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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

31 Aug 2020


Afghan President Names Council for Peace Deal with Taliban

  • Afghanistan's president has appointed a council for national reconciliation, which will have the final say on whether the government will sign a peace deal with the Taliban after what are expected to be protracted and uncertain negotiations with the insurgents.
  • The negotiations were envisaged under a US-Taliban peace agreement signed in February as intra-Afghan talks to decide the war-torn country's future.
  • However, their start has been hampered by a series of delays that have frustrated Washington. Some had expected the negotiations to begin earlier this month.
  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree late Saturday establishing the 46-member council, led by his former rival in last year's presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, who is now in the government.
  • The council is separate from a 21-member negotiating team, which Ghani appointed in March and which is expected to travel to the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, for intra-Afghan talks.
  • The council will have the final say and will ultimately decide on the points that the negotiating team takes up with the Taliban.

Arjuna Ranatunga Enters UNP Leadership Fray

  • Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain of Sri Lanka's 1996 Cricket World Cup winning team, joined the race to lead the Opposition United National Party (UNP) after former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe decided to resign from the party leadership after 26 years at the helm following its crushing defeat in the parliamentary elections.
  • UNP general secretary and Wickremesinghe's cousin Ruwan Wijewardena and former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya have also offered to lead and revive the party after its humiliating defeat in the parliamentary elections.
  • The UNP, the oldest party in the country, suffered its worst electoral defeat since it was formed in 1946 by failing to win a single seat from any of the 22 electoral districts in the August 5 election won by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa-led Sri Lanka People's Party (SLPP).
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Canara, HSBC, OBC Life Insurance & Andhra Pragathi Grameena Bank Enter into a Strategic Partnership

  • Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) Life Insurance Company Limited(Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance)and Andhra Pragathi Grameena Bank (APGB) entered into a strategic tie up virtually. The distribution tie up is to sell life insurance, health and pension products at all the branches of APGB. It is the 1st virtual launch of Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance tie up with APGB.
  • Initially, through this tie up, 20 insurance products (majorly traditional insurance) will be offered by Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance to APGB customers.
  • Further, the alliance will strengthen the insurance penetration in Tier 2 and 3 markets of Rayalaseema, Andhra Pradesh.
  • The tie up will provide an opportunity and responsibility to the insurance company to create awareness in the rural market about the purpose of having a life insurance, health insurance and pension plans in unanticipated times like COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The insurance company aims to connect with the rural areas and help them to financially secure their future.
  • With the partnership, Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance expects efficient technology synergies between 2 companies to provide a seamless customer experience with an extended reach.

GVK Agrees to Cede Control of Airport Business to Adani Group

  • GVK Power & Infrastructure said that the Adani Group will take over its debt and have control over the Mumbai Airport and the Navi Mumbai Airport project.
  • The Adani Group will have a 74% stake each in the current Mumbai Airport and the Navi Mumbai Airport project.
  • The terms of cooperation include acquisition of debt by Adani from various GVK lenders including a Goldman Sachs led consortium and HDFC; releasing GVK of various obligations, securities and corporate guarantees given in respect of debt to be acquired by Adani; the ability for Adani to convert the acquired debt to equity of its airport subsidiary on mutually agreed terms.
  • Adani will also infuse fresh funds into the Mumbai International Airport MIAL consortium and support the achievement of financial closure of the Navi Mumbai airport project. No amount was specified.
  • Separately, GVK has notified the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund and PSP that the transaction documents stand terminated, as it is no longer effective and implementable.

Nestle to Buy Aimmune

  • Nestle offered $34.50 per share for the remaining 74.4% in peanut allergy treatment maker Aimmune Therapeutics it does not already own as it adds what it hopes will be a lucrative treatment to its portfolio.
  • The offer values the California-based biopharmaceutical company at $2.6 billion, including the $473 million that Nestle had already invested in Aimmune.
  • In January, Aimmune Therapeutics got approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Palforzia, making it the first medication approved for food allergies in children and teens.
  • As per Nestle, the acquisition is expected to add to organic growth in 2021 and to cash earnings by 2022/23.
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SpaceX Postpones Launch of Satellites from Starlink Project

  • The launch of next batch of satellites of SpaceX's Starlink project was postponed due to inclement weather during pre-flight operations.
  • According to SpaceX, the next launch could take place on 1st September from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
  • Starlink is the next-generation satellite network capable of providing Earth's inhabitants with broadband internet access, Sputnik reported.
  • The project's implementation began in February 2018. In total, it plans to launch about 12,000 satellites.
  • Another 30,000 satellites are set to be put into orbits with altitudes from 328 to 580 kilometres. SpaceX estimated the cost of the project at USD 10 billion.
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Bryan Brothers Bid Adieu to Tennis

  • The legendary American duo of Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who are indeed one of the most successful men's doubles team in the history of tennis, have announced their retirement from the game just a few days ahead of the 2020 US Open.
  • With this, the Bryan brothers' 25-year-long professional careers together have come to an end which began with the Grand Slam tournament at Flushing Meadows in 1995.
  • They captured an Open Era record 119 trophies in 26 seasons, including all four Grand Slams, all nine ATP Masters 1000s and the Olympic gold medal.
  • No other men's doubles pair comes close to the numbers scripted by the Bryans. Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde are a distant second in the Open era with 11 Grand Slam titles and 61 tour titles.

India and Russia Joint Winners of Chess Olympiad

  • India made chess history by winning their first gold medal in the Olympiad, after they were declared joint champions with formidable Russia in an anti-climactic end to the event played online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • India stretched Russia to the brink in the Chess Olympiad final, but seemed to have lost out in a frantic finish. Two Indian players were declared to have lost on time in the final round after an apparent loss of internet connection for them. This was the first time FIDE was holding the Olympiad in an online format.
  • After India lodged an official appeal against the result, FIDE said the issue was under investigation. After about an hour of the result, the world chess body announced that FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich had made a decision to give gold medals of to both teams.
  • Nihal Sarin and Divya Deshmukh lost connection with the server and were declared to have lost on time. Deshmukh had been in a winning position before the loss of connection in the final round.
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Kerala to Set up India's First International Women's Trade Centre

  • Kerala will set up India's first international women's trade centre (IWTC), in consonance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at Angamaly.
  • This initiative aims to accelerate women entrepreneurship and secure gender parity while providing women with a safe place away from home to start new businesses, set up or expand, and get their products marketed globally.
  • Besides serving as a facilitator to launch their own ventures, IWTC will enable women entrepreneurs to come forward and participate in international trade, enjoy greater economic benefits and enhance their competitiveness to tap market opportunities. REACH (Resource Enhancement Academy for Career Heights) is also aimed at empowering women with the required skills to ensure success in life.

India Grants 4th Tranche of $5mn to Myanmar

  • India granted the 4th tranche of $5 million to Myanmar for the development of the India-Myanmar Border Area. In this regard, the Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Saurabh Kumar handed over the ceremonial cheque to Lt-Gen Ye Aung, Minister for Border Affairs, Myanmar. This funding is on the lines of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by ex-Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2012 according to which India would grant a total of $25 million to Myanmar, divided into five tranches of $5 million each annually, starting 2017, for projects on India-Myanmar border.
  • The Myanmar-India Border Area Development Programmes include providing infrastructure and socio-economic development in Chin State and Naga Self-Administered Region.
  • Myanmar shares around 1600 km border with four Northeastern Indian states — Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.
  • -Under border area development project 141 projects including 43 schools, 18 health centres and 51 bridges and roads have been constructed over the last three years in Chin State and Naga Self-Administered Zone.

Census, NPR Unlikely in 2020

  • As per reports, the first phase of the Census and the exercise to update the National Population Register (NPR), scheduled for this year but deferred due to the coronavirus outbreak, may be delayed by a year as there is no sign of slowdown of the pandemic.
  • The Indian census is one of the largest administrative and statistical exercises in the world, with the involvement of more than 30 lakh officials who would visit each household across the length and breadth of the country.
  • The house-listing phase of the Census and the exercise to update NPR were scheduled to be carried out across the country from April 1 to September 30, 2020, but were postponed.
  • The census is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on people of India which helps the State to chalk out various policies.
  • With a history of more than 130 years, this reliable, time tested exercise has been bringing out a veritable wealth of statistics every 10 years, including on the rich diversity of the people, and has become one of the tools to understand and study India.
  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.
  • The demographic details required for every usual resident are name, relationship to head of household, father's name, mother's name, spouse's name (if married), sex, date of birth, marital status, place of birth, nationality (as declared), present address of usual residence, duration of stay at present address, permanent residential address, occupation and educational qualification.
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Navy Inducts Indigenously Developed Torpedo Decoy System

  • Anti-Submarine Warfare capability of the Indian Navy received a major boost with the conclusion of a contract for Advanced Torpedo Decoy System (ATDS) 'Maareech' capable of launch from all frontline warships of Indian Navy. The decoy system has been designed and developed indigenously by DRDO's Naval Systems and Materials (NS&M) cluster lab Naval Physical & Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), Kochi.
  • Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), the other naval laboratory in the NS&M cluster, has developed the expendable decoy counter measure system, which is integrated with the Maareech system. Maareech ATDS is capable of providing reliable defence mechanism against a possible torpedo attack by vintage as well as modern torpedoes.
  • The system has both torpedo detection and countermeasure capability. Its functions include automatic detection, tracking and sounding alert of incoming torpedoes, and decoying of acoustic homing torpedoes. Bharat Electronics Limited, a Defence PSU, would undertake the production of this decoy system.
  • Maareech features are at par with the global torpedo defence systems; Maareech system possesses detection and decoying capabilities superior to that of global systems.
  • Also, being totally indigenous, continuous support of DRDO and Indian industry is available for up gradation of capabilities based on new requirements arising out of tactical missions. This induction not only stands testimony to the joint resolve of the Indian Navy and DRDO towards indigenous development of Defence technology, but is also a major fillip to the Government's 'Make in India' initiative and the country's resolve to become 'Atmanirbhar' in niche technology.
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K. S. Bajpai: Doyen of Indian Foreign Policy Passes Away

  • Katyayani Shankar Bajpai, a doyen of Indian foreign policy and one of the key personalities behind burgeoning Indo-US ties passed away at the age of 92.
  • An Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1952 batch of officers Bajpai served as India's ambassador to the United States, China and Pakistan at the critical juncture in bilateral relationships.
  • Following his retirement, he was involved with several academic institutions in USA and was Chairman of National Security Advisory Board from 2008 to 2010.
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Malaysia's Independence Day (Hari Merdeka)

  • Independence Day (Hari Merdeka, also known as Hari Kebangsaan or "National Day"), is the official independence day of Federation of Malaya. It commemorates the Malayan Declaration of Independence of 31 August 1957, and is defined in Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia. The day is marked by official and unofficial ceremonies and observances.
  • The observation of 31 August as Malaysia's national day is the cause of some controversy, due to calls to prioritise the celebration of Hari Malaysia (Malaysia Day) on 16 September instead. Hari Malaysia commemorates the formation of Malaysia in 1963, when North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore federated with the existing states of Malaya to form Malaysia. Some, especially people from East Malaysia, argue that it is illogical to celebrate 31 August 1957 as Malaysia's national day when Malaysia was only created in 1963. Supporters of Hari Merdeka argue that "the Federation" as defined in Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia is the "Federation of Malaya" that was established in 1957.
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SBI to Receive Human Capital Management Excellence Award 2020

  • State Bank of India (SBI) to receive Brandon Human Capital Management (HCM) Excellence Award (also known as the Academy Awards of Learning & Development) 2020, a global recognition for its HR initiative, "Nayi Disha". The award winners will be honored at Brandon Hall Group's annual HCM Excellence Conference, January 26-28, 2021 at the Hilton West Palm Beach, Florida.
  • The selected winners will also present in breakout sessions, sharing their leading practices during the conference.
  • SBI partnered with M/s Chrysalis & developed the "Nayi Disha" Programme.
  • SBI has won the award in The HCM Spring Program under 'Excellence in Learning and Development' in 3 categories namely, Best Learning Program supporting a Change Transformation Business Strategy (Gold), Best Use of Blended Learning and Best Unique or Innovative Learning (Gold) and Development Program for its HR initiative (Silver).
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Indian Cricket Coach Gurcharan Singh Co-authored his Memoir "Pitching It Straight" with MS Unnikrishnan

  • Indian Cricket Coach Gurcharan Singh (85 years old) penned his memoir titled "Pitching It Straight" which is co-authored by sports journalist MS Unnikrishnan and published by Vitasta
  • The book portrays the personal and professional life of Gurcharan Singh, who trained numerous young talents.
  • The 186-page memoir of covers the period when cricket was patronised by royal families and the life incidence of Gurcharan Singh during the 1947 partition.
  • The book also narrates his recent visit to his native Gangakaas in Pakistan.
  • Gurcharan Singh played 37 first class matches for Maharaja of Patiala's XI, Railways, and Souther Punjab.
  • He later joined the National Institute of Sports as a Coach.
  • He launched the Pace Academy at Gwalior in 1992.
  • He was honoured with Dronacharya Award in 1987.
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