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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

31 Jan 2020


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EU Eyes 'Association Deal' after Brexit

  • Britain's departure from the European Union was set in law as London returned a signed treaty and EU lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve the Brexit deal.
  • After half a century of sometimes awkward membership, the United Kingdom will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time. Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the 27 EU states staying on together that a loose so-called 'association agreement' like the one the bloc has with Ukraine should serve as the basis for a new relationship with Britain.
  • Barnier met Brussels envoys of the 27 countries as part of preparations for looming talks on a new EU-UK deal that will start after Britain leaves the bloc.

Greek Plans to Stop Migrant Boats with Floating Barriers

  • Greece is planning to install a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea to help stop migrant boats reaching its islands from Turkey.
  • The barrier, possibly made of netting and equipped with flashing lights, will cover 1.7 miles (2.7 km) and rise above water near the Greek island of Lesbos.
  • Migrants trying to reach Europe often travel through Turkey to Greece. Arrivals have proved hard to manage.
  • Many are fleeing violence and persecution in their countries. The majority of arrivals are from Afghanistan and Syria, according to the United Nations.
  • Strikes and protests took place on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios over the government's handling of migrant arrivals.
  • This latest initiative is "aimed at containing the increasing inflows of migrants" on islands such as Lesbos.

MEPs Say Goodbye to Brussels

  • MEPs overwhelmingly backed the terms of the UK's departure from the EU.
  • MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an emotional debate in Brussels.
  • Martina Anderson and Naomi Long made their final speeches in the chamber, while Diane Dodds spoke at an event after the vote.
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Rare Glass Frogs Reappear in Bolivia

  • A rare species of frog native to the eastern slopes of the Bolivian Andes was spotted in the South American country for the first time in 18 years.
  • The Bolivian Cochran frog is notable for its transparent belly, leading to its nickname, the "glass frog".
  • The rediscovery of this species fills with a ray of hope for the future of the glass frogs - one of the most charismatic amphibians in the world.
  • The team came across the frogs earlier this month during a mission to rescue reptiles and amphibians threatened by a hydroelectric project in the Carrasco National Park to the east of Cochabamba, the fourth largest city in Bolivia.
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UrbanClap Renamed Urban Company

  • Home services start-up UrbanClap, which has now expanded to Australia, Singapore and the UAE, announced that it has renamed itself as Urban Company. The new umbrella brand captures the company's ambition to be a horizontal gig marketplace with a global footprint across categories like beauty & wellness and home repairs & maintenance.
  • Urban Company, which was launched in Delhi in November 2014 with a handful of service professionals as UrbanClap, now claims to be India's and the UAE's largest home services company.
  • The startup offers services related to salon, makeup, spa massages, grooming, repairs, cleaning, painting, pest control, etc. It also offers fitness and yoga services at home.

Huawei Pips Apple to be Second Largest Smartphone Brand

  • As per a study by Hong Kong based analytics firm Counterpoint Research, China's top telecom company Huawei surpassed Apple Inc to become the second largest smartphone brand globally in 2019 despite US sanctions. The company shipped 238.5 million handsets in 2019, following close on the heels of world leader Samsung that sold 296.5 million units. Apple was at the third spot, having shipped 196.2 million units last year.
  • The world's most populous country alone accounted for over 60% of Huawei's global shipments.

Govt. Discusses Air India's Sale with Nine Companies

  • Indian officials met with as many as nine companies to gauge interest in a stake sale in the nation's loss-making flag carrier.
  • Officials from the South Asian nation met executives of companies including British Airways parent IAG SA, IndiGo, India's biggest airline that's operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., SpiceJet Ltd. as well as Tata Sons Ltd.
  • A successful sale of Air India Ltd. after a failed attempt in 2018 is crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help bridge a widening fiscal deficit exacerbated by dismal tax collections and a $20 billion corporate tax cut. Air India, which started as Tata Airlines in 1932 and later acquired by the government, hasn't made money since 2007. The airline posted a loss of $1.2 billion last year -- its highest ever -- and has $8.4 billion in total debt.
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Australian Open 2020

  • The Indian challenge at the Australian Open ended after Rohan Bopanna and his Ukrainian partner Nadiia Kichenok were knocked out in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles event.
  • The Indo-Ukrainian pair went down 0-6 2-6 to fifth seed Croatian-Czech pair Nikola Mektic and Barbora Krejcikova.
  • Garbine Muguruza prevailed 7-6(8) 7-5 against world number three Simona Halep to reach her first Australian Open final. The unseeded Spaniard arrived at Melbourne Park with low expectations but will now face American 14th seed Sofia Kenin bidding to win her third major title.
  • Novak Djokovic continued his winning streak against Roger Federer with a straight sets victory in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
  • This will be Djokovic's 8th final appearance at the Australian Open.

Brazil World Cup winner Lucio Bids Adieu to Football

  • Brazil World Cup winner Lucio announced his retirement from football after a professional career spanning 22 years.
  • The 41-year-old centre-back said that the decision was born out of a desire to spend more time with his family, though he hopes to remain involved in football.
  • Lucio, who earned 105 Brazil caps, was a key member of the Ronaldo-inspired side that won the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. He captained the Selecao from 2006 to 2011.
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Thakur and Verma Get EC's Campaign Ban

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) imposed a 72-hour ban on Union minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur and a 96-hour ban on BJP parliamentarian Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma from campaigning for February 8 assembly polls in Delhi for making undesirable and objectionable statements at election rallies.
  • In a related development, ECI also issued fresh notice to Verma for allegedly calling Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a terrorist.

Trinamool Congress Offers Support to AAP

  • The ruling party in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress, has offered its support to Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi elections, scheduled for February 8, 2020.
  • Trinamool Congress, in the past, had fielded candidates in Delhi for the Lok Sabha polls but suffered defeats by huge margins. Trinamool Congress's show of solidarity towards the AAP is seen as a reflection of the rapport between Kejriwal and Trinamool Congress chief, Mamata Banerjee. It also underlines the Trinamool Congress's willingness to stitch a combination of Opposition forces against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Chhattisgarh Cabinet Okays Anti-CAA Resolution

  • The Cabinet in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh approved a resolution that will be passed during the state assembly's budget session in March against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, which has triggered protests across the country, according to a press release issued by the state government.
  • Four states have so far passed assembly resolutions against the CAA. Opponents of the law insist it is discriminatory and unconstitutional as it leaves out the Muslims and links faith to citizenship in a secular country.
  • The Chhattisgarh resolution asks the Centre to repeal the CAA while insisting it is "against the spirit" of the Constitution.
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Database for Real-Time Information on Terror Soon

  • A master database of 21 databases designed to provide real-time information to fight terror and crime will be rolled out by the end of March. The database or the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) involves data including that related to credit and debit cards, tax, telecom, immigration, airlines and railway tickets, passports, driving licenses. It will be available for nine central agencies including the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, the Enforcement Directorate and Department of Revenue Intelligence.
  • The NATGRID will service only those agencies cleared by the Union Cabinet. State police forces will not be able to access the database initially.
  • The second phase of the database will involve big data analysis for generating alerts for agencies. It is expected to be rolled out by the end of 2020.
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Kartik Sharma Joins Omnicom Media Group as India CEO

  • Kartik Sharma, former South Asia CEO of GroupM-owned media agency Wavemaker, was appointed as Omnicom Media Group's chief executive for India operations.
  • In his new role, Sharma will work closely with Priti Murthy, chief executive of OMD India, and Jyoti Bansal chief executive of PHD Media India, on chartering the continued growth of the agency brands in India.
  • OMD India and PHD Media India are a part of the larger Omnicom Media Group.

Rahul Bajaj to Step Down from Executive Role

  • Bajaj Auto's long serving Chairman Rahul Bajaj will step down from executive role to become a non-executive director while continuing to hold his current position.
  • Bajaj, who has been a director of the company since April 1, 1970, was last reappointed by the board for a five-year term with effect from April 1, 2015, and his term as executive chairman is expiring on March 31, 2020.
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Bengaluru Hosts Transporters Meet

  • Transporters Meet, an event for the transporter sector, organised by BusinessLine in association with Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) and Mahindra Small Commercial Vehicles, was held in Bengaluru.
  • This one-of-its-kind event brings together various stakeholders involved in the transport sector to discuss issues, share best practices and suggest solutions to the problems faced by them.
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Calcutta University Awards Doctor of Letters Degree to Abhijit Banerjee

  • Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee was conferred the honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) by his alma mater Calcutta University at its annual conference in Kolkata.
  • Eminent astrophysicist J. V. Narlikar was conferred by Sir Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Medal. Scientists Samir K Brahmachari, Arup Kumar Raychaudhuri, and Partha Pratim Majumder were bestowed the Sir Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray Medal.
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Cabinet Approves Bill to Raise Upper Limit for Abortions

  • The Union cabinet approved a bill that proposes to permit the termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks from the existing 20 weeks. The bill will be introduced in the ensuing budget session of Parliament.
  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 aims to expand access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds. The proposed amendments include substitution of certain sub-sections and insertion of certain new clauses under some sections in the existing Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, with a view to increase the upper gestation limit for termination of pregnancy under certain conditions and to strengthen access to comprehensive abortion care, under strict conditions, without compromising service and quality of safe abortion.
  • Other amendments proposed in the bill are the requirements for opinion of one doctor for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation, and introducing the requirement of opinion of two doctors for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.

TN Chief Minister Announces New Business-friendly Measures

  • The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami unveiled industry-friendly measures to improve the ease of doing business and attract investments.
  • At the 125th celebration of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), he announced a 'Direct CTO scheme for green industries' to relax the process for pre-establishment clearances for green category industries.
  • Under the new scheme, the units just have to apply for consent-to-establish. They don't have to wait till final approvals to start project construction work.
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India's First Case of Coronavirus in Kerala

  • India reported its first case of novel coronavirus infection, with the Union health ministry confirming that a student who came back to Kerala from China's Wuhan tested positive for the infection.
  • Kerala health officials said that the female student is stable and is being closely monitored.
  • Health officials said that isolation wards ready in all hospitals and medical college in the state. The state is on high alert after detection of first case in the country.
  • In all, 806 people are under observation in Kerala.
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Railways Plans Six High-speed Corridors

  • As per railway board chairman V. K. Yadav, six high-speed and semi-high speed corridors will be built to ease up the congestion on the Indian Railways.
  • The detailed project report (DPR) will be prepared within a year.
  • The corridors include the Delhi-Noida-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi (865 km) and the Delhi-Jaipur-Udaipur-Ahmedabad (886 km) sections. These will be constructed to join the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train which is scheduled to be completed by December 2023.
  • Trains can run at a maximum speed of over 300 km/hr on a high-speed corridor, while on a semi-high speed corridor, the maximum speed can go beyond 160 km/hour.
  • The other corridors also include sections along the Mumbai-Nashik-Nagpur (753 km), Mumbai-Pune-Hyderabad (711 km), Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore (435 km) and Delhi-Chandigarh-Ludhiana-Jalandhar-Amritsar (459 km) corridors.
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