mission will facilitate universal and equitable access to broadband services across the country, especially in rural and remote areas.
  • The mission unveiled by Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will also aim at significantly improving the quality of mobile and internet services in the country.
  • The broadband mission aims to fast-track growth of digital communications infrastructure, bridge the digital divide, facilitate digital empowerment and inclusion, and provide affordable and universal access of broadband to all.

Opposition Parties Urge President to Advise Centre to Withdraw CAA

  • Leaders of twelve Opposition parties met President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan and urged him to advise the Central Government to withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • A delegation of these parties led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi submitted a memorandum to Mr. Kovind in this regard.

UIDAI Revokes Tender for Social Media Surveillance

  • The Unique Identification Agency of India (UIDAI) dropped a contentious and controversial plan to set up a social media monitoring hub, attorney general of India K. K. Venugopal informed the Supreme Court.
  • UIDAI, in May 2018, floated a tender for hiring an agency for social media management services through Central Public Procurement (CPP) portal, but put the process on hold after Moitra filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court in July 2018.
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China Launches Second Aircraft Carrier

  • The Chinese military officially put into service the CNS Shandong, its second aircraft carrier.
  • Previously known as "Type 001A", CNS Shandong is the first domestically built Chinese aircraft carrier by the shipyard China Shipbuilding Industry. The commissioning ceremony took place in Sanya, in the southern island province of Hainan that borders the South China Sea.
  • Designed on the model of the current Russian aircraft carrier "Admiral Kuznetsov", it is similar to its sister-ship, CNS Lioaning, the first aircraft carrier of the Chinese Navy.

Indian Army Looking for New 8x8 APCs

  • The Indian Army's newest Request for Information (RFI) is inviting vendors to submit proposals for 198 8×8 wheeled APCs by February 17, 2019. The vehicles are meant for a reconnaissance and support role in Punjab and Rajasthan. The 20-page RFI lists technical parameters that leave Russia and the US out of the game, as the BTR-82A and the Stryker both fail to match the army's needs.
  • The Indian army has the strongest mechanized forces in Asia with its estimated 4,000 main battle tanks (locally assembled T-72M1 Ajeyas and T-90S Bhismas) with an equal number of BMP-2 Sarath infantry fighting vehicles.
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Basil Butcher Passes Away

  • Former West Indies batsman Basil Butcher passed away after prolonged illness, Cricket West Indies confirmed. Butcher was the first cricketer from the Amerindian descent to represent the West Indies.
  • Butcher made his Test debut in 1958 against India.
  • He played 44 Tests for the West Indies, amassing 3104 runs with seven centuries and 16 fifties at an average of 43.
  • He is best remembered for his knocks in England -- his 133 at Lord's in 1963 and 209 in Nottingham in 1966.

Actor Shriram Lagoo Passes Away

  • Actor and theatre personality Shriram Lagoo passed away at a private hospital in Pune. He was 92.
  • Shriram Lagoo, who was also an ENT surgeon and social activist, made his silver screen debut with Hindi film Aahat – Ek Ajib Kahani in 1971. In a career spanning over 40 years, he starred in over 100 movies and 40 plays. He also helmed over 20 Marathi plays.
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International Migrants Day

  • On 18 December 1990, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
  • Each year on December 18, the United Nations, through the UN-related agency International Organization for Migration (UN Migration), uses International Migrants Day to highlight the contributions made by migrants, including internally displaced persons, (IDPs) and the challenges they face.

Minorities Rights Day (India)

  • Minorities Rights Day in India is observed on 18th December every year to remind us about the rights of minorities and to educate people about it.
  • The United Nations, on 18th December 1992, promulgated the "Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities" to discourage the countries to discriminate amongst people worldwide on the basis of religion, language, nationality or ethnicity.
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Varsity Wins Awards

  • SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Kattankulathur received 7 recognitions in a short span of 45 days. The awards are of national and international importance and have added yet another feather to its cap. This QS-IGauge Diamond rated institute has been the recipient of STEM impact award, Green Metric Award, AICTE-CII IndPact Award for Best Industry-linked institution for Electrical Engineering and Allied Institute, University of the Year Award 2019 from FICCI and three Swachhata ranking awards from AICTE.
  • SRMIST is the only privately funded university to receive the STEM impact award, others being IIT Kanpur and two CSIR labs.

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019

  • Author Amitabha Bagchi won DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019, for his novel 'Half the Night is Gone'. It is Bagchi's third novel.
  • The winner for this year's DSC Prize was announced at the IME Nepal Literature Festival in Nepal. Author Amitabha Bagchi was handed over the prize by Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali.
  • DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is a prestigious international literary prize. It is awarded annually to writers of any ethnicity or nationality writing about South Asia themes such as culture, history, people or politics.
  • The DSC Prize is worth US $25,000 and is awarded for novels published in year preceding judging of prize.
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Workplace Gender Equality Years Away

  • According to a report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), while women appear to be gradually closing the gender gap in areas such as politics, health and education, workplace inequality is not expected to be erased until the year 2276.
  • As per WEF, the worldwide gender gap in the workplace had widened further since 2018.
  • The Geneva-based organisation's annual report tracks disparities between the sexes in 153 countries across four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

India Slips on Gender Gap

  • India has slipped four places to rank 112th globally in terms of gender gap amid widening disparity in terms of women's health and survival and economic participation—the two areas where the country is now ranked in the bottom-five.
  • While Iceland remains the world's most gender-neutral country, India moved down the ladder from its 108th position last year on the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report to rank below countries like China (106th), Sri Lanka (102nd), Nepal (101st), Brazil (92nd), Indonesia (85th) and Bangladesh (50th).
  • Yemen is ranked the worst 153rd, while Iraq is 152nd and Pakistan 151st.

Chemotherapy Could Become more Effective

  • In a world first, doctors in the UK are trialling an innovative new way of delivering targeted chemotherapy to cancer tumours, which could improve treatment and lead to fewer side effects for patients.
  • The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust is testing acoustic cluster therapy which uses ultrasound waves and microscopic clusters to pump more chemotherapy drugs into tumours, without attacking nearby healthy cells.
  • Karen Childs is the first patient on the clinical trial and is receiving treatment for a tumour in her liver.
  • It will be some time before the success of the trial can be assessed and many more trials would be needed before it could be used more widely.
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Playhouse Theatre to Reopen After 20 Years

  • A historic Manchester theatre that has stood empty for decades is set to stage its first production in 20 years.
  • The Playhouse Theatre in Hulme was named last year in the Theatres Trust's list of venues "at risk" of demolition or redevelopment.
  • But the Grade II-listed building will reopen with a Christmas production after the space was taken over by community co-operative NIAMOS.
  • Dating back to 1902, it hosted shows by Nina Simone during its heyday.
  • Originally named the Hippodrome, the theatre became the Grand Junction Theatre in 1905, and finally the Playhouse in 1950.
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