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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

11 Jul 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

France's Notre Dame Cathedral to be Rebuilt the Same as Before

  • As per reports, Paris' centuries-old Notre-Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt as it was before being engulfed in a fire last year.
  • On April 15, 2019 a blaze destroyed the Gothic landmark and major tourist attraction, destroying the spire and roof in a disaster that stunned the nation.
  • A national heritage and architectural commission approved plans to restore the cathedral to its last "complete, coherent and known" state, including the spire.
  • President Emmanuel Macron promised after the fire to rebuild Notre-Dame within five years, and later suggested that a contemporary design could be used for the spire.
  • Church officials hope Notre-Dame will be open for mass by 2024, when Paris is due to host the Olympic Games.

France Asks Israel to Drop West Bank Annexation Plans

  • Emmanuel Macron asked Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to refrain from annexing Palestinian territory in the West Bank and elsewhere during a telephone call between the two leaders.
  • Macron emphasised that such a move would contravene international law and jeopardise the possibility of a two-state solution as the basis of a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • It was the latest move by European leaders pressing Netanyahu to drop plans to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley.
  • The controversial move was endorsed in a Middle East plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January.
  • Israel's government had set July 1 as the date when it could begin taking over the Palestinian areas, where the population of Israeli settlers has grown since the 1967 Six-Day War.
  • The foreign ministries of France and Germany, along with those of Egypt and Jordan -- the only Arab states to have peace deals with Israel -- warned this week that any annexation could have consequences for relations.

US Envoy, after Seoul Visit, Reassures Japan of Alliance

  • A U.S. envoy reassured top Japanese officials of the importance of their alliance in dealing with regional security threats, just as the North Korean leader's sister expressed low expectations of a summit between her brother and President Donald Trump this year.
  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun was in Tokyo after his visit to Seoul where he discussed nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, which refused to resume talks due to what it calls hostile American policies.
  • Kim Yo Jong said that her brother will not be meeting Trump because there is no need for the North to gift Trump meetings when it's not getting any reward in return. In her statement she called for major concessions from Washington to keep alive the nuclear diplomacy.
  • Kim Yo Jong is seen as her brother's closest confidant and was recently confirmed as his top official for inter-Korean affairs.
  • South Korea asked Biegun to try to revive the talks with the North. He stressed during his meetings in Seoul that resuming the diplomacy with the North was important.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

MCX Launches Gold Mini Options

  • The Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) launched Gold Mini options after getting approval from the regulatory body Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The regulatory body approved the launch of the Gold Mini option with 100 grams of gold bars.
  • The Commodity Exchange said that the Gold Mini operations August 2020, September 2020 and October 2020 contracts are available for trading from 10th July. A maximum of 100 lots can be ordered in a single order.
  • It is a financial product whose value is linked with metal. In case of Gold Mini there will be 100 gram rods and the price of derivatives contract will be linked to the price of rods. The expiry date for the Gold Mini options is the same as the Gold Mini Future, i.e. the 5th of every month.
  • Members can order a maximum of 100 lots for a single order. Gold Mini and Silver Kilo options were launched by the stock exchange BSE on 1st June, while NSE started Gold Mini options on 8th June.

People's Bank of China Cuts Stake in HDFC Ltd

  • As per reports, China's central bank has sold at least some of its stake in India's Housing Development Finance Corp.
  • The People's Bank of China has dropped off the list of investors holding at least a 1% stake in the company as of end-June. The PBOC held about 17.5 million shares, accounting for a 1.01% shares, at end-March. It cannot be ascertained if the Chinese central bank continues to holds any stake in the mortgage lender or not.
  • PBOC had increased its stake in India's largest shadow lender in the 12 months ended March. India in April tightened rules on investments in its companies from neighboring nations including China in a bid to reduce the risk of opportunistic takeovers amid coronavirus-led share price drops.
  • It is mandatory for publicly-traded companies in India to disclose shareholdings of more than 1% at the end of every quarter. HDFC's global institutional holders as of the latest statement include the Government of Singapore as well as funds run by Vanguard and Invesco Oppenheimer.

Honda to Invest In China's CATL, to Jointly Develop EV Batteries

  • Japan's Honda Motor Co Ltd will buy a 1% stake in Chinese electric vehicle (EV) battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) and the two will jointly develop EV batteries.
  • The move comes at a time when auto manufacturers and EV battery makers are joining forces in pursuit of an electric future. CATL, based in Ningde, said last year that it would develop batteries with Honda and also supply batteries to Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen AG.
  • Honda and CATL said in a statement that they would develop battery technologies and research a battery recycling business. Honda will launch its first EV with CATL's battery in China in 2022 and will expand the partnership with stable EV battery supply globally in the future.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

First Launch of China's Kuaizhou-11 Carrier Rocket Fails

  • The first launch of Kuaizhou-11 (KZ-11), a solid-fuelled carrier rocket, failed after its liftoff from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. According to reports, KZ-11 failed to reach its intended orbit and the specific reasons behind the failure are currently being analysed and investigated.
  • The launch of the rocket, developed by ExPace Technology Corporation, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), was already delayed by three years and ended up in a failure. The low-cost solid-fueled carrier rocket, with a lift-off mass of 70.8 tonnes, was designed to launch low-Earth and Sun-synchronous orbit satellites.
  • The Kuaizhou-11 has a larger diameter and stronger capacity with respect to the other rockets from Kuaizhou series launched previously. It can lift a 1.0-tonne payload to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 kilometres. The three-stage rocket is reportedly based on the DF-21 missile and consists of three solid-fuelled stages.

IISc Designs Eye Gaze-Controlled Robotic Arm for Speech, Motor Impaired

  • An Indian Institute of Science (IISc) research team designed a robotic arm that can be manipulated by eye movement using a computer interface, to help people with Severe Speech and Motor Impairment (SSMI).
  • According to Bengaluru-based IISc, this interface is non-invasive since it is through a webcam and a computer, unlike other eye gaze-tracking devices that use head-mounted systems.
  • People with SSMI find it difficult to physically operate devices such as a joystick, mouse or trackball, or use speech recognition systems.
  • Eye gaze-controlled computer interfaces can help them perform various tasks on par with their non-disabled peers.
  • To help people with SSMI (a condition caused by disorders like cerebral palsy), a research team at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM), IISc, worked with young adult students who have SSMI at Vidya Sagar (formerly the Spastics Society of India) in Chennai, an institution for individuals with disabilities.

Astronomers Spot Red Dwarf Star 'AD Leonis' With Massive Solar Flares

  • A team of astronomers in Japan have captured a red dwarf star called "AD Leonis" that is found to have massive flares — one of them was even 20 times larger than the solar flares emitted by our own Sun. The star is notably just 16 light-years away from Earth. However, it was seen with an extreme large flare, termed a "superflare". This is believed to result in whopping magnetic storms that if emitted from our Sun could impact the Earth's technological infrastructure.
  • The team from the Graduate School of Science of Kyoto University captured the AD Leonis star using a 3.8-metre Seimei telescope. The star appears to have temperatures lower than that of our Sun, which results in a high incidence of flares. Moreover, the astronomers detected a superflare on their first night of observations.
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SPORTS

Mushtaque Ahmed Resigns as Hockey India President

  • Hockey India president Mohd. Mushtaque Ahmad has resigned from his position citing personal commitments, a development that was expected after the Sports Ministry asked him to quit.
  • The HI executive board named Manipur's Gyanendro Nigombam, who was senior vice-president in the federation, as the officiating president in Ahmad's place.
  • The Sports Ministry had found that Ahmad had violated the tenure cap guidelines of the code in the 2018 elections, when he took charge of the president's position.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

PM Modi Inaugurates Asia's Large 750 MW Ultra Mega Solar Power Project at Rewa

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Asia's largest 750 MW solar power project at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh via video conferencing. According to the government, the project will reduce emissions up to 15 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
  • Apart from Rewa, work is underway on solar power plants in Shajapur, Neemuch and Chhatarpur.
  • The project will be the first to supply renewable energy to an institutional customer, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), outside the state. Delhi metro will get 24 per cent of project's energy capacity. The remaining 76 per cent will be supplied to the state discoms of Madhya Pradesh. Central financial assistance of Rs. 138 crore was provided to Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL) for the development of the solar park. The RUMSL is a joint venture company of Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (MPUVN), and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), a Central Public Sector Undertaking.
  • The mega solar power project comprises three solar generating units of 250MW each located on a 500-hectare plot of land situated inside a solar park.

India and China Agree on Complete Disengagement of Troops at LAC

  • India and China resolved to push ahead with complete disengagement of troops in eastern Ladakh in a timely manner for full restoration of peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • As Chinese troops continued to withdraw from Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh, the two countries held another round of diplomatic talks, and decided that senior commanders of the two armies will meet soon to discuss further steps to ensure complete disengagement and de-escalation in a timely manner.

Jannayak Janata Party Dissolves National and State Units

  • The Jannayak Janata Party dissolved all its units including national and state executives, paving the way for a revamp of the one-and-a-half-year-old party's organisational structure.
  • The decision to dissolve the units was taken on the suggestion of JJP founder and former MP Ajay Singh Chautala.
  • As per reports, that after the 2019 assembly election, the JJP was thinking of revamping its organisational structure.
  • During the party's first foundation day on December 9, 2019, in Sirsa and at another meeting of national executive in March 2020 held in Chandigarh, the final decision was left on Chautala.
  • The JJP, which won 10 seats in the Haryana Assembly polls, extended support to the BJP after the saffron party could manage to win only 40 of the 90 seats. They formed a coalition government in the state.
  • The JJP was formed on December 9, 2018, after a split in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) due to infighting in the Chautala family.
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DEFENCE

US Approves $620 Million Missile Upgrade Package for Taiwan

  • The United States approved a possible $620 million upgrade package for Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Taiwan, the State Department said, the latest purchase from the United States to deal with a rising threat from China.
  • The United States, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the democratic island with the means to defend itself.
  • China, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its own territory, routinely denounces U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
  • Taiwan requested to buy components to upgrade its Patriot missiles "in order to support an operational life of 30 years", the State Department said.
  • Lockheed Martin will be the main contractor and the total estimated cost will be $620 million.
  • This arms sale is the 7th by the Trump administration to Taiwan so far.

Boeing Completes Delivery of Apache, Chinook Helicopters to Indian Air Force

  • Amid border standoff with China, Boeing has completed delivery of AH-64E Apache and CH-47F(I) Chinook military helicopters to the Indian Air Force (IAF). With this, the US aerospace major has completed the contract for 22 Apaches to IAF. The delivery of the final 5 of the 22 Apache attack helicopters was done to the IAF at Air Force Station, Hindan. Boeing had earlier in March handed over the last 5 of 15 CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to the IAF.
  • India is among the 17 countries to have the Apache and also the most advanced variant, AH-64E Apache. The helicopter is also flown by the US and many other countries.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Baushuan Ger Taiwan's New Ambassador to India

  • Taiwan named senior diplomat Baushuan Ger as its new representative to India while his predecessor Tien Chung-kwang has been promoted to the post of Deputy Foreign Minister.
  • Baushuan's appointment was part of personnel changes announced by Taiwan's foreign ministry. Tien served as Taiwan's representative to India for more than seven years.
  • Baushuan is expected to take up his post in India in September. He is currently director general of the department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in Taiwan's foreign ministry and has served in the US and the UK.
  • Tien will replace Hsu Szu-chien as Deputy Foreign Minister. Hsu has been appointed as deputy secretary-general of Taiwan's National Security Council.

Advisory Committee on Mutual Funds under the Chairmanship of Usha Thorat

  • Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the regulator of the securities and commodity market in India, has reconstituted the committee advising it on matters related to regulation and development of the mutual fund industry by including five new members.
  • The new 20 member committee will be chaired by Usha Thorat, former Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The previous 15 members panel that formed in 2013 was headed by Janki Ballabh, former Chairman of SBI.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

World Population Day

  • World Population Day is an annual event, observed on July 11 every year. It seeks to raise awareness of global population issues. The event was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989. It was inspired by the public interest in Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987, the approximate date on which the world's population reached five billion people. World Population Day aims to increase people's awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.
  • The day was suggested by Dr. K.C.Zachariah when he worked as Sr. Demographer at World Bank.
  • "How to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now" amid the pandemic is the theme of this year's (2020) World Population Day.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Indian Battalion Wins the Annual UNIFIL Environment Award for 2020

  • The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col awarded the annual environment awards of UNIFIL to 7 mission entities. An Indian Battalion (INDBATT) stationed with UNIFIL was declared first for environmental contributions.
  • The annual award was launched by UNIFIL on 4th December 2019 to recognise the environmental achievements within the Mission's area of operations.
  • UNIFIL's INDBATT was declared first for their project towards increasing awareness and to reduce the generation of waste by planting seedlings and building green house and compost pits in their region and areas of responsibility with a focus on reducing littering and to increase the reuse of plastic bottles.
  • The Second place award was shared by the Mission's Sector West Headquarters for the Sector West Infrastructure Management Centre (IMC) for generation of compost from food waste and Irish-Polish Battalion (IRISHPOLBATT) for its project in supporting the host communities by reducing the environmental hazards.
  • French-led Force Commander's Reserve, Indonesian Battalion, Republic of Korea Battalion and Italian Battalion are the other units of UNIFIL who received the awards and recognitions.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

China Warns of 'Unknown Pneumonia' Deadlier than Covid-19 in Kazakhstan

  • China has warned its citizens living in Kazakhstan of a local unknown pneumonia, which it said, has a "much higher" fatality rate than the Covid-19 disease.
  • The Chinese embassy in the central Asian country said that the unknown pneumonia in Kazakhstan caused 1,772 deaths in the first six months of the year, including 628 people in June alone, the fatalities also included Chinese citizens.
  • Many organisations including Kazakhstan's health department are studying the "virus of this pneumonia.
  • There has not been any indication whether this disease is related to the Covid-19.
  • Some Chinese experts said that measures should be taken to prevent the pneumonia from spreading into China.
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ART AND CULTURE

Flipkart Signs MoU with Karnataka Govt. to Promote Local Art, Craft and Handlooms

  • Homegrown e-commerce marketplace Flipkart signed a MoU with Karnataka MSME and Mines department to promote the states arts, crafts and handloom sectors by bringing them on to e-commerce and providing market access.
  • The partnership under the Flipkart Samarth programme will enable local artisans, weavers and craftsmen of Karnataka to showcase their hallmark products to a pan-India customer base.
  • The partnership will see renowned Karnataka based brands- Cauvery - Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation and Priyadarshini Handlooms, part of Karnataka Handlooms Development Corporation joining the Flipkart Samarth programme.
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BOOKS AND AUTHORS

Book Titled 'His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama: An Illustrated Biography' Authored by Tenzin Geyche Tethong

  • A book titled 'His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama: An Illustrated Biography' authored by one of the Dalai Lama's closest aides and advisor of over 40 year, Tenzin Geyche Tethong. The biography is a memorable portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. The book is to be released in October 2020 and is published by Roli Books.
  • The book's foreword was written by Tendzin Choegyal.
  • The book comprises nearly 400 unseen photographs and unpublished documents, archival material and also memories of those close to him so as to portray a composite picture of his exile, his sympathetic mannerism and the present troubled relationship with his homeland, Tibet.
  • The book gives a glance of an important part of the history before he was forced to flee to India in March 1959.
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