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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

08 Aug 2020


Canada Plans to Impose Retaliatory Tariffs on US Imports

  • Canada's Deputy Prime Minister said that the country plans to impose 3.6 billion Canadian (USD 2.69 billion) tariffs on US imports in response to President Donald Trump saying the US is reinstating a 10 per cent import tax on Canadian aluminum.
  • Canada is considering imposing a tariff on dozens of products, including golf clubs, bicycles, refrigerators, washing machines, tripods, sports equipment like bats and hockey sticks and embossed aluminum cans for beverages.
  • The new pact took effect July 1 and was expected to bring stability to North American trade. The new tariff spat comes after the US in 2018 imposed a 25 per cent duty on steel and a 10 per cent duty on aluminum.
  • Canada responded with tariffs on hundreds of US products such as ketchup, coffee, strawberry jam and whisky before the two countries dropped their efforts and agreed to the new North American free trade deal.
  • Trump said that he was re-implementing tariffs because there was a surge in aluminum exports from Canada to the US in recent months, but industry organisations dispute that claim.
  • Trump originally imposed the tariffs on aluminum imports in 2018. He then lifted them last year on Canadian and Mexican metals to smooth the way for the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement.

China, Russia and Iran Trying to Influence Vote

  • A top US intelligence chief has warned that China, Russia and Iran are among countries seeking to influence the US presidential election this year.
  • As per reports, China did not want President Donald Trump's re-election while Russia wanted to hurt Democrat Joe Biden.
  • Intelligence chiefs accuse Russia of interfering in the 2016 election.
  • They say Russia wanted to help boost Mr. Trump's campaign, including by spreading disinformation online. Russia has denied the allegations.
  • The announcement comes amid claims by Mr. Trump about the dangers of mail-in or postal ballots. He has suggested that the vote be delayed to prevent "the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history", prompting a backlash even among members of his own party.

Belarus in Surprising Presidential Election Battle

  • Belarus has only ever had one President and Alexander Lukashenko, who has held the position since 1994, is running for office again.
  • The man once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" is facing perhaps the biggest-ever challenge to his rule - from Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a political novice. She says she is standing "out of love" for her jailed husband Sergei, but she also embodies a thirst for change in society.
  • The campaign for this election had an unexpectedly lively start as surprise challengers to Mr Lukashenko - video blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, banker Viktor Babaryko and ex-diplomat Valery Tsepkalo - attracted thousands to their nomination rallies.
  • This was unusual in a country normally considered quite politically apathetic.
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Canada's Last Fully Intact Arctic Ice Shelf Collapses

  • The last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic collapsed, losing more than 40% of its area in just two days.
  • The Milne Ice Shelf is at the fringe of Ellesmere Island, in the sparsely populated northern Canadian territory of Nunavut.
  • Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up.
  • The shelf's area shrank by about 80 square kilometers.
  • The Arctic has been warming at twice the global rate for the last 30 years, due to a process known as Arctic amplification.
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RBI Forms Committee to Recommend Parameters for Loan Restructuring

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has formed a five member committee under the chairmanship of former ICICI Bank CEO K. V. Kamath to make recommendations on the financial parameters to be considered in the restructuring of loans impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic.
  • Other members of the committee are former State Bank of India executive Diwakar Gupta, current Canara Bank chairman T. N. Manoharan, consultant Ashvin Parekh and Indian Banks' Association (IBA) CEO Sunil Mehta who will also be a secretary to the committee. More members may be added to the committee if required.
  • As announced with the measures after the monetary policy, the committee will vet restructuring of loans above Rs. 1500 crore.
  • The immediate task of the committee is to recommend a list of financial parameters to be factored into the assumptions that go into each resolution plan, and the sector specific benchmark ranges for such parameters.
  • The parameters will include aspects related to leverage, liquidity, debt serviceability etc. The expert committee shall submit a list of financial parameters and the sector-specific desirable ranges for such parameters to the Reserve Bank, which, in turn, will notify the same, along with modifications, within 30 days.

Business Confidence Index falls in June Quarter

  • NCAER's Business Confidence Index (BCI), an indicator of the business sentiment across the Indian industry, stood at 46.4 in the first quarter of 2020-21, a drop of 40.1 per cent from its level of 77.4 in the previous quarter.
  • According to a survey by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), it fell 62 per cent in the June 2020 quarter on a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis.
  • This is the lowest that the BCI has ever fallen in the history of 113 Rounds of the NCAER Business Expectations Survey (BES).
  • The decline of 40.1 per cent in the BCI came on the back of a 30.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter decline in the BCI in April 2020.
  • The BCI tracks the business sentiments of around 600 Indian companies to compute the composite index.

Exim Bank Extends $250 mn LoC to Mozambique

  • Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) extended a USD 250-million (about Rs. 1,870 crore) line of credit (LOC) to Mozambique for improving power supply quality in the country.
  • The agreement to this effect was signed ealier this month through exchange between Saroj Khuntia, general manager, Exim Bank, and Adriano Isaias Ubisse, national directorate of treasury, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mozambique.
  • With the signing of this LOC agreement, Exim Bank to date has extended 14 LOCs to Mozambique, taking their total value to USD 772.44 million.
  • Exim Bank has now in place 264 LOCs, covering 62 countries across regions including Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with credit commitments of around USD 25.98 billion, available for financing exports from India.
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India Retains the Right to Host the 2021 T20 World Cup

  • India retained the right to host the 2021 T20 World Cup while Australia will conduct this year's postponed edition in 2022, the ICC announced after its board meeting.
  • The global body also confirmed that next year's women's ODI World Cup in New Zealand has been postponed until February-March 2022 because of the impact the pandemic has had on cricket globally.
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Conclave on Transformational Reforms in Higher Education under NEP

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the inaugural address at the Conclave on Transformational Reforms in Higher Education under National Education Policy. The conclave has been organised by Ministry of Education along with the University Grants Commission (UGC). The Prime Minister joined the conclave through video-conferencing.
  • The Prime Minister urged all to work towards implementation of new national education policy.
  • Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and Union Minister of State for Communications Sanjay Dhotre participated in the event along with a number of dignitaries, including, Chairman and Members, Committee for Draft NEP as well as eminent academicians/scientists.
  • PM Modi in his inaugural address said that today the new education policy is widely discussed across the country. People from different fields, ideologies are giving their views and reviewing the policy. This is a healthy debate that will benefit the country's education system. National Education Policy has been approved after a long brainstorming session with millions of suggestions and after 3-4 years of extensive deliberations.
  • Talking about the multi-disciplinary programmes and multiple entry and exit options, the PM said that every student should get an opportunity to follow their passion. They can pursue any degree or course and can leave according to their convenience and requirement without any loss of credits.

Centre Engages NSCN-IM in the Last Leg of Naga Peace Talks

  • The Centre resumed negotiations with the NSCN (IM) leadership as part of the last leg of talks for Naga peace, as the efforts are on to resolve the three contentious issues — flag, constitution and territory — and ink a final settlement before Independence Day.
  • As per reports, the talks between the senior officials and the NSCN-IM leaders, led by its 86-year-old general secretary Thuengaleng Muivah, are being held at an undisclosed location in the national capital, where representatives of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal were also present.
  • The NSCN-IM has all along been demanding for territorial integration of all Naga inhabited areas of the North East region of the country.
  • The Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), a conglomerate of seven other organisations, which is also part of the dialogue process, has successfully closed its negotiations with the Centre.
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Russia Will See any Missile Launched at its Territory as a Nuclear Attack

  • As per reports, Russia will perceive any ballistic missile launched at its territory as a nuclear attack that warrants a nuclear retaliation.
  • The harsh warning is directed at the United States, which has worked to develop long-range non-nuclear weapons.
  • The article follows the publication in June of Russia's nuclear deterrent policy that envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to what could be a conventional strike targeting the nation's critical government and military infrastructure.
  • According to the Russian military, there is no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and so the military will see it as a nuclear attack.
  • The argument reflects Russia's longtime concerns about the development of weapons that could give Washington the capability to knock out key military assets and government facilities without resorting to atomic weapons.
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Educationist Pradeep Kumar Joshi New Chairman of UPSC

  • Educationist Pradeep Kumar Joshi was appointed the chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which conducts the civil services examination to select the country's bureaucrats and diplomats.
  • He was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Arvind Saxena, the outgoing chairman of the UPSC.
  • Joshi joined the Commission as its member in May 2015. Prior to joining the Commission, he was the chairman of the Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission and the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission, the statement issued by the UPSC said. He also served as the Director of National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA).
  • His tenure as the chairman of the UPSC will be till May 2021. With his appointment as the chairman, there is a vacancy of a member in the UPSC. At present, Bhim Sain Bassi, Air Marshal A. S. Bhonsle (retired), Sujata Mehta, Manoj Soni, Smita Nagaraj, M Sathiyavathy, Bharat Bhushan Vyas, T. C. A. Anant and Rajiv Nayan Choubey are members of the UPSC.

Hardayal Prasad New MD of PNB Housing Finance

  • PNB Housing Finance appointed Hardayal Prasad, the former SBI Card head as its new managing director and chief executive.
  • The housing finance company promoted by country's second largest state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) currently has Neeraj Vyas as its interim chief. Prasad will assume charge on August 10.
  • Prasad a seasoned professional with over three decades of experience in banking, international operations at SBI and later with SBI Card had last month resigned as the managing director and chief executive of SBI Card pursuant to voluntary retirement from SBI.
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Winners of the AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge

  • Winners of a challenge envisaged to showcase India as one of the leading app developing countries globally were announced in nine categories that saw short video app Chingari, news app Logically and health app StepSetGo emerge as top players in their categories, among others.
  • The "AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge" was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2020 which saw participation from 6,940 tech entrepreneurs and start-ups across the country.
  • The challenge had entries for nine different categories namely Business, eLearning, Entertainment, Games, Health, News, Office and Work from Home, Others and Social. A mega hackathon was organised on Friday where the top finalists selected under the challenge across categories showcased their apps.
  • In the Social category, Chingari emerged as the top winner, followed by writing app Your Quote and Koo which allows people to follow top Indians and news in Indian languages.
  • In the Business category, the top three winners were Zoho Invoice, Books & Expense; Mall 91; and GimBooks -- Easy Invoice Manager, respectively. The E-Learning category also had three winners with Disprz; Kutuki Kids Learning app; and Hello English: Learn English, taking the first, second and third positions respectively.
  • In the News category, Logically was followed by IsEqualTo which offers daily news, quiz and general knowledge for students. In the Entertainment category, the top three winners were CaptionPlus; Meme Chat; and FTC Talent, respectively.
  • In the Games category, the top three winners were Hitwicket Superstars - 3D cricket Strategy Game; ScarFall-- The Royale Combat; and World Cricket Championship 2a" WCC2, respectively.
  • The Office category had two winners Zoho Workplace & Cliq followed by SureMDM. The health category also had two winners StepSetGo (SSG) followed by iMumz - week by week pregnancy programme. The Other category had three winners -- MapmyIndia Move - Maps, Navigation and Tracking; Ask Sarkar; myitreturn in top positions respectively.

UNESCO Recognises Venkatraipur and Noliasahi of Odisha as Tsunami Ready

  • In a first, two coastal villages of Odisha were recognised as being "Tsunami Ready" by UNESCO for their overall preparedness to face the calamity.
  • With it Odisha became the first state in the country to have such villages and the country the first in the Indian Ocean region to achieve the honour from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.
  • The two coastal villages are Venkatraipur (Boxipalli) village of Rangeilunda block in Ganjam district and Noliasahi village of Ersama block in Jagatsinghpur district.
  • The certificate of recognition was handed over to the communities of Venkatraipur and Noliasahi in a virtual event.
  • This recognition has made Odisha a role model for tsunami preparedness. With this award, the state is motivated to make the 326 villages and urban local bodies tsunami ready in one year's time.
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"Amazing Ayodhya" A New Book of Ayodhya History

  • "Amazing Ayodhya" a book by Neena Rai promises to shed light on the history of Ayodhya.
  • The book gives authentic information about the city of Ayodhya and will help in understanding the life and times of ancient Hindus.
  • The book aims to gain knowledge of the architecture in Ayodhya, houses in Ayodhya, establishment of the city and animals which lived in Ayodhya.
  • According to the publishing house Bloomsbury, the book is well-researched and is replete with descriptions and draws out comparisons of earlier eras with our current life and culture.
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