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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

27 Jul 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Australia Rejects China's Sea Claims

  • Australia has formally rejected China's territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea, aligning itself more closely with the US as tensions rise.
  • In a declaration to the United Nations, Australia said that the claims, which take in the majority of the sea, had "no legal basis.
  • It comes after the US called some of China's actions in the area unlawful.
  • In recent years China has built bases on artificial islands in the sea, saying its rights go back centuries.
  • Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam contest China's claims. The countries have wrangled over territory for decades but tensions have steadily increased in recent years, with several maritime confrontations taking place.
  • Beijing claims a vast area known as the "nine-dash line" and has backed its claims with island-building and patrols. It has built significant military infrastructure, although it insists its intentions are peaceful.

Pakistanis Lead al-Qaida Faction, Other Terrorist Groups in Asia: UN Report

  • According to a UN report, Pakistani nationals remain at the leadership levels in terror groups such as al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Khorasan (ISIL-K) and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, and many of them are yet to be blacklisted.
  • The 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning ISIL, al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities said that in April and May, the Afghan special forces conducted a series of countrywide operations and arrested the head of the ISIL-K Aslam Farooqi (also known as Abdullah Orokzai) and his predecessor Zia ul-Haq (also known as Abu Omar Khorasani) and others.

US Sends Envoy to Press for Peace Talks in Afghanistan

  • Washington dispatched a special envoy for Afghanistan to press for peace talks between the government and Taliban fighters, with the diplomat scheduled to visit Kabul on a trip with stops in five nations.
  • U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad departed to travel to Doha, Kabul, Islamabad, Oslo and Sofia.
  • The United States is drawing down its troops in Afghanistan under an agreement struck in February with the Taliban.
  • The agreement aimed to pave the way for formal peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government, and Khalilzad's task is to try and bring both sides to the table.
  • Khalilzad plans to press for a deal on prisoner exchanges and a reduction in violence, two issues that have hampered progress toward starting peace talks.
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ENVIRONMENT

India Ranks 3rd in Gaining Forest Area in World

  • In accordance with the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2020 brought out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), India ranked 3rd among the top 10 countries that have gained in forest areas during 2010-2020. FRA 2020 examined the status of, and trends in, more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990–2020.
  • India reported 0.38% annual gain in forest, or 266,000 ha of forest increase every year at an average. It's naturally regenerating forest rate was also 0.38% in 2010-20.
  • As per the report, the world has a total forest area of 4.06 billion hectares (ha) in 2020, which is 31% of the total land area where India accounts for 2% of total global forest area. Russia has a maximum forest area accounting 20% of global forest area (815 312 ha) followed by Brazil (496 620 ha-12%) and Canada (346 928 ha- 9%).

Norway's Arctic Archipelago Witnesses Highest ever Recorded Temperature

  • According to Norway`s Meteorological Institute, temperatures at Norway`s Svalbard archipelago, about midway between the mainland and the North Pole, hit a record high of 21.7 degrees Celsius.
  • The Arctic islands are warming faster than almost anywhere on Earth, highlighting risks in other parts of the Arctic from Alaska to Siberia.
  • A 41-year-old record has been broken in Longyearbyen.
  • Between 1700 and 1800 CET (1500-1600 GMT), the temperature measured 21.7 degrees Celsius, 0.4 degrees above the previous record from 1979.
  • Rising temperatures would thaw the frozen ground underpinning many buildings, roads and airports and could cause more avalanches and landslides.
  • A warming climate also threatens Arctic wildlife such as polar bears and seals which depend on the sea ice cover.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Gross NPA of Banks May Rise to 12.5% by March 2021: RBI FSR

  • According to the 21st issue of Financial Stability Report (FSR), released in July 2020 by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the gross nonperforming assets (GNPA) ratio of all scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) may increase from 8.5% in March 2020 to 12.5% by March 2021 under the baseline scenario; the ratio may escalate to 14.7% under a very severely stressed scenario.
  • While Public sector banks' (PSBs) gross bad loans ratio of 11.3% at the end of March, 2020 may increase to 15.2% by March 2021 under the baseline scenario, on the other hand, private banks may see an increase from 4.2% to 7.3%.
  • FSR reflects the collective assessment of the Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) on risks to financial stability, and issues relating to development and regulation of the financial sector.

Tamil Nadu Signs 16 MoUs for Investments Worth Rs. 5,137 crore

  • In a bid to bring increased investments into the state, the Tamil Nadu government signed 16 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth Rs. 5,137 crore aimed at creating employment opportunities for over 6,555 people. The fresh bunch of MoUs come close on the heels of the state inking 8 MoUs with companies involving investment of about Rs. 10,339 crore and promising employment opportunities for 13,507 people.
  • Among the major investments, Adani Enterprises, the flagship company of the Adani Group, signed an MoU worth Rs. 2,300 crore for setting up a data centre while Princeton Digital Group inked a deal for Rs. 750 crore. Super Auto Forge, manufacturer of cold and warm forged steel and aluminium parts and BPL-FTA Enterprises, have given an investment commitment of Rs. 500 crore each. The Super Auto investment will be for steel and aluminium parts manufacturing.

India Hikes Exposure to US Government Securities by Nearly USD 13 Billion in May

  • According to latest official data, India's holdings of American government securities increased by nearly USD 13 billion to USD 169.9 billion at the end of May. So far this year, the country's exposure has seen significant fluctuations and had touched a record high of USD 177.5 billion in February.
  • After marginally rising to USD 157.4 billion in April, the holdings jumped to USD 169.9 billion in May, an increase of around USD 13 billion in a month's time.
  • India's holdings stood at USD 164.3 billion in January. The American government securities are purchased by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The country was the 12th largest holder of the American government securities while Japan had the maximum exposure at USD 1.260 trillion at the end of May. At the second spot was China with holdings worth USD 1.083 trillion, followed by the United Kingdom at the third place with an exposure of USD 393.5 billion.
  • As per the data, Ireland is at the fourth position, followed by Brazil, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Cayman Islands, Belgium and Taiwan.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

DST launches Rs. 15 Crore Fund to Support India-Russia Cross-country Technology Adaptation

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Ministry of Science and Technology launched a joint India-Russia Joint Technology Assessment and Accelerated Commercialisation Programme in partnership with Russia's Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE). On the Indian side, the programme will be implemented and funded by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) on behalf of the DST.
  • The objective of this bilateral initiative is to strengthen the Science, Technology and Innovation ties between the two countries by connecting Indian, and Russian Science & Technology (S&T) led Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Start-ups for joint development through Research and Development (R&D) along with technology adaptation.
  • The programme will run through two annual cycles and top five selected Indian and Russian partners will be provided partial funding support. DST will fund up to Rs. 15 crores to Indian SMEs/Start-ups and FASIE will provide similar funding to the Russian projects. The remaining cost will be borne by partners.
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SPORTS

India's 2018 Asian Games Mixed Relay Medal Upgraded to Gold

  • The Indian 4x400m mixed relay team's silver medal in the 2018 Asian Games has been upgraded to gold following the disqualification of original winners Bahrain on account of a doping ban handed to one of its runners.
  • Bahrain, which had topped the 4×400 mixed relay final, was disqualified after Kemi Adekoya was handed a four-year ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for failing a dope test.
  • India had originally lodged an appeal against Bahrain for 'obstruction' after the mixed relay race, alleging that a Bahraini sprinter had impeded Hima Das's way during the race. However, that appeal had been turned down and India had been awarded silver.
  • The Indian quartet of Mohammed Anas, M. R. Poovamma, Hima Das and Arokia Rajiv had clocked 3:15:71 behind Bahrain (3:11:89). Raghavan had clocked 56.92 to finish fourth in the final race in Jakarta.

Jason Holder 3rd West Indies Player to Complete 2,000 Runs, 100 Wickets in Tests

  • West Indies skipper Jason Holder added a feather in his already illustrious cap by becoming the third Caribbean player to complete the unique double of 2,000 runs and 100 wickets in Test cricket.
  • The other two Caribbeans are Garry Sobers (8,032 runs and 235 wickets) and Carl Hooper (5,762 runs and 114 wickets).
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

India Extends Medical Assistance to North Korea

  • According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India has extended medical assistance worth about USD 1 million to North Korea in response to a request received from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • India is sensitive to the shortage of medical supply situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and decided to grant humanitarian assistance of USD 1 million in the form of anti-tuberculosis medicines.
  • The medical assistance is under the aegis of an ongoing WHO anti-tuberculosis programme in DPRK.
  • The consignment of medicines was handed over by Indian Ambassador to DPRK Atul Malhari Gotsurve to North Korean Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pak Myong Ho along with a floral basket and a congratulatory letter addressed to the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, on the occasion of the 8th anniversary of conferment of the title of 'marshal" on him.

First in the World: India Builds Electrified Rail Tunnel Capable to Run Double-stack Containers

  • India builds one km long world's first electrified rail tunnel that fits double stack containers. It cuts through Aravali Mountain on the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) near Sohna, Haryana.
  • The project is implemented by the DFCCIL (Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited).
  • The tunnel breaking was completed in July 2020. The project is expected to complete in the next 12 months.
  • One end of the tunnel is at Rewari, Haryana and the other end is at Dadri, Uttar Pradesh (UP).

Centre to Convert Ravines of Chambal Region into Arable Land with World Bank Support

  • As per Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, the Centre, in collaboration with the World Bank, has decided to convert large area of ravines in Gwalior-Chambal belt of Madhya Pradesh into arable land, and a preliminary report for the same will be prepared in a month. After preparation of the initial report, subsequent meetings will be held with the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for further course of action.
  • A decision in this regard was taken in a virtual meeting with World Bank representative Adarsh Kumar, who said that the bank is keen to work in Madhya Pradesh.
  • More than 3 lakh hectares of rugged land is not cultivable and if this area is improved, then this will help in the integrated development of the Bihad area in Gwalior-Chambal region.
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DEFENCE

Setback to China as Russia Suspends Deliveries of S-400 Missiles

  • Russia announced the suspension of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to China and said that the resumption of further deliveries is yet to be ascertained.
  • Post-Russia`s announcement, China has reportedly said that Moscow was forced to make such a decision as it is worried that the delivery of S-400 missiles at this time will affect the anti-pandemic actions of the People`s Liberation Army and does not want to cause trouble to China.
  • The S-400 air defence missile system is considered the most advanced of its kind in Russia, capable of destroying targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometres and a height of up to 30 kilometres.
  • Russia's suspension of S-400 missiles to China comes after Moscow had earlier accused Beijing of spying, despite the two countries enjoying considerably good relations over the years.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Late Arnab Chaudhry Honoured by Legend of Animation Award 2020

  • Arnab Chaudhuri was posthumously awarded with The 'Legend of Animation' award, 2020. This award is instituted by the Toonz Media Group (TMG) as a part of the Animation Masters Summit (AMS), 2020 – Digital Edition.
  • The award was accepted by his wife, Ashuma Chaudhuri at the inaugural session.
  • The award was presented for his contribution towards the animation and entertainment industry of India.
  • Arnab Chaudri passed away on December 25, 2019.
  • He was an alumnus of NID (National Institute of Design), Ahmedabad and worked with – Walt Disney, Turner, Channel V.
  • His movie 'Arjun: The Warrior Prince' was the only animation from India, listed on the Oscar awards.
  • He worked with Toonz at multiple levels.
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