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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

04 Jul 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Macron Picks Jean Castex as PM after Philippe Resigns

  • French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tendered his resignation after heading President Emmanuel Macron's government for three years.
  • The President swiftly named centre-right mayor Jean Castex to lead a new team of ministers after a reshuffle.
  • Although Mr. Philippe was considered more popular than the President, the ruling party had poor local election results at the weekend.
  • Mr. Philippe met the President and they agreed the government would resign.
  • A reshuffle had been expected for some time, and it is common practice for a French President to replace a Prime Minister during the five-year term in office known as the "quinquennat".
  • Mr. Castex is little known in France, but he is a senior civil servant and has played a key role in the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nepal PM KP Oli Faces Heat from Party Colleagues

  • There has been a growing rift in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in Nepal over demands of resignation of Prime Minister KP Oli, who has been facing heat from his party colleagues for straining ties with India and reports of China encroaching almost 33 hectares of Nepalese land through road construction in Tibet.
  • A crucial meeting of Nepal ruling party NCP Standing Committee to decide the fate of KP Oli, has been postponed. The meeting has now been postponed till July 6, thus giving a 2-day breather to PM Oli.
  • In the midst of the political crisis in Nepal, Chinese Ambassador in Nepal Hou Yanqi met Nepali President Bidhya Devi Bhandari. A meeting between Hou Yanqi and Nepali President was held in the President House in Kathmandu. As per reports, China once again has been intervening in the political crisis in Nepal. Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi is seen as a key factor behind PM Oli's unexpected move to amend a map which includes disputed territories with India.
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ENVIRONMENT

Germany to Become First Major Economy to Phase Out Coal, Nuclear Power

  • German lawmakers have finalised the country's long-awaited phase-out of coal as an energy source, backing a plan that environmental groups say is not ambitious enough and free marketeers criticise as a waste of taxpayers' money.
  • Bills approved by both houses of parliament envision shutting down the last coal-fired power plant by 2038 and spending some 40 billion euros ($45 billion) to help affected regions cope with the transition.
  • The plan is part of Germany's 'energy transition' - an effort to wean Europe's biggest economy off planet-warming fossil fuels and generate all of the country's considerable energy needs from renewable sources. Achieving that goal is made harder than in comparable countries such as France and Britain because of Germany's existing commitment to also phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

ADB Joins Network For Greening the Financial System as Observer

  • Asian Development Bank (ADB), a regional development bank, joined the Paris (France)-based Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) as an observer.
  • The NGFS is a global forum that brings together central banks and supervisors committed to understanding and managing the financial risks and opportunities associated with climate change.
  • ADB now joins the ranks of the World Bank (WB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as NGFS observers.
  • Following the joining of ADB, NGFS now includes 46-member institutions and 10 observers that participate in 3 various work related to reducing climate risks, including supervision, macro-financial issues, and mainstreaming green finance.
  • ADB's inclusion to the NGFS is aligned with the goals in its corporate strategy, the Strategy 2030, particularly in tackling climate change, building climate and disaster resilience, and enhancing environmental sustainability; fostering regional cooperation and integration; and strengthening governance and institutional capacity.

HDFC Bank to Offer 'ZipDrive', an Online Instant Auto Loans

  • HDFC Bank announced that it will offer 'ZipDrive', an online instant auto loan to its customers in 1,000 cities. The auto loan disbursal product is only for customers with pre-approved offers. It is a technology-enabled loan product where credit assessment is done by banking software.
  • The product will be available to tier 2 and 3 cities across India, such as Bhimavaram in Andhra Pradesh, Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh, Thalassery in Kerala, and Balasore in Odisha among other places.
  • The customers can avail the loan from anywhere, anytime, through Netbanking or by scanning QR code or through phone banking or through assistance from the bank's phone banking team within 10 seconds. It is claimed to be the country's fastest online auto loan disbursement offering.

Kotak Mahindra Bank & Innoviti Collaborates to Offer EMIs on Kotak Debit Cards

  • Kotak Mahindra Bank and Innoviti Payment Solutions Pvt. Ltd. have collaborated to provide Equated Monthly Installments (EMI) billing options on Kotak Debit Cards which are swiped on Innoviti Point of Sale (POS) terminals.
  • This facility will enable about 10 million(1 crore)Kotak customers to pay for their purchases in instalments by using the EMIs on debit cards facility at over 70,000 Innoviti POS terminals across more than 1,000 cities.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

ISRO's MOM Captures Image of the Mars' Biggest Moon

  • The Mars Colour Camera (MCC) onboard ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission captured the image of Phobos, the closest and biggest moon of Mars.
  • The image was taken when MOM was about 7,200 km from Mars and 4,200 km from Phobos.
  • Phobos is largely believed to be made up of carbonaceous chondrites.
  • The Rs. 450-crore MOM mission aims at studying the Martian surface and mineral composition as well as scan its atmosphere for methane (an indicator of life on Mars).
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SPORTS

First Indian To Secures Podium Position In International Ultracycling Race

  • Lt Col Bharat Pannu, a serving Indian Army Officer created history by successfully securing a podium place at the first edition of the Virtual Race Across America (vRAAM) 2020.
  • With this, he has become the first Indian ever to win a podium place at an international ultracycling race.
  • Pannu is an army officer posted with the Army's Aviation Test Team.
  • The Race Across America (RAAM) is a 5000 km transcontinental race from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States of America with a cut-off time of 12 days.
  • This year, the organisers had to cancel the event due to the ongoing pandemic and came up with a virtual format for the race.
  • The race saw the participation of 17 ultra-endurance cyclists from around the world, of which only nine could successfully complete the grueling race.
  • Lt Col Pannu finished 3rd on the leaderboard with a total distance of 4086 km in 12 days and a total cumulative elevation gain of 71,000 metres.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Union HRD Minister and Union Health Minister Launch Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020

  • Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank', the Union Minister of HRD (Human Resource Development) and Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare and minister of Science and Technology launched the Drug Discovery Hackathon (DDH 2020) through an online platform in the presence of Shri Sanjay Dhotre, Minister of State (HRD). It is a first of its kind national initiative supporting the Drug Discovery Process.
  • The objective of DDH 2020 is to identify drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2 by in-silico drug discovery through the hackathon and follow up by chemical synthesis and biological testing utilizing computational methods such as machine learning, AI and big data.
  • The DDH2020 is a joint initiative of the Ministry of HRD, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and is supported by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), My Gov, Schrodinger and ChemAxon.

Government Launches 'Swachh Survekshan 2021'

  • Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri launched the 'Swachh Survekshan 2021' -- the sixth edition of the annual cleanliness survey -- and said that the exercise this year will focus on wastewater treatment and other parameters. According to the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, state ranking will also be announced under the survey, to be measured based on their fund utilisation and support to respective local bodies, among others.
  • As per Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Puri, every year, the 'Swachh Survekshan' is redesigned innovatively to ensure the process becomes more robust with focus on sustaining the behaviour change.
  • The minister also announced new category of awards titled 'Prerak Daaur Samman' as part of 'Swachh Survekshan 2021'.
  • The Prerak Daaur Samman has five additional sub-categories -Divya (Platinum), Anupam (Gold), Ujjwal (Silver), Udit (Bronze), Aarohi (Aspiring) - with top three cities being recognised in each.
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DEFENCE

Indra Receives Contract to Supply Navigational Aids for 37 Indian Military Airfields

  • Spanish defense systems company, Indra has been awarded a contract for the supply of navigational aids to 37 of Indian military airfields. The contract is part of the ongoing Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure (MAFI) project by the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD). The systems will be supplied through the Indian company Tata Power SED which was awarded the INR 1,200 crore (USD 159 million) MAFI contract.
  • The 37 military airfields belong to the Indian Air Force (IAF), Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The modernisation of India's airfields started in 2011 with Indra supplying navigational aids to IAF's 30 airfields under the MAFI Phase-I program. According to Indian MoD, the airfields modernized under MAFI Phase-I have been of immense benefit to both military and civil users.
  • With the new contract, Indra will deliver an additional 24 instrument landing systems (ILS) and 29 Doppler Very High Frequency (VHF) Omni Range (DVOR) guidance systems during a project period of three years. The company has also supplied navigational aids to most of the country's civil airports, making Indra a major contributor to flight safety for air traffic in India.

Japan Deepens Intelligence Sharing with India, Australia and the UK

  • Japan seeks to expand cooperation in sharing defense intelligence with partners such as India, Australia and the U.K. broadening the scope of its state secrets law to include exchanges with countries beyond the U.S. The expansion came in last month's revision of standards for the legislation, which already covers Washington, Tokyo's closest ally. The law — enacted in 2014 amid controversy — sets penalties of up to 10 years in prison for leaking secrets deemed to risk causing severe damage to Japan's national security, covering areas such as defense, diplomacy and counterterrorism.
  • Classifying information from a foreign military as a state secret will facilitate joint exercises and tie-ups for developing equipment. It also becomes easier to share data on Chinese troop movements, an increasingly crucial issue as it has grown harder for Tokyo to track Beijing's activities in the region on its own.
  • Chinese Coast Guard vessels sailed through waters in the East China Sea around the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by China as the Diaoyu.
  • The law change is geared toward the U.K., Australia, India and France, with which Japan has signed agreements that obligate both sides to keep classified defense information secret. Reducing the risk of leaks should encourage these countries to share confidential data.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

US Celebrates Independence Day

  • The US celebrated Independence Day or July 4th Day which has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941 to mark the birth of American Freedom. On this day in 1776, a Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted by 13 colonies, enabling the independence of the United States from the British Empire.
  • The famous 4th July fireworks in the District of Columbia remained the highlight of the day, alongside a National Independence Day Parade in Washington DC but this year the celebration is different as the country is the worst-hit nation by the deadly coronavirus leading to the cancellation of events.
  • To mark the celebration US President Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended South Dakota's US Independence Day Mount Rushmore fireworks celebrations at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Freya Thakral Named among 2020's Diana Award Roll of Honours

  • Freya Thakral, a 13 year old student of the British School New Delhi received the 2020 Diana Award for her Recycler App, which she developed to connect users with waste-handlers as a measure to help the ragpickers of Delhi .The award is presented annually on the birth anniversary of Princess Diana.
  • The Diana Award was established in 1999 in memory of Princess Diana, to recognise the social work and humanitarian efforts of youngsters across the United Kingdom and around the world.
  • The Diana Awards has a 13 member judge panel representing each nation of the UK and 3 panels representing other countries, each panel representing an education or youth work professional and a business or government.
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