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General Awareness

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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

10 Feb 2020


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Syrian Army Overruns Strategic Town in Idlib

  • The Syrian army took control of a strategic northwestern crossroads town, its latest gain in a weeks-long offensive against the country's last major rebel bastion of Idlib.
  • The advance on Saraqeb came shortly after Turkey sent additional troops into the region and threatened to respond if any of its military observation posts in Idlib, set up under a 2018 truce, come under attack.
  • Since December 2019, government forces have pressed a blistering assault against the Idlib region with Russian support, retaking town after town despite warnings from rebel ally Turkey to back off.

Israel Mapping West Bank Annexations

  • Israel has begun to draw up maps of land in the occupied West Bank that will be annexed in accordance with US President Donald Trump's proposed peace plan.
  • Netanyahu said that the area would include all Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley - territory Israel has kept under military occupation since its capture in the 1967 Middle East war but which Palestinians want in a future state.
  • "The only map that can be accepted as the map of Palestine is the map of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Prospects for annexations, which have already been widely condemned, are unclear.
  • Israel will hold a national election next month and Netanyahu, who is facing criminal corruption charges, is hoping to win a fifth term in office.
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Antarctica Sets Record High Temperature

  • Antarctica, the coldest, windiest and driest continent on Earth, set a record high temperature, underscoring the global warming trend.
  • Esperanza, Argentina's research station on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, reached 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18.2 degrees Celsius, breaking the previous record of 63.5 degrees set on March 24, 2015. The station has been recording temperatures since 1961.
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Cipla Buys Four Key Wanbury Brands

  • As per reports, Wanbury received up to Rs. 88.60 crore for the sale of the brands to Cipla.
  • Drug firm Cipla acquired four brands from Wanbury Ltd. 
  • Cipla acquired the four brands, namely CPink, CDense, Productiv and Folinine to further strengthen its presence in the women's health segment.

IRDAI Revises Stewardship Code for Insurers

  • Insurance regulator IRDAI came up with revised guidelines on the Stewardship Code for Insurers, or the set of guidelines for insurance firms on their engagement with companies in which they have invested.
  • All the insurers need to review and update their existing stewardship within three months. The revised guidelines among other aspects, favoured an oversight role for the insurance companies in the investee firms.
  • Setting a three-month deadline for the insurers to update their stewardship policy and get the same approved by their board of directors, IRDAI sought to highlight how insurance companies ought to have an active role in the general meetings of investee companies and engage with the management to improve governance.

Covea in Talks with Exor for $9 bn Deal

French insurer Covea is in advanced talks with the Agnelli family's Exor NV to buy the Italian company's reinsurance business PartnerRe for about $9 billion in cash. Covea approached Exor with an offer for the Bermuda-based reinsurer and is holding exclusive talks with the holding company that also controls Fiat Chrysler NV and Ferrari NV. Exor, led by the Agnelli scion John Elkann—who is also chairman of Fiat and Ferrari—bought PartnerRe for $6.9 billion in 2015 to diversify its assets.
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Satellite Fails to Reach Orbit

  • As per reports, Iran launched a domestically made satellite but it failed to reach orbit.
  • It was launched with success and we have reached most our aims, but the "Zafar" satellite did not reach orbit as planned.
  • The launch was the latest in a programme which the United States says helps Tehran advance its ballistic missile technology. 
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Naseem Youngest Player to Take Test Hat-trick

  • Pakistan's 16-year-old paceman Naseem Shah became the youngest player to take a hat-trick in Test cricket. Naseem dismissed the Bangladesh trio of Najmul Hossain, Taijul Islam and Mahmudullah in the first Test at Rawalpindi.
  • In December 2019, Naseem bowled Pakistan to victory against Sri Lanka, sealing his country's first home Test series win since 2006 and becoming the second youngest player to take five wickets in a Test innings.

ICC U19 WC 2020

Bangladesh cricket team clinched its maiden ICC Under-19 World Cup title after beating favourites India by three wickets in the summit clash at JB Marks Oval, Potchefstroom. Set a revised target of 170 after a brief rain interruption, Bangladesh won the match with 23 balls to spare. Sent in to bat, India's batting wilted under pressure as a superb Bangladesh bowling attack shot the defending champions out for a paltry 177 in 47.2 overs. Yashasvi Jaiswal scored 400 runs in the Under-19 World Cup 2020 including a valiant 88 in the final. Even as India lost to Bangladesh in a close Under-19 World Cup final, Yashasvi Jaiswal stood out once again and was adjudged the man of the tournament.

Duplantis Soars to World Record

  • World silver medallist Mondo Duplantis who soared to a pole vault world record 6.17 metres can reach even higher heights, said Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, whose mark the Swede shattered by a centimetre.
  • European champion Duplantis, the 20-year-old from Sweden, realised his lifetime dream with his record topping clearance at a meet in Torun, Poland.
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Cong, 2 NDA Allies Don't Agree with SC's Quota Ruling

  • Two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) allies, the Lok Janshakti Party and the Janata Dal (United), and the Congress expressed their disagreement with the Supreme Court's ruling that the government is not bound to provide reservation for appointments and promotions to public posts.
  • The Congress alleged that rights of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are not secure under the BJP. The LJP and JD(U), constituents of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), sought immediate measures to ensure the reservation benefits remain unchanged. 

Pension Cost Cut Top on Military Agenda

  • Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs are in intensive discussions on reducing the burgeoning pension cost to the exchequer by gradually increasing the retirement age of some non-combatants, prioritising hardware purchases and generating internal resources for military housing in cantonments.
  • With the military pension budget mounting to Rs. 1.33 lakh crore, or 0.5% of gross domestic product, in fiscal 2020-21, from Rs. 41,000 crore in 2010, and Rs. 6-7,000 crore of expense looming in June for the equalisation of pension under the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme, Gen Rawat is learnt to be in favour of increasing the retirement age of certain classes of non-combatants and medical staff to 58 years from 39 to cut the bill.
  • In 2019-2020, the pension bill amounted to Rs. 1.13 lakh crore.
  • Although the military top brass is still to come to terms with the proposal on concerns that it will lead to a greying force, Gen Rawat's move could entail a longer stint in service for around 400,000 non-combatants, saving around ~4,000 crore in pension cost. The plan includes retiring 60 non-combatants in each of the 450 infantry battalions at the age of 58 and the same applies to armoured regiments. The increase in the retirement age to 58 is expected to be gradual.

Women's Turnout in Delhi Polls Drops

  • As the overall voter turnout in Delhi's assembly polls dropped by five percentage points in comparison to the 2015 assembly polls, the turnout of women voters showed an almost equivalent drop.
  • While the women's voters' turnout was 66.50% in 2015, the state poll body said that 62.55% women voted in the elections, a drop of 3.95 percentage points.
  • There has been an overall drop in voting turnout. So, an almost 4% drop in women's turnout should not be seen as alarming, since it goes along with the overall drop in turnout.
  • The Delhi electoral roll has 6,680,277 female and 8,105,236 male voters.
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Iran Unveils New Missile Tech

  • Iran's Revolutionary Guard unveiled a new ballistic missile, amid heightened tensions with the United States.
  • Iran routinely unveils what it describes as technological advances for its armed forces ahead of the February anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The missile, called Raad-500, or thunder, had half the weight of a similar ballistic missile, Fateh-110, but had 200 kilometres more range. The fourth generation of Fateh-110 has 300 km range.
  • The Guard also unveiled a new missile engine that uses solid fuel and a satellite carrier that has "movable nozzle technology". The technology increases a missile's accuracy in hitting targets.

Russia to Deliver two Project 11356 Frigates to India in First Half of 2024

India will get two Project 11356 frigates under construction at the Yantar Shipyard on the Baltic coast by the end of the first half of 2024, Russia's Federal Service for Technical and Military Cooperation told TASS at the DefExpo international arms show in India on Thursday. "In accordance with the existing work schedule agreed by the sides, the Project 11356 frigates under construction at the Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad are due to be delivered to the Indian Navy by the end of the first half of 2024.

Bharat Electronics and Tech Mahindra Collaborate to Build Digital Aerospace & Defence Products

State-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and software provider, Tech Mahindra announced a partnership to design and build digital solutions for aerospace and defense applications. The companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at DefExpo India 2020, Lucknow, to jointly develop solutions in the field of defence products and systems for the armed forces with the use of latest technologies in Aerospace and Defence (A&D) Engineering Services, 5G and cyber security.
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RSS Ideologue Parameswaran Dies

  • Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue P. Parameswaran died in Mayannur in Kerala's Palakkad district. A thinker, writer, orator and institution-builder, Paramaeswaran was also the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri awards, India's second and fourth highest civilian honours . He was 93 years old.
  • He was secretary of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the precursor to the Bharatiya Janata Party, in 1967 and vice- president in 1971, but moved away from politics. A freedom fighter, he spent 16 months in jail during Indira Gandhi's emergency rule in the 1970s.

Writer Giriraj Kishore Passes Away

  • Veteran writer and academician Giriraj Kishore passed away at his residence following a prolonged illness. He was 82-years-old.
  • A Padma Shri awardee, Giriraj had written 'Pahla Girmitiya'. Through works like 'Dhaai Ghar' and 'Pahla Girmitiyaa', he had enriched the literature world. He was honoured with Sahitya Samman as well. Giriraj was born in Muzaffarnagar in 1937. His father was a 'zamindar' (landlord), but because of his socialist principles and lack of interest in the zamindari system, he left home at a young age and became a Gandhian.
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National Deworming Day

  • The National Deworming Day (NDD) is observed across the country on February 10. Children and adolescents in the age group of 1-19 years are administered single dose of a safe medicine Albendazole in all states and Union Territories on the occasion.
  • Organised by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the objective of the day is to deworm children and adolescents to reduce the prevalence of parasitic worms in the intestine. It ensures that the worms are no longer a public health problem.
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Oscars 2020

  • "Parasite" took home the top prize at the 92nd Academy Awards. It is the first non-English language film to win the best picture award.
  • The movie was considered an underdog headed into the ceremony, beating out strong competition from "1917" and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" for the best picture win.
  • The film also won the award for best international feature, best director and best original screenplay. It is South Korea's first nominated film.
  •  "Parasite" has become a bit of a breakout hit in the U.S. and had gained momentum heading. The film won prizes from the Writers Guild of America, Independent Spirit Awards and BAFTAs.
  • Director Bong Joon Ho's win in the achievement in directing category was an upset as "1917′s" Sam Mendes was the favorite to win after securing the Golden Globe and Directors Guild awards for best director.
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Tughlaq-era Mosque Set to Get a Facelift

  • xTucked away in a quiet corner of Sri Aurobindo Road in South Delhi, is a large rubble-built mosque that gives the surrounding village its name. The Begampur mosque, with its striking row of domes, had recently been damaged when a part of a dome came crashing down in January. Following the incident, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to take up this Tughlaq-era mosque for conservation, which is scheduled to begin very soon.
  • The immediate plan is to strengthen parts of the domes and roof that are in poor condition. But we are also making a long-term conservation plan, which will be carried out over two or three years. During this period, we will focus on restoring the domes, flooring, and also ensure encroachments are prohibited," said Gunjan Srivastava, superintending archaeologist, ASI (Delhi circle).
  • The Begampur mosque is one of the seven built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, who was 14th century ruler Feroze Shah Tughlaq's prime minister. The structure, which rises from a high plinth, consists of a large courtyard, enclosed by arched cloisters on the sides and a three-aisle deep prayer hall. The façade of the prayer hall is broken by 24 arched openings.
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World's Fastest Growing Tourist Destinations

  • Overseas trips hit 1.5 billion in 2019, up four per cent from 2018, according to the latest statistics from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
  • France remained the most-visited country with more than 90 million visitors, followed by Spain's 83.8 million.
  • But the most interesting stats related to the countries that saw the highest jump in visitor numbers year-on-year.
  • Top of the pack was Myanmar, which saw a 40.2 per cent per cent increase in visitors, followed by Puerto Rico (31.2 per cent) and Iran (27.9 per cent), although this last is likely to suffer a drop in 2020 given the current political climate.
  • Other trends saw central Asia increase in popularity, with Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan all in the top 20 fastest growing destinations.
  • Winter sun destinations previously hit by terror attacks also saw a comeback last year, with Egypt seeing a 21.1 per cent increase in visitor numbers, Turkey a 14 per cent rise, and Tunisia up 13.6 per cent.

UDAN Heli Services To Connect Dehradun With Badrinath, Gangotri

  • Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) operationalized the first-ever helicopter services from Dehradun's Sahastradhara helipad to Gauchar and Chinyalisaur under the Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (RCS-UDAN) of Government of India. Trivendra Singh Rawat, Chief Minister of Uttrakhand and Pradeep Singh Kharola, Secretary, MoCA were present.
  • The inauguration of the helicopter routes in the Uttrakhand region is in line with the objective of the Ministry of Civil Aviation to enhance the aerial connectivity of the hilly areas in the country.
  • MoCA awarded the Sahastradhara-Gauchar-Chinyalisaur route to Heritage Aviation under the UDAN 2 bidding process. Heritage Aviation will operate helicopter services from Sahastradhara to Gauchar and Chinyalisaur twice daily.
  • For these services, Viability Gap Funding (VGF) is provided under UDAN to keep the fares affordable for the common people. The State Government of Uttrakhand is also providing additional incentives to make the scheme more attractive. 
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