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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

03 Feb 2020


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Boris Johnson Sets out vision of UK-EU Trade Deal

  • Boris Johnson is to set out his vision for a trade deal with the European Union, and said that there is no need for the UK to follow Brussels' rules.
  • The Prime Minister will use a speech in London later to call for a Canada-style free trade agreement - and threaten to walk away if one cannot be struck.
  • There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules.
  • But the Irish PM said that the UK needed to agree to a level playing field.
  • Leo Varadkar said that a Canada-style deal with the UK is possible - but that Canada isn't the UK and there is a need for common rules and standards.
  • President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that negotiations will be hard and fair and fast but that the closer the UK wants to be to the bloc, the more of its common rules it will have to abide by.

Republicans Block Impeachment Witnesses

  • The Senate brought President Trump to the brink of acquittal of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress, as Republicans voted to block consideration of new witnesses and documents in his impeachment trial and shut down a final push by Democrats to bolster their case for the President's removal.
  • In a nearly party-line vote after a bitter debate, Democrats failed to win support from the four Republicans they needed. With Mr. Trump's acquittal virtually certain, the President's allies rallied to his defense, though some conceded he was guilty of the central allegations against him.
  • The Democrats' push for more witnesses and documents failed 49 to 51, with only two Republicans, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, joining Democrats in favor. A vote on the verdict is planned in a couple of days.

Russia Questions US Middle East Peace Plan

  • A Middle East peace plan presented by Donald Trump contravenes several United Nations resolutions, Russian news agencies cited a Kremlin spokesman as saying, questioning the plan's feasibility.
  • The Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting the Middle East peace plan put forward by Trump.
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Tiruvallur Shows the Way

  • At a juncture when the Greater Chennai Corporation is trying to find a solution for its garbage disposal issues, the neighbouring Tiruvallur district administration has started testing garbage decomposition equipment to burn its waste and convert it into ash.
  • The ECOMAC Municipal Solid Waste Management Machine was installed on the Gummidipoondi SIPCOT premises, and its operation was inspected by Tiruvallur Collector Maheswari Ravikumar.
  • The equipment runs on magnetic heat technology and uses electricity for the chimney.
  • It can destroy metal cans, scrap, building debris and other forms of garbage. In a day, this machine can handle three tonnes and its residual waste is 10 kg ceramic ash. This can be used for house painting and road asphalting.

Somalia Declares Emergency over Locust Swarms

  • Somalia declared a national emergency as large swarms of locusts spread across east Africa.
  • The country's Ministry of Agriculture said that the insects, which consume large amounts of vegetation, posed a major threat to Somalia's fragile food security situation.
  • There are fears that the situation may not be brought under control before the harvest begins in April.
  • As per the UN, the swarms are the largest in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years.
  • Meanwhile, neighbouring Kenya has not seen a locust threat as severe in 70 years.
  • However, Somalia is the first country in the region to declare an emergency over the infestation.
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Won't Tax Global Income of NRIs

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government has no intention of taxing the global income of non-resident Indians (NRIs), with a proposal announced in the Union budget only covering their earnings generated in India.
  • While presenting the Union budget in Parliament, the Finance Minister proposed to tax those NRIs who neither pay tax in India nor in any other country. It is also proposed to provide that an Indian citizen who is not liable to tax anywhere would be deemed to be resident in India.
  • The Union budget for 2020-21 offered an estimated ₹40,000 crore of tax concessions to individual taxpayers resorting to a budgetary stimulus to revive the economy. It also increased government spending, the second way to deliver a budgetary stimulus, albeit by a modest amount, but with a focus on capital expenditure. The 2020-21 budget comes against the backdrop of the slowest rate of growth in 10 years.

Centrum Raises Rs. 190 crore from MS-run Fund

  • Centrum Housing Finance Ltd. said that a fund managed by Morgan Stanley Private Equity Asia agreed to invest Rs. 190 crore to acquire a significant minority stake in the affordable housing finance company. The investment is the first such external institutional funding in the Mumbai-based lender promoted by Centrum Capital Ltd. The proceeds will be used to expand its operations and enter new geographies.

Oil Firms Prepare for Potential Investments

  • Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) are preparing to receive investments from Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) even as the state-run oil marketing companies await the Maharashtra government's decision on providing a fresh patch of land for the $70 billion Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd project.
  • IOCL, BPCL and HPCL will invest a total of Rs. 100 crore to complete preliminary work on the project, following which they intend of make a presentation to Aramco and Adnoc. IOCL will put in Rs. 50 crore and BPCL and HPCL will contribute Rs. 25 crore each.
  • With a 60 million tonnes per annum capacity, the Ratnagiri project is a joint venture of Aramco, Adnoc, IOCL, BPCL and HPCL. Aramco and Adnoc are expected to jointly own 50% of the refinery, with the remainder split between the three Indian oil companies.
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Solar Orbiter Completes Preparation for Launch

  • Europe's grand mission to understand the detailed workings of the Sun is ready for launch.
  • Solar Obiter has been enclosed in its protective cover and mounted atop the rocket that will hurl the satellite towards our star next weekend.
  • SolO, for short, is a €1.5bn (£1.3bn) project of the European Space Agency (ESA) with a big input from the US.
  • Its goal is to help scientists better understand what drives the Sun's dynamic behaviour.
  • Lift-off is currently scheduled for 9th February, 2020.
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India Pulls Off a rare T20I Series Whitewash

  • In a rare feat, the Indian cricket team registered a 5-0 series whitewash against New Zealand with a seven-run win in the fifth and final T20 International at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
  • The tourists choked the Black Caps yet again to turn it around for a victory and a series clean sweep in the shortest format after setting a 164-run target for the hosts to chase.
  • This is only the third time that India has whitewashed opponents in away T20 series and the first time in a five-match series. India had blanked the West Indies 3-0 in 2019 and beat Australia 3-0 in 2016.

Djokovic Wins Eighth Australian Crown

  • Novak Djokovic endured a fierce challenge to his Melbourne Park reign before overhauling Dominic Thiem 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 in a thriller to clinch an eighth Australian Open crown and reclaim the world number one ranking.

NADA Apologises after Goof-up in Wrestler's Doping Case

  • The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) apologised for wrongly attributing a wrestler caught for doping as a U-23 World Championships medallist.
  • Wrestler Ravinder Kumar was banned for four years for failing a dope test, but the NADA created confusion by identifying him as a World U-23 silver medallist which was not the case.
  • It was Ravinder Dahiya — not Ravinder Kumar — who had won a silver medal in the U-23 World Championships last year. Ravinder Dahiya said that he had not been tested by the NADA.
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Major Reshuffle of IAS Officers

  • In the first major reshuffle of IAS officers in the present term of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi government as many as 65 top bureaucrats have been transferred at one go. As many as 51 officers were given new postings in the process.

Congress Manifesto for Delhi Assembly Elections

  • The Congress released its manifesto for the Delhi assembly elections, focussing on environment and transport. The party promises 300 units of free electricity and free water up to 20,000 litres.
  • Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra said that the party will also move the Supreme Court against the implementation of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register, if voted to power. They also pledged to regularise all unauthorised colonies in Delhi.
  • After ruling the national capital for three terms, between 1998 to 2013, the Congress did not win a seat in the 2015 assembly polls.

E-visas for Chinese Residents Put on Hold

  • India temporarily suspended e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners residing in China in view of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 300 people, infected over 14,000 others and spread to 25 countries.
  • This applies to holders of Chinese passports and applicants of other nationalities residing in the People's Republic of China. Holders of already issued e-visas may note that these are no longer valid. All those who have a compelling reason to visit India may contact the Embassy of India in Beijing or Indian consulates in Shanghai or Guangzhou, as well as the Indian Visa Application Centres in these cities.
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Russia's Modernised Tu-160M Strategic Bomber Performs 1st Test Flight

  • According to Russian aerospace and defence company Tupolev, Russia's modernised Tu-160M strategic bomber performed its 1st test flight
  • The first flight of the first deeply modernised Tu-160M prototype bomber based on the Tu-160 combat aircraft took place at the KAZ airfield named after S. P. Gorbunov, a branch of PJSC Tupolev.
  • During the flight, the necessary checks were performed on updated systems and equipment installed as part of the deep modernisation of the aircraft. According to the crew, the flight went as normal, the systems and equipment worked without any remarks. Tu-160M features an onboard defence system, an advanced communications system, new engines and weaponry that significantly expand the bomber's performance and strike capabilities.

Russia's 'Viking' Air Defence System to Be Shown in India at Defence Expo

  • DefExpo India 2020 is set to kick off on February 5 and run until February 8, 2020 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, with over 1,000 companies from nearly 70 countries expected to participate. Models of the new Muk-M3 'Viking' anti-aircraft missile system will be displayed at the upcoming DefExpo India 2020 exhibition.
  • Within the framework of DefExpo India 2020, the company will present 1:3 scale models of the Viking air defence system for the first time ever in India, including the 9M317ME anti-aircraft guided missile.
  • In addition, the company will present other offerings, including the S-400 Triumf, the S-300VM Antey-2500, several variants of the Tor missile system, the S-300 Reef ship-based anti-missile system, the shipborne Shtil-1 multi-channel air defence system, and the Tunguska mobile tracked self-propelled anti-aircraft system, along with the Club-S and Club-N cruise missiles (the latter are export variants of the Kalibr).

IAI to Unveil New Long-endurance Heron MK II UAV

  • Israel Aerospace Industries will unveil its latest multi-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, Heron MK II, at the Singapore Airshow next month. Using the most advanced technologies developed by IAI to date, the Heron MK II is a strategic and versatile aircraft capable of carrying diverse payloads. Fitted with a Rotax 915 iS engine, the Heron MK II can reach an altitude of 10668 m., a maximum speed of 140 knots and can remain in the air for 45 consecutive hours.
  • The Heron MK II is an updated model of the Heron UAV, which is used by the Israel Air Force and is operational with over 20 other organizations around the world. With larger and improved sensors, the standout feature of the Heron MK II is its standoff capability, gathering intelligence from tens of kilometers away from enemy fire and without crossing borders.
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Jaswant Singh Passes Away

  • Eminent Punjabi writer and Sahitya Akademi Awardee Jaswant Singh Kanwal died in his native village in Moga district.
  • The prominent Punjabi novelist, essayist and short-story writer had left school when he was a teenager and went to Malaya (present-day Malaysia), where he got interested in literature.
  • In 1996, he was bestowed the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship award for his book ''Pakhi'' (Hand Fan) and two years later in 1998, he received the Sahitya Akademi award for his novel ''Taushali Di Hanso''.
  • He received the Sahitya Shiromani Award of the Punjab government in 2007 and the following year, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, conferred on Kanwal the degree of Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) for his contribution to Punjabi literature.

WeWork Appoints Sandeep Mathrani as CEO

  • Collaborative workspace start-up WeWork appointed Sandeep Mathrani as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and board member.
  • This comes against the backdrop of the departure, in September 2019, of co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann and a failed attempt at an initial public offering.
  • Mathrani succeeded co-CEOs Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham, both of whom helped stabilise WeWork over the past few months. Minson and Gunningham would remain with the company through a transition period to ensure a smooth on boarding process.
  • SoftBank Corp. funded WeWork, which is on the path of reorganisation after a spate of events in 2019, said Mathrani will join on February 18, 2020 and report to Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure.
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Bafta Film Awards 2020

  • World War One film '1917' was the big winner at the Bafta Film Awards, with seven prizes in total.
  • The trophies for Sir Sam Mendes's movie included best film, best British film, best director and best cinematography.
  • Joker won three awards including best actor for Joaquin Phoenix, while Renee Zellweger was named best actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland.
  • Phoenix took aim at "systemic racism" and "oppression" within the film industry in his acceptance speech.
  • His words, and those of the Duke of Cambridge later, came in the wake of a diversity row prompted by the all-white line-up of acting nominees.
  • South Korean film Parasite won two prizes - for original screenplay and film not in the English language.
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Govt. Drafts All India Judicial Services Plan

  • The government has prepared an outline of the proposed All India Judicial Services (AIJS) as it plans to engage the judiciary to assuage the latter's concern that the new selection mechanism will dilute the institution's authority in selecting judges for state judicial services.
  • According to the proposed outline, the outline includes the procedure and career progression of those who qualify an entrance exam to join the AIJS. A lawyer with seven-year practice or someone engaged in teaching at a recognised law college or university for the same time would qualify to take the exam. A candidate is expected to be aged between 28 and 35 to be eligible for the test.
  • The new proposal outline is an improvement over the old one with nuanced modifications as would be appropriate to maintain the independence of the judiciary. It would fast track career progression and provide a possibility for working both at the HC [High Court] and federal level. The AIJS would have a foolproof examination process.
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Thailand Medicine Cocktail Sees Apparent Success

  • According to Thailand's health ministry, a Chinese woman infected with the new coronavirus showed a dramatic improvement after she was treated with a cocktail of anti-virals used to treat flu and HIV.
  • As per doctor Kriengsak Attipornwanich, the 71-year-old patient tested negative for the virus 48 hours after Thai doctors administered the combination.
  • The doctors combined the anti-flu drug oseltamivir with lopinavir and ritonavir, anti-virals used to treat HIV.

Number of Girls in Higher Education Exceeds Boys for the First Time

  • President Ram Nath Kovind said that in a first, the number of girls admitted to higher education institutes exceeded that of boys.
  • More than Rs. 37,000 crore has been sanctioned for modernisation of 75 educational institutions in the country through the Higher Education Funding Agency.
  • Government initiated action for appointment of about 7,000 teachers in Kendriya Vidyalayas and 12,000 teachers in higher education institutions. 'Swayam2' has also been introduced by the government to strengthen the online education system.

CBSE Starts Psychological Counselling for Students

  • The CBSE has started provide psychological counselling to Class 10 and 12 students and their parents on how to deal with anxiety and stress due to exams.
  • The 23rd edition of the counselling programme would also use social media platforms to connect with the students in a proactive way.
  • The psychological counselling is from February 1, 2020 when the students prepare for exams, and will continue up to March 30 when they appear for exams.
  • The counselling is available free of cost through IVRS and telephone.
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Budget Carrier Air Asia Denies Allegations of Bribery

  • Asia's biggest budget airline denied allegations it was paid a bribe of $50m (£38m) by plane maker Airbus.
  • AirAsia vigorously rejected claims that it was paid to buy 180 planes from the European manufacturer.
  • The allegations have surfaced after Airbus agreed to pay $4bn in fines to settle accusations of corruption.
  • European plane maker Airbus had agreed a settlement with French, British and US authorities following lengthy investigations into allegations that it bribed airlines to purchase its planes.
  • AirAsia has said that it will fully cooperate with Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission, which is working alongside Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probing the claims.
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