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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

23 Feb 2020


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S. Sudan President and Rebel Leader Agree to Form Unity Government

  • South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed to form a unity government, a long-delayed step towards ending six years of war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
  • Kiir said that the new government will be formed on Saturday and he will appoint Machar as his first vice president, or top deputy.
  • The President also said that security arrangements, one crucial issue, will be resolved after the government's formation. He said the protection of Machar and others with the opposition will be under his responsibility.

Sweden Creates USD 1 mn Prizes for Food Solutions

  • Sweden created two USD 1 million prizes for solutions to feed billions of people, as climate change threatens the world's food supply. "The new Food Planet Prize is designed to contribute to this goal," Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany who will co-chair the prize jury.

India ranks 77th in Terms of Sustainability & 131st in Flourishing Index:UN Report

  • According to the report, "A future for the world's children? A WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission" commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and The Lancet medical journal, India ranks 77th in terms of Sustainability Index and 131st in the Flourishing Index of Children's Survival, health, education and well-being.
  • Sustainability index is associated with per capita carbon emissions and ability of children in a nation to live healthy lives.
  • A commission of more than 40 child and adolescent health experts funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) from around the world has released the report, where the capacity of 180 countries has been assessed whether they are able to ensure that their children grow and prosper.
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World's Largest Cave Fish Species Found in Meghalaya

  • The world's largest species of cave fish measuring over 40 cm or around one and a half feet in length were found inside a remote cave in Meghalaya's Jaintia Hills.
  • The fish, related to the Golden Mahseer but has no eyes and is white due to lack of melanin pigmentation, was found in a cave located in a remote and densely forested area in Jaintia Hills region of Meghalaya by a team of international and local researchers in February 2019.
  • There are 250 known species of fish found under the earth's surface. As they live in a nutrient-limited environment most of these species are small—195 of them have a mean length of 8.5 cm. The only two species, which exceed 30 cm, are eel-like and have very thin bodies.
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Victoria's Secret to Have New Owners

  • L Brands Inc. agreed to sell a controlling stake in its Victoria's Secret brand to private equity firm Sycamore Partners in a deal that values the lingerie brand at $1.1 billion.
  • Sycamore Partners agreed to buy 55% in Victoria's Secret in the transaction. The lingerie brand, which will include the Pink line of young-adult focused underwear, will become a private company. L Brands will retain a 45% minority stake, while Bath & Body Works will be a public standalone company.
  • L Brands also said that billionaire founder Leslie Wexner will step down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Wexner, 82, the longest-serving Chief Executive Officer on the S&P 500 Index, will be Chairman emeritus, remaining on the board of L Brands.

Hinduja Group May Tie Up with Cerberus to Invest in Yes Bank

  • London-based Hinduja Group is looking to partner private equity firm Cerberus Capital to buy a stake in Yes Bank Ltd.
  • Hindujas currently own a stake in another private lender, IndusInd Bank. Therefore, it is to be seen whether the transaction, if talks advance, is able to muster approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • It is no secret that Yes Bank is in dire need of capital and in January, the private lender's board approved raising funds of up to Rs. 10,000 crore in one or more tranches through a qualified institutional placement, or any other private placement of equity or debt.

HDFC Bank Completes 25 Years of Operations

  • HDFC Bank, the most valuable Indian lender, completed 25 years in February 2020.
  • The bank observed the anniversary celebrations by committing to plant 25 lakh trees and also digitise 2,500 classrooms.
  • Its managing director and chief executive Aditya Puri, who has led the bank from scratch, planted a guava tree at a municipal school in central Mumbai, where the bank also donated its first digital classroom.
  • HDFC Bank is headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
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Asian Wrestling Championships

  • The absence of Chinese and North Korean wrestlers impacted the quality of the women's section at the Senior Asian Championships and India was the biggest beneficiary, winning three golds and a silver.
  • Divya Kakran (68kg), Pinki (55kg) and Sarita (59kg) ensured gold medals for India while Nirmala Devi won the silver (50kg) in the Asian Wrestling Championships.
  • With Japan also sending a largely second-string squad – barring former world champion Mayu Mukaida -- the Indians were favourites for medals. Barring the 50kg, the other four weight categories in action on the day had seven or fewer competitors, forcing the organisers to conduct bouts in Nordic (round-robin) format.
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Jasmine Shah Appointed Vice-chief of Delhi Government Key Policy Body

  • The Delhi government reappointed Jasmine Shah as the vice-chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD).
  • In his last tenure which lasted for over a year, Shah worked on Delhi government's flagship projects, schemes and policies including the electric vehicles policy, the Delhi solar policy, setting up of mohalla clinics, free bus ride for women scheme and so on. The vice-chairman of DDCD enjoys cabinet-level position, while its chairperson is Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
  • Shah, an alumni of IIT-Madras and Columbia University, has been advising the government since 2016 on budgetary and transport reforms.

Kerala Moves SC against Airport Handover to Adani

  • The Kerala government approached the Supreme Court challenging a decision by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to hand over Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to Adani Enterprises Ltd which, in February 2019, won the bid to manage and operate the facility for 50 years.
  • The petition in the Supreme Court follows a December 2019 ruling by the Kerala High Court which dismissed a plea by the Kerala government on grounds that the case involved a dispute between the Centre and the state which only the Supreme Court is empowered to hear under Article 131 of the Constitution.
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Kuwait Opens Defence Attaché Office in India

  • Oil rich state of Kuwait opened an office for defence attaché in Delhi eyeing to ramp up security cooperation. The Kuwaiti Ambassador to India Jassim AlNajem said that opening of the military office in New Delhi attests that there is a real desire to increase defense and security cooperation between the two friendly countries.
  • During a reception hosted by the Kuwait Embassy to welcome head of the Military Liaison Officer Colonel Fahad Al-Shammari and Assistant Head of the Office Colonel Nawaf Al-Obaidan in the presence of Arab ambassadors and heads of Arab military officials in New Delhi, the Kuwaiti ambassador affirmed that the opening of the military office is an expression of a firm desire to enhance cooperation in the military fields between the two countries and is expected to help increase exchange visits by concerned officials and conducting bilateral and multilateral military exercises.
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Indian Freelance Journalist Wins AFP's Kate Webb Prize

  • Ahmer Khan, the 27-year-old Indian freelance reporter, was named the winner of the 2019 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize in 2020 for his coverage on the ground in Kashmir during the lockdown of the region.
  • The award, named after one of AFP's finest correspondents, recognises journalism by locally hired reporters in Asia operating in risky or difficult conditions.
  • Khan was honoured for a series of video and written reports that vividly illustrated the impact on locals in the region following India's decision to abrogate Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir in August.
  • The Indian government imposed restrictions on movement and a communications blackout in the region.
  • Despite curfews and a heavy security presence, Khan took to the streets with his camera to document the tensions, concerns and frustrations among the residents of Srinagar and other cities in Kashmir.
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Second Phase of Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural)

  • The Centre approved the second phase of Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural), Prime Minister Narendra Modi''s pet project focussed on sustainability of ODF and management of solid and liquid waste.
  • The second phase will be implemented on a mission mode between 2020-21 and 2024-25 with an estimated central and state budget of Rs. 52,497 crore, the Jal Shakti Ministry said in a statement.
  • The rural sanitation programme was started on October 2, 2014, when the sanitation coverage in the country was reported at 38.7 per cent. More than 10 crore individual toilets have been constructed since the launch of the mission and as a result, rural areas in all states have declared themselves open defecation free (ODF) as on October 2, 2019.
  • The second phase will focus on Open Defecation Free Plus (ODF Plus), which includes ODF sustainability and solid and liquid waste management (SLWM.
  • The ODF Plus programme will converge with MGNREGA, especially for grey water management, and will complement the newly launched Jal Jeevan Mission.
  • The programme will also work towards ensuring that no one is left behind and everyone uses a toilet.
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Indian Railway Partners with University of Birmingham for Joint PG Programme

  • The Indian Railways announced its partnership with the University of Birmingham for the Joint Master's programme in Railway Systems Engineering and Integration in academic year 2020-2021 by the National Rail Transportation Institute (NRTI).
  • The announcement was made by Chairman Railway Board Vinod Kumar Yadav and Lord Karan Billimoria, Chancellor, University of Birmingham.
  • According to the Railway Ministry officials, the programme that has been launched leads to dual M.Sc. that would see NRTI students obtaining two postgraduate degrees from both institutions, after spending a year studying at each institution.
  • It will also provide flexibility for some modules of the programme to be delivered online in the form of a Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert) and support for undergraduate teaching by University of Birmingham faculty at NRTI.
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Apple Doesn't Want You to Read 'App Store Confidential' Written by a Former App Store Manager

  • Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to try and stop the publication of a book that has been written by a former App Store manager. According to a report, Apple believes that the book contains confidential company secrets.
  • The book, called 'App Store Confidential', is written by Tom Sadowski in German.
  • App Store Confidential, according to a report in AppleInsider, covers Sadowski's work at Apple including his meetings with CEO Tim Cook.
  • Apple has sent a letter to both Sadowski and his publisher Murmann Verlag asking them to stop delivering the book to stores, recall all copies in circulation and destroy manuscripts of the book.
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Malaysia Maintains Tourism Target

  • Malaysia expects to meet its target of a record 30 million tourists this year by redirecting its marketing efforts to local and other markets as arrivals from coronavirus-hit China fall.
  • The epidemic comes at a bad time, as the country is pushing its "Visit Malaysia 2020" programme to rev up its stuttering economy, Southeast Asia's third-largest. Tourism accounts for 11.8% of Malaysia's gross domestic product, with 28 million arrivals last year, 11% of them from China, according to data.
  • While numbers on tourist arrivals for January aren't yet available, Malaysia has imposed a temporary ban on visitors from Chinese provinces placed on lockdown by the Chinese government, in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
  • According to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), tourists from fellow Southeast Asian countries and India are some of the other big contributors to the visitors tally.
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