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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

23 Jul 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

The US Orders China to Close its Consulate in Houston

  • The US ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, a move described as political provocation by Beijing.
  • As per US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the decision was taken because China was stealing intellectual property.
  • China's foreign ministry condemned the move, saying its embassy in Washington had received death threats.
  • Earlier, unidentified individuals were filmed burning paper in bins in the Houston building's courtyard.
  • Tensions have been rising between the US and China for some time. President Donald Trump's administration has clashed repeatedly with Beijing over trade and the coronavirus pandemic, as well as China's imposition of a controversial new security law on Hong Kong.

UK to Open Citizenship Path to Hong Kong Residents from January 2021

  • Britain's government announced that it will open a new special pathway to obtaining British citizenship for eligible Hong Kongers from January 2021.
  • The Home Office said that holders of the British National Overseas passport and their immediate family members can move to the UK to work and study.
  • The change to immigration rules was introduced after China imposed a new, sweeping national security law on Hong Kong.
  • Those eligible can access the British job market at any skill level and without a salary threshold, but will not have access to public funds.
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the UK has a strong historic relationship with the people of Hong Kong and we are keeping our promise to them to uphold their freedoms.
  • Those who come to the UK through the new pathway will be able to apply to settle in Britain permanently once they have lived in the UK for five years.
  • Then after a further 12 months, they can apply for British citizenship.

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to Resume Talks on Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam Reservoir on Nile

  • According to Ethioppia, the first-year target for filling the controversial mega dam on the River Nile was reached.
  • This would allow the first set of turbines to be tested.
  • Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's announcement came as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan agreed to resume talks over the dam, following a virtual summit.
  • The project has been a source of huge diplomatic tension since its construction began in Ethiopia in 2011.
  • Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric project as crucial for its economic growth and a vital source of energy.
  • But Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream, fear the $4bn (£3bn) dam will greatly reduce their access to water.
  • Years of fraught negotiations have failed to reach a consensus on how and when to fill the reservoir, and how much water it should release.
  • When operational, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) will generate 6,000 megawatts, making it the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa. It will provide power to some 65 million Ethiopians, who currently lack a regular electricity supply.
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ENVIRONMENT

Polar Bears Could Disappear by 2100

  • Polar bears have long been the poster child of the consequences of climate change. A new study now suggests the Arctic species is at risk of being starved into extinction by the end of the century.
  • Acco0rding to the University of Toronto-led study, as sea ice continues to vanish due to warming temperatures, polar bears are increasingly struggling to find the food they need to survive.
  • According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are an estimated 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears in the wild, although precise numbers are hard to determine due to their remote habitat. The species is listed as vulnerable.
  • Polar bears rely on sea ice for hunting seals, their primary food source, according to the new study. But the spread of ice has been on the decline as climate change accelerates the rise in temperatures at the poles, keeping them on land where it's harder to catch seals.
  • While the bears can fast for months, their survival depends on how much energy they've managed to reserve through eating ahead of time, the energy they expend during the fast and how long a fasting period lasts.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

NPCI Launches UPI AutoPay Feature for Recurring Payments

  • National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) launched UPI AutoPay feature for recurring payments. With this new facility, customers can enable recurring e-mandate using any UPI application for recurring payments such as mobile bills, electricity bills, EMI payments, entertainment and OTT subscriptions, insurance, mutual funds and loan payments, among others of up to Rs. 2000. If the amount exceeds Rs. 2000, customers have to execute every mandate with UPI PIN.
  • Any UPI-enabled application would also have a 'Mandate' section, through which customers can create, approve, modify, pause as well as revoke auto debit mandate. The mandate section will allow users to view their past mandates for their reference and records. UPI users can create e-mandate through UPI ID, QR scan or Intent. The pattern for auto debit mandate has been created keeping in mind customers' spends on recurring payments. The mandates can be set for one-time, daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, half yearly and yearly.
  • The customers have to authenticate their account through UPI PIN for one-time and subsequent monthly payments would be debited automatically.
  • Some of the banks, merchants and aggregators who have already gone live with UPI AutoPay are Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda, HDFC Bank, HSBC Bank, ICICI Bank, IDFC Bank, IndusInd Bank, Paytm Payments Bank, AutoPe-Delhi Metro, AutoPe-Dish TV, CAMS Pay, Furlenco, Growfitter, Policy Bazaar, Testbook.com, The Hindu, Times Prime, Paytm, PayU, RazorPay, among others. Jio Payments Bank, State Bank of India and YES Bank will soon go live with UPI AutoPay.

LIC-UBI Announces Corporate Agency Pact

  • Union Bank of India (UBI), after its amalgamation with Corporation Bank and Andhra Bank, has announced a corporate agency agreement with Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) to distribute latter's policies.
  • As per the pact, UBI can act as a financial supermarket by offering LIC products of term insurance, pension, plan, children plan, ULIPs, and endowment schemes to its account holders, whereby they can select products according to their choice.

HIL Supplies 20.60MT of DDT 75 % WP to South Africa for Malaria Control

  • HIL (formerly Hindustan Insecticides Limited), a PSU under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers supplied 20.60 metric tonnes of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) 75% Wettable powder (WP) to South Africa for their Malaria control programme in three province adjoining Mozambique. The region is highly affected with Malaria and it reported maximum morbidity and mortality due to the disease in recent years.
  • It is to be noted that HIL is the sole manufacturer of DDT globally.
  • HIL was incorporated in 1954 to manufacture and supply DDT to the Government of India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for malaria control programme. In the year 2019-20, the product was supplied to 20 States in the country.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

China's Tianwen-1 Mars Rover Rockets Away from Earth

  • China launched its first rover mission to Mars.
  • The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island.
  • It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.
  • Called Tianwen-1, or "Questions to Heaven", the rover won't actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.
  • This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.
  • Tianwen-1 is one of three missions setting off to Mars in the space of 11 days.
  • On Monday, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched its Hope satellite towards the Red Planet. And in a week from now, the US space agency (NASA) aims to despatch its next-generation rover, Perseverance.
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SPORTS

Jolt to India's Olympic Preparations as WADA Extends NDTL Suspension by Six Months

  • In a massive jolt to India's Olympic preparations, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) extended the suspension of the country's National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) by another six months citing non-conformation to international standards. The WADA first suspended NDTL in August last year for a period of six months. A fresh round of inspection by the world body, much to the embarrassment of country's sporting establishment, showed that non-conformities still existed. So, the World Anti-Doping Agency has suspended the accreditation of the National Dope Testing Laboratory in New Delhi, India, for a second period of up to six months.
  • The suspension prohibits the NDTL from carrying out any anti-doping activities, including all analyses of urine and blood samples.
  • The laboratory's non-conformities pertain to the International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) identified during a WADA site visit, including the laboratory's isotope ratio mass spectrometry -- the analytical technique of choice for confirmation of prohibited substances.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Kakrapar Atomic Power Plant-3 Achieves Criticality

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated nuclear scientists as the Kakrapar atomic power plant-3 achieved criticality, and said that the indigenous reactor is a shining example of the 'Make in India' campaign.
  • The 700 MW power plant in Gujarat achieved criticality, meaning it reached the normal operating condition of a reactor. It indicates that the plant is now set to generate power.
  • Kakrapar is part of India's pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) portfolio. Of India's 22 commercial nuclear power reactors with an installed capacity of 6,780 megawatts (MW), which are run by state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), there are 14 units of 220MW PHWRs each, making it one of the largest fleets of such reactors.

New Rajya Sabha Members Take Oath

  • Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu administered the oath of office to 45 of 61 newly elected members at the first such ceremony in the Upper House's chambers during inter-session amid the Covid pandemic. The remaining lawmakers will be administered the oath at a later date.
  • Eighteen Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members, including Jyotiraditya Scindia, were among those who took oath.
  • The BJP's strength in the House has gone up from 75 to 85 even though it is still short of a majority in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress has 40 members in the Upper House.
  • Naidu said that the new members should reflect on their role and responsibility and not fall for the temptation of disrupting the House for short-term gains.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the BJP MPs who were administered the oath to be updated with the latest policy issues and be effective on the floor of the House.

India and the US Set Up Industry Collaboration Forum

  • The US and India have set up an industry collaboration forum under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). The DTTI is tasked with co-development of military technologies.
  • The forum will have a standing mechanism for developing and sustaining dialogue between the Indian and US industry on defence technology and industrial cooperation.
  • US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said that it would open many possibilities for the two countries. The forum will provide an opportunity to individual members of the private sector to provide facts, data, expertise, or other relevant information on possible projects to the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) and also to the US Department of Defence (DoD).
  • The forum aims at facilitating dialogue between government and industry on issues that may relate to availability of critical and sensitive material and foreign direct investment.
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DEFENCE

India Successfully Test-fires Indigenous Anti-tank Guided Missile Dhruvastra

  • India successfully conducted three flight tests of its indigenously developed anti-tank guided missile ''Dhruvastra'' from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha.
  • Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the helicopter-launched anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) is one of the most advanced anti-tank weapons in the world.
  • All the three developmental trials of the state-of-the-art anti-tank guided missile, carried out in a direct and top attack mode, were successful and the data was being analysed.
  • It was ground tested from a launcher to evaluate some of its major parameters.
  • Dhruvastra is the helicopter version of 'Nag Helina' with several new features and meant to be fired from air to destroy enemy bunkers, armoured vehicles and main battle tanks.

Army Gets World's Most Agile and Lightest Surveillance Drone 'Bharat'

  • Amid the ongoing border dispute between India and China, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) provided its indigenously-developed drone - Bharat - to the Indian Army to conduct accurate surveillance in high altitude areas and mountainous terrain along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.
  • The Bharat series of drones, developed by a Chandigarh-based laboratory of the DRDO, can be listed among world's most agile and lightest surveillance drone indigenously developed by the DRDO.
  • The drone is equipped with artificial intelligence that helps it to detect friends and enemies and take action accordingly.
  • The drone can survive in extreme cold weather temperature and is being developed further for even harsher weather.
  • The drone provides real-time video transmission during the entire mission and with very advanced night vision capabilities, it can detect people hidden in deep forests.
  • The drone has been built in a way that makes it impossible to be detected by Radar.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Prakash Chandra Kandpal New as MD & CEO of SBI General Insurance

  • Non-life insurer SBI General Insurance appointment of Prakash Chandra Kandpal as its new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.
  • He has been with SBI General Insurance as the Deputy CEO since June 2019.
  • A seasoned banker, Kandpal, has more than 33 years of experience with SBI.
  • He has an experience in both retail and international banking, human resource, technology, and learning and development. He also had a stint in SBI Mutual Fund as the chief operating officer.
  • The insurer's former Managing Director and CEO, Pushan Mahapatra, was appointed as director (strategic investments & digital initiatives). He will continue to be the whole time director of SBI General Insurance.

Prof. R. Narayanaswamy New Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee of NFRA

  • The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB) appointed professor R. Narayanaswamy, faculty of the Finance & Accounting area as the Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), the independent accounting and auditing regulator set up by the Government of India under the Companies Act, 2013.
  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) advises the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) on how it can fulfill its mandate to protect the public interest and the interests of investors, creditors and other users of corporate financial statements.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

National Broadcasting Day

  • Every year 23rd July is observed as the National Broadcasting Day across India to commemorate the first ever radio broadcast aired in India on 23rd July 1927 from the Bombay Station of a private company, the Indian Broadcasting Company.
  • Following the first broadcast in India in June 1923, by the Bombay Radio Club, the Calcutta Radio Club was established.
  • Under the Department of Industries and Labour, the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) started the operations on an experimental basis in April 1930.
  • The Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) became the All India Radio (AIR) on 8th June 1936.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Indian-origin Nurse in Singapore Conferred with President's Award

  • Kala Narayanasamy an Indian-origin nurse in Singapore was conferred with the prestigious President's Award for Nurses for serving on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Kala was among the five nurses given the award.
  • Each recipient was awarded a trophy, a certificate signed by President Halimah Yacob and SGD 10,000 (USD 7,228).
  • Narayanasamy, who is the Deputy Director of Nursing at Woodlands Health Campus, was awarded for using infection control practices, which she learned during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, in the current pandemic.
  • She has been involved with the modernisation of nursing in Singapore, with her past projects including the implementation of a self-checkout inventory management vending machine to track the usage of items.
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