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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

22 Jul 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

US Adds 11 Chinese Companies to Economic Blacklist

  • The U.S. Commerce Department added 11 Chinese companies implicated in what it said were human rights violations in connection with China's treatment of its Uighurs in Xinjiang in western China to the U.S. economic blacklist.
  • As per the department, the companies are involved in using forced labor by Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups. They include numerous textile companies and two firms the government said were conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
  • It was the third group of companies and others in China added to the U.S. entity list after two prior announcements added 37 companies and others that the Trump administration said were involved in China's repression in Xinjiang.

India and Maldives Sign Agreement for Establishment of Emergency Medical Services in Male

  • India and Maldives signed an agreement for establishment of 'Emergency Medical Services' in capital Male. It is one of the several small and medium projects that are being financed by India under a grant assistance of around 20 million US dollars for the neighbouring country.
  • Maldives' Foreign Minister Abdulla Shaheed said that the emergency medical service unit will enhance timely access to quality emergency care. He added it will increase collaboration between healthcare facilities and disaster response agencies, especially during critical times of need.

EU Leaders Reach $2 trillion Deal on Recovery Plan

  • European Union leaders finally clinched an unprecedented 1.82 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund, somehow finding unity after four days and as many nights of fighting and wrangling over money and power in one of their longest summits ever.
  • To confront the biggest recession in its history, the EU had a consensus on a 750 billion euro coronavirus fund to be sent as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus. That comes on top of the seven-year 1 trillion euro EU budget. At first the grants were to total 500 billion euros, but the figure was brought down to 390 billion euros.
  • The coronavirus has sent the EU into a tailspin, killing around 135,000 of its citizens and plunging its economy into an estimated contraction of 8.3% this year.
  • The bloc's executive has proposed a 750 billion euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus. That comes on top of the seven-year 1 trillion euro EU budget that leaders had been haggling over for months even before the pandemic.
  • All nations agree in principle they need to band together but the five richer countries in the north want strict controls on spending, while struggling southern nations like Spain and Italy say those conditions should be kept to a minimum. The five have been pushing for labor market and pension reforms to be linked to EU handouts and a ``brake'' enabling EU nations to monitor and, if necessary, halt projects that are being paid for by the recovery fund.
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ENVIRONMENT

Government Approves the Zonal Master Plan of Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone

  • In the review meeting of "Char Dham Road Project" over a virtual platform, Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) informed the approval of the Zonal Master Plan (ZMP) of Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone by the Ministry Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) earlier this month.
  • The review meeting of Char Dham project was chaired by Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of MSME.
  • On 18th December 2012, the Ministry of Ministry Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued the notification of Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone of area covering 4179.59 square kilometers from Gaumukh to Uttarakashi.
  • In consultation with the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, Government of Uttarakhand and Indian Road Congress the notification was amended on 16th April 2018.
  • The Zonal Master Plan was prepared by the State government of Uttarakhand and appraised by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • The Zonal Master Plan was made based on the watershed approach and the governance in the forest and wildlife area, watershed management, irrigation, energy, tourism, public health and sanitation and road infrastructure.

Researchers from Singapore Discover a New Species, 'Bathynomus Raksasa' in Indian Ocean

  • A team of researchers from Singapore confirmed the discovery of a new species called 'Bathynomus Raksasa' (Described as "cockroach of the sea"). The researchers found the new species in 2018 during a deep-sea survey off of the coast of Banten, Western Java, Indonesia (Indian Ocean).
  • 'Bathynomus Raksasa' is the second-largest isopod species known to researchers to date and is the sixth "supergiant" species from the Indo-West Pacific.
  • The largest isopod is 'Bathynomus Giganteus', which is commonly found in the deep waters of the western Atlantic Ocean.

Microsoft Corp, Nike, Unilever, Starbucks Team Up to Combat Global Carbon Emissions

  • Microsoft Corp, Nike Inc , Starbucks Corp, Unilever NV and five other industry titans from various sectors are teaming up to help businesses globally achieve zero carbon emissions.
  • Called "Transform to Net Zero", the group plans to recruit other members and will work with the Environmental Defense Fund and focus on delivering guidance, research and blueprints for businesses to achieve zero carbon emissions no later than 2050.
  • The announcement gave no details of any investment the companies would make, outlining only initial research and other work to be completed over the next five years.
  • Some aims for net zero carbon emissions include reductions across the entire value chain, including impact of products and services, and the substantial commitment and willingness to invest in and speed innovation.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Iran Denies Dropping India from Chabahar-Zahedan Rail Project

  • Iran denied that it has dropped India from the Chabahar rail project, and said that vested interests were behind such reports.
  • The Indian embassy in Iran stated that Ambassador Gaddam Dharmendra was invited by Saeed Rasouli, Deputy Minister Roads and Head of Iran Railways, to review the ongoing cooperation on Chabahar-Zahedan railway.
  • Last week, a report had surfaced claiming that the Hassan Rouhani-led government in Iran decided to exclude India from the construction project of Zahedan.
  • India had signed an agreement with Iran to construct a rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, along the border with Afghanistan.

Jeff Bezos Adds Record $13bn to Wealth in One Day

  • Jeff Bezos added $13 billion to his net worth on Monday, the largest single-day jump for an individual since the Bloomberg Billionaires Index was created in 2012.
  • Bezos, Amazon's founder and the world's richest person, saw his fortune swell $74 billion in 2020 to $189.3 billion, despite the US entering its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. He's now personally worth more than the market valuation of giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp, Nike Inc and McDonald's Corp.
  • Mackenzie Bezos, his ex-wife, gained $4.6 billion and is now the 13th-richest person in the world.
  • Other tech titans, including Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, are also enjoying a surge driven partly by people forced to stay at home and helped by the boost given to markets by stimulus efforts by governments.

ED Acts on Brazil's Request, Freezes over 60 Bank Accounts in India

  • The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has initiated action on the request of Brazilian government in a case relating to money laundering in that country and has written to bank authorities to freeze a little over 60 bank accounts in India.
  • As per reports, the agency initiated the action under the provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in pursuance of a mutual agreement between the two nations to combat financial crimes.
  • The over 60 bank accounts are held by some individuals and businessmen based in the country, who are under scanner of the Brazilian authority. The probe is related to some high profile people of Brazil.
  • It is also learnt that the Brazilian government has shared evidence which prime facie substantiates charges of money laundering involving the Brazilian governor and Indian individuals, who allegedly transacted with the governor.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

South Korea Launches 1st Military Communications Satellite, ANASIS-II

  • South Korea launched its first military communications satellite, Army/Navy/Air Force Satellite Information System II (ANASIS-II). The satellite was deployed into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) by a Falcon 9 rocket developed by US space firm SpaceX. It lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the US state of Florida.
  • With this launch South Korea has become the 10th country to own a military-only communications satellite, which will provide permanent and secured military communications.
  • ANASIS-II is SpaceX's 1st geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) mission of 2020.
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SPORTS

G. M. Harikrishna Wins Chess960 Event at Biel Festival

  • Harikrishna won the Chess960 event of the 53rd Biel International Chess Festival in Switzerland. It is the first major chess tournament taking place over the board since the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The World No. 26 from Guntur, who is now living in Prague, scored 5.5 points from seven rounds to top the field of 8 players.
  • Chess960 is one of the three events of the main section of the Biel festival, the others being rapid and classical. In Chess960, a format invented by the late World champion Bobby Fischer, the game is played with the pieces randomly shuffled on the back rank of either player, because of which the advantage of opening theory is minimised.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Union HRD Minister Launches MANODARPAN to Provide Psychosocial Support to Students

  • The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' launched MANODARPAN initiative of HRD Ministry virtually in New Delhi. The initiative provides psycho-social support to students, teachers and parents and addresses their issues related to mental health and emotional wellbeing.
  • It is a part of the 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan', to strengthen human capital and increase productivity and initiatives in the education sector.
  • Components included in MANODARPAN are:
  • Advisory Guidelines for students, teachers and faculties
  • Web page on the MHRD website carries advisory, practical tips, videos, FAQs and an online query system.
  • National Toll-free Helpline: 8448440632 accessible from 8 AM to 8 PM. It is managed by experienced counselors/Psychologists and other mental health professionals.
  • Handbook on Psychosocial Support: Enriching Life skills & Wellbeing of Students to be published online. The booklet will cover ways to manage emotional and behavioural concerns during the pandemic and beyond.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Sumit Deb New CMD of National Mineral Development Corporation

  • Sumit Deb was appointed as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), iron ore mining major of the country.
  • Deb, at present Director (Personnel) in the NMDC, will have tenure till February 28, 2023, i.e. the date of his superannuation.
  • He succeeds N. Baijendra Kumar who superannuates this month-end.

Ramesh Babu Boddu New MD and CEO of Karur Vysya Bank

  • Karur Vysya Bank's Board of Directors co-opted Ramesh Babu Boddu as an Additional Director and appointed him as the Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for three years tenure. He replaced P. R. Seshadri, who resigned in January 2020 citing personal reasons.
  • The tenure is effective from the date of taking charge.
  • Prior to this appointment he was serving as a Deputy Managing Director (DMD) in State Bank of India (SBI). He retired from the post in April 2020. He also worked as Chief Operating Officer of the bank.
  • Earlier to his appointment as DMD he served as Chief General Manager in SBI.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

Pi Approximation Day

  • Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (3/14 in the month/day format) since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day. UNESCO's 40th General Conference decided Pi Day as the International Day of Mathematics in November 2019.
  • Pi Approximation Day is observed on July 22 (22/7 in the day/month format), since the fraction 22⁄7 is a common approximation of π, which is accurate to two decimal places and dates from Archimedes.
  • Two Pi Day, also known as Tau Day for the mathematical constant Tau, is observed on June 28 (6/28 in the month/day format)
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Greta Thunberg Receives 1 million-euro Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity in Portugal

  • Climate activist Greta Thunberg was awarded a Portuguese rights award and promptly pledged the million-euro prize to groups working to protect the environment and halt climate change.
  • Greta said that all the prize money will be donated, through my foundation, to different organisations and projects who are working to help people on the front line, affected by the climate crisis and ecological crisis.
  • She was awarded the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity for the way she has been able to mobilise younger generations for the cause of climate change and her tenacious struggle to alter a status quo that persists.
  • The million euros ($1.1 million) is the largest prize won by the 17-year-old environmental campaigner who has also won Amnesty International's top human rights prize and the Swedish Right Livelihood Award, often presented as an alternative Nobel.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Rajya Sabha Launches Employees Welfare Scheme "Arun Jaitley Financial Assistance for Group C Employees"

  • The Rajya Sabha Secretariat launched "Arun Jaitley Financial Assistance for Group C Employees", an Employees Welfare Scheme in the name of former Union Minister of Finance, Arun Jaitley funded by his pension to his family. The scheme was formulated and approved based on the decision of Sangeeta Jaitley, wife of Arun Jaitley.
  • After the demise of Former Finance minister Arun Jaitley on 24th August 2019, Sangeeta Jaitley, submitted a request to the chairman of rajya sabha, M. Venkaiah Naidu, to utilise the family pension (Rs. 3 lakh at present) entitled to her for the benefit of Group C employees of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat with low salaries.
  • The Rajya Sabha Secretary General, Desh Deepak Verma approved the scheme formulated by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and the scheme will be put to effect from 2020.
  • Under the scheme the wards of the Group C employees will be awarded 3 scholarships for higher technical or professional education in engineering, medicine and MCA/MBA/LLB and financial support in case of death and medical emergencies will be provided to the Group C employees.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

IIT-Madras Offers Online Advanced Certifications in Software Engineering for Cloud, Bockchain, IoT

  • The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras launched an Advanced Certification Programme in Software Engineering for IoT, Cloud and Blockchain. This nine-month online programme is offered through Great Learnings – a professional learning firm.
  • The course will be co-developed and co-delivered by top-notch faculty and industry experts from IIT-Madras and Great Learning. The programme offers 300 hours of online video learning sessions, live learning sessions, and a series of practical projects in cloud computing, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • This program focuses on making current and aspiring software developers job-ready and future-proof. Upon completion of the programme, the participants will be awarded a programme completion certificate from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras.
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