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General Awareness

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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

17 Feb 2020


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France Reports First Fatality in Europe

  • French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn reported the first death from COVID-19 in Europe.
  • The victim, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist, and his daughter had been receiving treatment at Paris's Bichat hospital since January 25 and were subject to strict isolation measures.
  • The daughter's health is not a cause for concern and she should be able to leave hospital soon, added the minister. Both individuals were from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) emergency chief Mike Ryan said on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that the virus is still not spreading fast internationally.
  • The virus has been outside China now for a number of weeks and we still have only got just over 500 cases in 24 countries"
  • Only three deaths had been recorded from the virus outside of China — in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan. France has 11 cases of the virus.

Sri Lanka Calls on US to Reconsider Barring Army Chief

  • Sri Lanka said that the US should reconsider its decision to refuse entry to the island's army chief over his alleged war crimes and warned that relations were being unnecessarily complicated.
  • The US had said that said the travel ban for Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva and his family was imposed over what it called credible evidence of human rights violations in the 2009 finale to the civil war.
  • US ambassador Alaina Teplitz was summoned by Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
  • Teplitz said that the US would continue its cooperation with Sri Lanka, including in defence, despite the ban on Silva.

Rockets Hit U.S. Coalition Base in Baghdad

  • In the latest attack to target U.S. facilities in Iraq, rockets hit a U.S.-led military coalition's Baghdad headquarters but caused no casualties.
  • Washington has blamed Iran-backed paramilitary groups for increasingly regular rocketing and shelling of bases hosting U.S. forces in Iraq and of the area around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
  • An attack last month hit the U.S. Embassy compound itself, and a rocket attack on a military base in the north in December killed a U.S. civilian contractor.
  • There have been no claims for the attacks.
  • Tension between Iran and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has mostly played out on Iraqi soil in recent months.
  • The United States killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike in Baghdad last month, after which the region braced for full-scale conflict. Iran launched its first direct missile attack on two bases hosting U.S. forces in response.
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Human Compost Funerals Better for Environment

  • A US firm has given scientific details of its "human composting" process for environmentally friendly funerals.
  • A pilot study on deceased volunteers showed that soft tissue broke down safely and completely within 30 days.
  • The firm, Recompose, claims that its process saves more than a tonne of carbon, compared to cremation or traditional burial.
  • It says that it will offer the world's first human composting service in Washington state from next February (2021).

January was Hottest in Recorded History

  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet experienced its hottest January in recorded history in January 2020.
  • It was the 44th consecutive January, and the 421st consecutive month, with temperatures above the 20th century average, according to NOAA. The milestone is just the latest in a string of climate records set in recent years.
  • The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces in January 2020 was the highest in NOAA's 141 years of climate records, surpassing the 20th-century average of 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius) by 2.05 degrees F (1.14 degrees C).
  • The new milestone highlights a worrisome trend as the planet continues to warm at an accelerated pace. The four warmest Januaries on record have all occurred since 2016.
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DLF Looks to Raise Rs. 2,000 cr via Asset Sale

  • Realty firm DLF is looking to raise Rs. 2,000 crore through monetisation of certain commercial land parcels to its existing joint venture partners or new partners. The monetisation of land parcels would help the company in reducing its net debt, which stood at Rs. 4,866 crore at the end of December quarter.

ArcelorMittal- Nippon Steel in Talks to Buy 500 Mw Bhander Power Unit

  • AM/NS India — a joint venture (JV) between ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel that acquired Essar Steel — is in advanced stage of discussions with Edelweiss ARC to buy Bhander power plant.
  • Bhander Power, a 500 megawatts (Mw) natural gas-based plant located in Hazira, Gujarat, is captive to Essar steel plant, and was till recently owned by the Ruias, promoters of the Essar group. The power plant is being sold by Edelweiss under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest (SARFAESI) Act.

Japan's Economy Shrinks at Fastest Rate Since 2014

  • Japan's economy shrank at the fastest rate in five years at the end of 2019 as it was hit by a sales tax rise, a major typhoon and weak global demand.
  • Annualised gross domestic product (GDP) fell by a much steeper than expected 6.3% in October-December.
  • There are also concerns the coronavirus outbreak will mean the slump continues this quarter.
  • That has raised fears that the world's third-biggest economy may fall into recession.
  • During the period Japanese consumer spending fell 2.9% after the country's sales tax was raised in October to 10% from 8%. In the same month Typhoon Hagibis hit large parts of the country.
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Bhawana Makes the Cut for Tokyo

  • Bhawana Jat qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 20 km race walk event after pulling off a shock win with a national record time at the National Championships at Ranchi.
  • The 23-year-old athlete, who hails from a poor farmer's family at Kabra village in Rajasthan's Rajsamand district, clocked 1 hour 29 minutes and 54 seconds, well inside the Olympic qualification time of 1:31:00, to win the gold.

Joshua Cheptegei Smashes 5km Road World Record

  • Uganda's world 10,000m champion Joshua Cheptegei broke the 5km road world record by 27 seconds in Monaco.
  • The 23-year-old ran 12 minutes 51 seconds to smash the previous record, set by Kenya's Rhonex Kipruto en route to victory at January's Valencia 10k.
  • France's Jimmy Gressier finished second in Monaco with a European record of 13:18.
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India Rejects UN Chief's Mediation Offer on Kashmir

  • India rejected any scope for third party mediation to resolve the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
  • Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that Jammu and Kashmir has been is and will continue to be an integral part of India. The issue that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. Further issues, if any, would be discussed bilaterally. There is no role or scope for third party mediation.
  • The comments come against the backdrop of some remarks made by the UN Secretary General António Guterres who is on a visit to Pakistan.
  • In his remarks, Guterres had expressed concern over increasing tensions between India and Pakistan as well as over alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.

India Inks MoUs with Russia

  • In a step forward towards addressing the issue of regular spares and support for Russian military equipment with the armed forces, 14 MoUs were signed between Indian and Russian companies for setting up joint ventures covering a range of equipment from modern T-90 tanks to legacy Pechora air defence systems.
  • The MoUs were signed during the 5th India Russia military industry conference held during the Defexpo 2020 in Lucknow. They come under the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on joint manufacturing of spares in India signed in September 2019 for mutual cooperation in manufacturing of spares, components, aggregates and other material related to Russian or Soviet-origin arms and defence equipment.

AAP Leaders Discuss Three-point Plan to Widen National Footprint

  • Hours after Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet ministers took oath of office and secrecy in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held a meeting with state executives to discuss the party's expansion plans across the country.
  • The agenda of the meeting was to discuss two things primarily.
  • First, the message of the historic win in the Delhi elections, which came purely based on development works, should be disseminated across the country loud and clear. This is the right time to channelise the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers to expand the party across the nation. Secondly, how this victory can be used as a springboard for expanding the party nationally.
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HAL to Provide IAF with 83 Tejas Fighters in Rs. 39k cr Deal

  • The biggest deal in the indigenous military aviation sector was finalised, with the overall cost of IAF acquiring 83 single-engine Tejas fighters and their support package from defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) being slashed from the earlier around Rs. 56,500 crore to Rs. 39,000 crore.
  • With the contract price now settled at Rs. 39,000 crore, the procurement file is being sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security for final nod. It should be cleared before this fiscal ends on March 31. Once the contract is inked, HAL promises to begin deliveries of the Mark-1A jets in three years.

Can Develop any Artillery Gun for Indian Army: Baba Kalyani

  • Baba N Kalyani, Chairman & MD, Bharat Forge Ltd said that the company now has reached in the pinnacle of technology development for the Artillery Guns in the country that it can develop any Artillery Gun system demanded by Indian Army in a very short time while confirming the development of new MArG Extended Range 155mm/52 cal Ultra-Light Howitzer which was showcased for the first time at DefExpo 2020.
  • Kalyani confirmed that the MArG 155mm/52 cal ULH is ready for internal firing trials from June onwards and it weights under 8 tonnes and has an effective range of 41 km. A new 3.7 tonnes 155mm/39 cal ULH is under development which is lighter than the 4.2 tonnes M777 howitzer already inducted in the Indian Army.
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Nikita Pearl Waligwa Passes Away

  • Nikita Pearl, a Ugandan student who played a memorable role in a 2016 Disney film 'Queen of Katwe' about a local chess prodigy died at the age of 15.
  • The cause was a brain tumor, according to the girls' secondary school she had attended since 2018.
  • The 2016 film was based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who took up chess aged nine despite not being in school and went on to compete in international tournaments.

Radhakishan Damani Becomes India's 2nd Richest Person

  • According to Forbes 'Real Time Billionaires' Index, supermarket chain DMart's Founder Radhakishan Damani became India's 2nd richest person after Mukesh Ambani. Damani has a net worth of $17.8 billion.
  • DMart operates 196 stores in 72 cities across the country.
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BioAsia at HICC

  • BioAsia, the flagship event of biotechnology industry, is held from February 17 to 19 at the HICC in Hyderabad. The theme for BioAsia 2020 is `Today For Tomorrow'. Switzerland is part of the event as a partner country.
  • The event is a platform for deliberating emerging technologies and also for forging partnerships among different stakeholders. It is also be a platform for startups to showcase their products or services for the biotechnology industry.
  • This is the 17th edition of the industry event.

Global Meet with Focus on Conservation Begins

  • Representatives from 130 countries will discuss the priorities for conservation of migratory species for the next decade at the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in Gujarat's Gandhinagar from February 17 to 22.
  • The CMS is an international agreement signed under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme in 1979 to conserve migratory species within their migratory ranges.
  • The discussions at the CMS-COP 13 will focus on international cooperation for maintaining and restoring ecological connectivity and species-based conservation efforts.
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Filmfare Awards 2020

  • The Filmfare Awards were dominated by Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy, which swept through all 13 categories it was nominated in. It registered Gully Boy in history as the film with most Filmfare wins, beating Black's previous record of 11 awards. The awards show was held in Guwahati this year (2020).
  • Gully Boy bagged Best Film, Best Director for Zoya, Best Actor for Ranveer Singh and Best Actress for Alia Bhatt. Best Supporting Role Male went to Siddhant Chaturvedi for his role as MC Sher while Best Supporting Role Female was won by Amruta Subhash, who played Ranveer's mother in the film.
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Madhya Pradesh Grapples with Spiralling Neonatal Deaths

  • According to the National Health Mission (NHM), Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest percentage of newborn deaths of 11.5% against the total admissions to government-run sick newborn care units (SNCUs) in the past three years across the country, a rate ominously spiralling since 2017. The country's average is 7%.
  • Although admissions of neonates (under 28 days) in the State have dropped from April 2017 to December 2019 — remaining lower than West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — the percentage of deaths at 12.2% surpassed Bihar's in 2019. Meanwhile, West Bengal, where 34,344 neonatal deaths occurred in the period, the most in the country, the declining percentage of deaths from 9.2% in 2017 to 8.9% in 2019 coincided with a slump in admissions.

Beijing Orders 14-day Quarantine for Returnees

  • Beijing ordered everyone returning to the city to go into quarantine for 14 days or risk punishment in the latest attempt to contain the deadly new coronavirus.
  • Residents were told to self-quarantine or go to designated venues to quarantine after returning to the Chinese capital from holidays.
  • The measure came as Egypt confirmed the first coronavirus case in Africa.
  • Over 1,500 people have died from the virus, which originated in Wuhan city.
  • The notice on Friday from Beijing's virus prevention working group was issued as residents returned from spending the Lunar New Year in other parts of China.
  • The holiday was extended this year to help contain the outbreak.
  • More than 20 million people live in Beijing.

Bihari Migrant Woman Emerges Topper in Malayalam Literacy Exam

  • A 26-year-old Bihari woman proved language is no barrier as she emerged the topper in a literacy examination conducted in Kerala for migrant labourers. Romiya Kathur, hailing from a non-descript village in Bihar, scored the first rank with full 100 marks in the examination held by the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority recently.
  • She had reached Kerala in search of a job along with her husband Saifullah and settled down in Umayanalloor in southern Kollam district in 2014.
  • A total of 1,998 migrant labourers had appeared for the literacy exam in the second phase of the scheme "Changathi" across the state in January.
  • Changathi (Friend) project is aimed at teaching migrant labourers, living in the state, Malayalam within four months.
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Modi Inaugurates 'Kashi Ek Roop Anek' Exhibition in Varanasi

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 'Kashi Ek Roop Anek', a cultural arts and handicrafts exhibition, at the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Hastkala Sankul.
  • He evinced keen interest in the products on display as he went around several stalls and personally interacted with buyers and artisans coming from different countries, including the US, England and Australia.
  • 'Kashi Ek Roop Anek' showcased products from over 10,000 artisans from all over Uttar Pradesh.
  • Artistes and weavers at the two-day event would impart skills for improving the quality and branding of their wares suitable for the larger national and international markets.
  • There are 23 lakh artisans and weavers residing in Uttar Pradesh. Of these, about 35,800 artisans and 1.5 lakh weavers stay in Varanasi alone.
  • The Uttar Pradesh government had launched the ambitious scheme 'One District, One Product' (ODOP) in which one craft per district was identified.
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Delhi Airport Launches Doorstep Luggage Pick-and-drop Service

  • Passengers flying out of Delhi now have the option of having their heavy luggage transported directly to the airport, at a price.
  • The Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport announced that a paid facility — wherein baggage will be picked up from a passenger's place of stay in Delhi and neighbouring states and be delivered to them directly at the airport for check-in — has been started, after successful trial.
  • The service has been launched in collaboration with a Bengaluru-based firm, CarterX.
  • The facility will also be available for those arriving at IGI airport and want their luggage delivered to their final destination in Delhi and neighbouring states. Charges for the service will vary according to the number, size and weight of bags and by the distance from where the bags are picked up or dropped.
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