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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

24 Dec 2019


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UK Announces Plan to Fast-track Visas

  • The Boris Johnson government announced the expansion of the list of UK-based fellowships whose international holders such as scientists and experts will be extended by a fast-track visa process, so that they can begin work as soon as possible.
  • This is one of the measures the Johnson government is taking in the near year to attract professionals and experts needed in the country, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union on January 31.

Algeria Army Chief Dies

  • Algeria's powerful army Chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah died. Gaid Salah was seen as Algeria's de facto strongman following the April resignation of long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the face of massive protests. The army chief played a key role pushing through December 12 presidential elections in the face of stiff opposition from the street.

France Carries Out First Drone Strike in Mali

  • France's defence ministry announced that it had carried out its first armed drone strike, killing seven Islamic extremists in central Mali over the weekend. France joins a tiny group of countries that use armed drones, including the US. The drone strike targeted jihadists in the Ouagadou forest, where the Macina Liberation Front group is active. French commandos were attacked by a group of terrorists who infiltrated on motorcycles.
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Waste-to-energy Plant Gets Approval

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) ruled in favour of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram's (MCG's) proposed waste-to-energy (WTE) plant in the Aravallis, at the Bandhwari landfill site, 17 km from the city.
  • The Tribunal said that it was unable to interfere with the grant of environmental clearance for the waste processing facility. Environmentalists, however, criticised the ruling saying it would be an ecological disaster.
  • The Tribunal was of the view that there is a huge waste dump site which cannot be left unattended and such waste has to be processed and removed" and this necessitated the plant to be set up.

Turkey Approves Environmental Impact Assessment for Canal Istanbul

  • The Turkish Environment and Urbanisation Ministry has announced the final approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the planned Canal Istanbul project. Canal Istanbul is a mega-infrastructure project involving the construction of a 45-kilometer shipping canal in Istanbul parallel to the Bosphorus Strait.
  • Known as the "crazy project," Canal Istanbul has been on the government's agenda since 2011, but its realisation has been delayed several times due to financial problems and environmental concerns.
  • With the Canal Istanbul, the government is aiming at opening an artificial seaway between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea in order to mitigate the oil tanker traffic through the Bosphorus as well as constructing new earthquake-resistant residential areas along the channel.
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Merger of Bharti Infratel and Indus Hangs in Balance

  • The merger of Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers, pegged to create the world's second-largest tower company, hangs in the balance with the companies awaiting a key government approval on foreign direct investment.
  • The board of Bharti Infratel, a unit of Bharti Airtel Ltd, will meet and is likely to decide on a second extension for the current long stop date so that the companies can secure the approval and complete their merger announced in April 2018.
  • The merger is crucial as it will help loss-making Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, the promoters of Indus Towers, sell stake to raise funds in the competitive telecom sector, especially at a time when they have to pay huge dues to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) after an unfavourable court verdict in October. Bharti Airtel has set aside Rs. 34,260 crore and Vodafone Idea has made provisions for Rs. 25,677.9 crore in the September quarter after the Supreme Court upheld the government's definition of revenue based on which telecom firms pay levies.

Govt. Refuses to Share Details of Swiss Bank Accounts

  • The Finance Ministry declined to share Swiss Bank accounts details of Indians saying it is covered under confidentiality provisions of a tax treaty signed between India and Switzerland.
  • In reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query, the ministry also refused to disclose the details of black money received from other foreign countries.
  • Information exchanged under such tax agreements is covered under confidentiality provisions of respective agreements. Thus, disclosure of tax related information and information sought/obtained from foreign governments is exempted under section 8 (1) (a) and 8 (1) (f) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Aadhaar to be Made Mandatory for GST

  • With 66.79 lakh new dealers registered under the Goods and Service Tax contributing just 15% of the total revenue under the tax regime, the GST Network has decided to make Aadhaar authentication or physical verification mandatory for new dealers from January 1, 2020, to check malpractices.
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Bumrah Back, Rohit and Shami Take Breaks

  • A fit again Jasprit Bumrah will headline India's pace attack in the limited overs series against Sri Lanka (T20) and Australia (ODIs) in January while vice-captain Rohit Sharma was rested from the series versus the islanders.
  • Senior opener Shikhar Dhawan is also back in both the squads while pacer Mohammed Shami got a break from the T20 series.
  • India will take on Sri Lanka in three T20Is from January 5 followed by three ODIs against Australia from January 14.

Best Paid Sports Team in the World

  • Barcelona have retained their position as the world's best paid professional sports team while NBA sides took seven out of the top 10 places this year, a study by research body Sporting Intelligence has revealed. Data from the annual Global Sports Salary Survey shows the average basic pay at the Spanish giants this season is 9.8 million pounds, dipping slightly from last year's 10.5 million pounds. Barcelona holding onto top spot is largely down to Argentina forward Lionel Messi's gross basic annual pay of more than 50 million pounds including guaranteed image rights fees. Real Madrid are second on the list with an average basic pay of around 8.9 million pounds while Serie A champions Juventus—who signed Messi's great rival Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018—are third.

Dhoni Completes 15 Years in International Cricket

  • Two-time World Cup-winning former India captain M.S. Dhoni completed 15 years in international cricket, a milestone that has come at a time when he is on a sabbatical from the game.
  • The dasher from Ranchi, who made his debut against Bangladesh under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy in 2004, has been one of country's most impactful cricketers with 17,266 runs across all formats for India.
  • The wicket-keeper turned up for the country in 350 ODIs, 90 Tests and 98 T20 Internationals while affecting a staggering 829 dismissals behind the stumps.
  • His career is studded with several milestones including leading India to victory in the 2011 World Cup where finished the match with a six to help the 'Men in Blue' lift the coveted trophy.
  • Under Dhoni India transformed into one of the most successful limited-overs sides in world cricket and he is the only Indian captain to have won all the three major ICC trophies―the World Cup in 2011, the T20 World Cup in 2007, the Champions Trophy in 2013. He also led Team India to the number one spot in ICC Rankings in Test and ODIs.
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Hemant Set for Second Term

  • Hemant Soren, who led the charge from the front in the JMM-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) alliance, is set to become the state's Chief Minister for the second time. He addressed 182 rallies, public meetings and road shows in a span of 40 days, adding firepower to the Opposition's campaign in polling spread over five phases and about three weeks.
  • He competed with the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) star campaigners, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The PM campaigned in both the seats Soren contested, Dumka and Barhait; the JMM leader won both.

Surge in Tribal Support Key to Victory for JMM-led Alliance

  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 25 assembly constituencies (ACs) in Jharkhand, 12 less than what it won in the 2014 assembly elections, which it contested in an alliance with the All Jharkhand Students' Union Party (AJSU). The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance, which also includes the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), won 47 ACs, 22 more than what these parties won in 2014.
  • An analysis by regions shows that the biggest reason for the BJP's political reversal is a surge in support for the JMM alliance in Scheduled Tribe (ST) dominated regions of the state.

Cabinet Likely to Consider Funding Update of NPR

  • The Union Cabinet is likely to consider a proposal to allocate funds for updating the National Population Register (NPR), an exercise which is to commence from April 2020.
  • The proposal is a part of the agenda of the cabinet meeting.
  • The NPR is a list of "usual residents" of the country. A "usual resident" is defined, for the purposes of NPR, as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more.
  • The data for NPR was collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of Census of India 2011.
  • The update of this data was done during 2015 by conducting door-to-door survey. The digitisation of the updated information has been completed. It has been decided to update the NPR along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021 during April to September 2020 in all the states/UTs except Assam, according to the website of the Office of the registrar general, and census commissioner.
  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
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Army Tech Seminar 'ARTECH 2019' for 'Make in India' Defence Industry Begins in Delhi

  • ARTECH Seminar was launched in 2016 as part of overall vision of 'Make in India' and is conducted every year as a part of events leading up to Army Day celebrations. The seminar is the flagship event of Indian Army which sets the agenda for focus areas of harvesting indigenous capabilities in the defence sector.
  • The ARTECH platform provides an opportunity to practitioners of military operations, policy makers in the Ministry of Defence, industry, and academia to put forth their contemporary Defence related capabilities. It is also a forum for innovators in uniform to showcase their products and offer these to industry to refine & productionise.
  • The 5th edition of ARTECH is organised by Indian Army on 'Technologies for Non-Contact, at Manekshaw Centre, Delhi Cantonment.
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Harsh Vardhan Named Next Foreign Secretary

  • India's ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, was named by the government as the next foreign secretary and he will take over from incumbent Vijay Gokhale in January. Shringla, who took over as the envoy in Washington in January, is a career diplomat who was seen as a frontrunner for the top post for several months.
  • During a diplomatic career spanning 35 years, Shringla has served as the high commissioner to Bangladesh and ambassador in Thailand. He has also headed the UN political and Saarc divisions in the external affairs ministry. A graduate of St Stephen's College in Delhi, Shringla speaks French, Vietnamese and Nepalese and has published papers on conflict prevention, economic diplomacy, and India-Bangladesh relations.
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National Consumers Right Day

  • National Consumers Right Day is observed on 24th December to raise awareness about the rights of consumers and responsibilities. This is the day when the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had received the assent of the President.
  • The aim of the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act is to provide safeguards to the consumers against various types of exploitation like defective goods, deficiency in services and unfair trade practices.
  • Major Objectives
  • 1. To promote and protect the rights of Consumer such as Right to
      • be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
      • be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, as the case may be so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
     • be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
    • be heard and to be assured that consumer's interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
    • seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.
    • to consumer education.
  • 2. To provide speedy and simple redressal to consumer, a quasi - judicial machinery is sought to be set up at the district, State & Central level.

First Annual Meet of State Nodal Agencies for Ecoclub Programme

  • First Annual Meet of State Nodal Agencies for Ecoclub program of the Ministry of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) was held in Gujarat.
  • The Annual Meet of the State Nodal Agencies implements the National Green Corps Ecoclub program of the Ministry of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The Ministry's Environment Education Division organised it in collaboration with the GEER Foundation, Gujarat, held in Kevadia, Gujarat. Senior officers from 22 States and UTs implementing the program, along with about 200 Ecoclub students from Gujarat, participated. An exhibition also showcased the projects, resource material, and handicraft items. It was prepared by the Eco-club students across the States/UTs. The event witnessed a huge footfall, even of other tourists and visitors.
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Tamil Isai Sangam Honours Musicians

  • Violin maestro A. Kanniyakumari was conferred the title 'Isai Peraringnar' and musician A. Balasubramaniya Odhuvar the 'Pann Isai Peraringar' award at the annual Tamil Isai Festival organised by Tamil Isai Sangam.
  • President of Tamil Isai Sangam P. R. Gokulakrishnan and honorary secretary of the Sangam A.C. Muthiah were present on the occasion.

Army Design Bureau Excellence Award

  • Major Anoop Mishra was awarded Army Design Bureau Excellence Award by the Army Chief for indigenously developing Sarvatra bulletproof jacket. The jacket made by Anoop Mishra can provide protection from sniper rifle bullets. The project was launched after there was an increase in the number of sniper incidents in the lines on Line of Control (LoC) and Kashmir valley.
  • Earlier in October, the Indian Army was supplied 40,000 indigenous bulletproof jackets for its troops carrying out anti-terror operations in the Kashmir valley. These bulletproof jackets can withstand hardcore steel ammunition fired from an AK-47 rifle.
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IIT Mandi Celebrates a Successful Decade

  • Indian Institute of Technology Mandi completed 10 years in 2019 since its inception - a decade filled with achievements in R&D, academics, innovation, entrepreneurship and sports.
  • Since the first batch of 97 students enrolled in July 2009, IIT Mandi has grown to currently host 125 faculty and 1,630 students including 262 B-Tech, 102 MSc, 158 M-Tech, 12 M.A, 307 PhD, 57 MS and 19 I-PhD. The ranks of the alumni has grown to 1,135 who make the institute proud.
  • IIT Mandi successfully achieved the target of female enrolment in undergraduate courses by admitting 20.22 per cent female students to B-Tech programme for the Academic Year 2019-20. This compares favorably with the target of 17 per cent set by Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Apex Board Committee for 2019-20.
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Lost Painting to go on Sale after 70 Years

  • A painting by L. S. Lowry that was lost to the art world for more than seven decades was unearthed.
  • The 1943 work, entitled 'The Mill, Pendlebury', depicts workers enjoying a day off and children playing cricket.
  • British art expert Nick Orchard of Christie's auction house in London said that there are no recordsof ti, we simply did not know it exsisted.
  • The painting, which Lowry gave away, is expected to fetch between £700,000 and £1m when it goes on sale next month.
  • It has spent the majority of its life in the US, owned by influential medical researcher Leonard D Hamilton, who died earlier this year.
  • Lowry gave the painting to Mr. Hamilton's parents more than 70 years ago, when the family was living in Manchester.
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Best Books of the Year 2019

  • It has been a great year for books. Below is a small list of BBC Culture's top picks.
  • The Wall by John Lanchester, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell, Phantoms by Christian Kiefer, Phantoms by Christian Kiefer and many more.
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