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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

18 Sep 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

United States Accuses Hezbollah of Storing Explosive Chemical in Europe

  • Militant group Hezbollah has stored chemicals that can be used to make explosives in several European countries, a senior State Department official said as he appealed to countries in Europe and elsewhere to impose bans on the organization.
  • Hezbollah operatives have moved ammonium nitrate from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in recent years and are suspected to still be storing the material throughout Europe.
  • Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives. It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Miami Herald Apologizes for 'Racist' Insert Column

  • The Miami Herald is investigating how it published a paid insert with what it called "racist and anti-Semitic commentary" and distributed to readers of its Spanish-language sister paper.
  • The Florida daily's publisher Aminda Marqués González earlier this week said it will no longer publish or distribute the content of the weekly supplement LIBRE.
  • Marqués González and the managing editor of El Nuevo Herald Nancy San Martín apologized to readers in a letter saying they had not previously read the advertising insert until a column was widely shared on social media with commentary berating Jews for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement while comparing violent demonstrators to Nazis.

Trump Campaign Denies Sexual Assault Claims by the President in 1997

  • US President Donald Trump's re-election campaign denied a Guardian newspaper report in which a former model accused the New York real estate developer of sexually assaulting and groping her at the US Open tennis tournament in 1997.
  • The Guardian reported that Amy Dorris told the paper in an interview that Trump assaulted her outside a bathroom in his VIP box at the tournament that year. She was 24 at the time, the newspaper said.
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ENVIRONMENT

India at UN Cautions Against Linking Environmental Degradation to Peace and Security

  • India at the UN cautioned against "securitisation" of environmental issues, saying linking up everything related to environmental degradation to peace and security does nothing to address climate concerns meaningfully nor does it ensure that real perpetrators adhere to their commitments on environmental issues.
  • Environmental degradation can have humanitarian impact or effect just as many other aspects of human activity have humanitarian dimensions, India said in a statement to the UN Security Council's high-level open debate on maintenance of international peace and security: Humanitarian Effects of Environmental Degradation and Peace and Security.

Thousands of firefighters Battle US West Coast Blazes Amid 'Overwhelming' Ruin

  • Scores of fires have burned some 3.2 million acres (1.3 million hectares) in California since mid-August and another 1.6 million acres (647,500 hectares) in Oregon and Washington state since Labor Day on Sept. 7, laying waste to several small towns, destroying thousands of homes and claiming at least 34 lives.
  • The Oregon Department of Forestry said 6,500 firefighters from the state and elsewhere in the United States and Canada were working to stop the blazes, along with other government agency emergency responders and community members. 
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Mexico Issues 750-Million Euro 'Green Bond' Linked To SDGs

  • Mexico has issued a 750-million-euro ($885 million) "green bond," joining a dozen or so other countries with such sovereign debt placements.
  • Mexico's Treasury Department said the bond is the first of its type to be linked to U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, that set out measurable goals to fight poverty, inequality and protect the environment.
  • The seven-year bond will pay an interest rate of 1.6% with a 1.3% coupon.
  • The department said the bond drew interest from 267 institutional investors worldwide. Green bond issues have gained traction in 2019 and 2020 after the first was issued almost four years ago. Mexico's bond will be used to fund programs to meet the SDGs.

DBS Bank India unveils online loan platform for SMEs

  • DBS Bank India launched an online platform for making loans available to small and mid size businesses in a hassle-free manner, with credit facility up to Rs. 20 crore.
  • Driven by its constant focus on building seamless, intuitive and hassle-free banking solutions for customers, DBS Bank India has unveiled its online credit solutions platform - DBS Digital Business Loans for SMEs.
  • This segment-flagship platform from DBS improves the ease of accessing business credit for the entire spectrum of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, offering credit up to Rs. 20 crore.

ICICI Home Finance Launches Home Loan Scheme

  • The loan scheme is targeted at the informal segment of the population who wish to purchase their own home, but may not have all documents that a formal financial institution would require.
  • ICICI Home Finance has launched a new loan scheme 'Apna Ghar Dreamz', with credit amount in the range of Rs 2 lakh to 50 lakh, for skilled workers employed in the informal sector in Delhi.
  • The scheme is meant for skilled workers such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, tailors, painters, welders, auto mechanics, manufacturing machine operators, computer mechanics, RO repair technicians, small and medium business owners and grocery store owners in the city.
  • Customers seeking to avail the special 20-year tenure loan would need to provide documents such as PAN and Aadhaar details, and bank statement of past six months. The customers should have a minimum account balance of Rs 1,500 for loan up to 5 lakh and Rs 3,000 for loan above 5 lakh.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Two Bills Aimed at Transforming Agriculture Passed

  • Two bills aimed at transforming agriculture in the country and raising farmers' income were passed by Lok Sabha today. The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 were introduced in Lok Sabha on 14th September 2020 by Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare, Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, to replace ordinances promulgated on 5th June 2020.
  • The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers' produce which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-State and intra-State trade and commerce of farmers' produce outside physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various State agricultural produce market legislations; to provide a facilitative framework for electronic trading and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
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DEFENCE

Union Govt Approves Amendment in Foreign Direct Investment Policy in Defence Sector

  • The Union Government has approved the amendment in Foreign Direct Investment Policy in Defence Sector.
  • Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said that for new licensees, FDI is allowed upto 74 per cent through automatic route and beyond 74 per cent to be permitted through government route.
  • For existing licensees, infusion of fresh foreign investment up to 49 per cent can be done by making declaration of change or transfer within 30 days.
  • Mr Goyal said, this will enhance ease of doing business and contribute to growth of investment, income and employment. He said, foreign investments in the defence sector shall be subject to scrutiny on grounds of national security.
  • The Minister said, in line with our collective vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat, these amendments will enhance self-reliance in defence production, while keeping national interests and security paramount.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Harsimrat Kaur Badal Quits Union Cabinet in Protest Against Two Agri Bills

  • Terming the two agriculture marketing reform Bills passed by the Lok Sabha as "anti-farmer" legislation, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP and Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet in protest. 
  • Her party is one of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) oldest allies, and Ms. Badal was its sole representative in the Modi government.

Ayurveda Doyen P. R. Krishnakumar Dies of COVID-19

  • P.R. Krishnakumar, Chancellor of Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women, Coimbatore, and the managing director of the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (Coimbatore) Limited, died of COVID-19 in Coimbatore. He was 69.
  • A recipient of Padma Shri, who played a major role in the preparation of the Ayush protocol, Krishnakumar was undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in a private hospital in Coimbatore for over a week. 

Former Chhattisgarh Minister, Congress Leader Chanesh Ram Rathiya Dies

  • Former Chhattisgarh minister and veteran Congress leader Chanesh Ram Rathiya died of COVID-19. He was 78 years old. 
  • He is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters. His elder son Laljeet Singh Rathiya is currently a Congress legislator from Dharamjaigarh seat in Chhattisgarh. 
  • Rathiya, a prominent tribal leader from north Chhattisgarh, was elected as an MLA for the first time in 1977 from Dharamjaigarh constituency in the then undivided Madhya Pradesh. He subsequently won five more Assembly elections in a row from the same seat.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

India, Pakistan Foreign Ministers to Attend SAARC Virtual Meet

  • Days after India-Pakistan tensions spilled over into a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi are expected to meet via a video conference at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting on September 24, 2020.
  • All member countries have confirmed participation in the meeting, to be chaired by Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal.

World Patient Safety Day

  • The Seventy-second World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA 72.6 'Global action on patient safety' on 25 May 2019.
  • The resolution recognizes patient safety as a global health priority and endorses the establishment of World Patient Safety Day, to be observed annually on 17 September.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Chef Vikas Khanna Honoured with Asia Game Changer Award

  • Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna will be honoured with the prestigious 2020 Asia Game Changer Award for feeding millions across India amid the COVID-19 pandemic through a massive food distribution drive that he coordinated from thousands of miles away in his Manhattan home.
  • The Asia Game Changer Awards, launched by the Asia Society -- a US-based non-profit organisation -- in 2014, identify and honour true leaders who make a positive contribution to the future of Asia.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Maharashtra Approves Free Treatment Scheme for Road Accident Victims

  • The Maharashtra government announced a road accident insurance scheme under which anyone who gets injured in road mishap is eligible for free treatment in hospitals.
  • The scheme, named after Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, will cost the state exchequer Rs.125 crore annually.
  • The Balasaheb Thackeray Road Accident Insurance Scheme was approved in the state cabinet meeting.

CM Launches 'Arthika Spandana' Loan Disbursal Scheme

  • Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa launched the "Arthika Spandana" programme of disbursing loans to the tune of Rs. 39,300 crore through various cooperative institutions.
  • Under this scheme, Rs.15,300 crore would be disbursed to the agriculture sector while a sum of Rs. 24,000 crore would be earmarked for the non-agricultural sector.
  • The Chief Minister, who launched the programme by symbolically handing over cheques towards loans to 50 beneficiaries, hailed the cooperative institutions for helping people during the times of COVID-19 and floods.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

US Embassy in Kabul Warns of Extremist Attacks Against Women

  • The US Embassy in Afghanistan is warning that extremists groups are planning attacks against a "variety of targets" but are taking particular aim at women.
  • The warning issued doesn't specify the organisations plotting the attacks, but it comes as the Taliban and government-appointed negotiators are sitting together for the first time to try to find a peaceful end to decades of relentless war.

Brucellosis Outbreak in China

  • More than 3,000 people in northwestern China have tested positive for a deadly bacterial infection after an outbreak caused by a leak at a biopharmaceutical company last year.
  • The National Health Commission (NHC) of Lanzhou confirmed that at least 3,245 people in the city of Lanzhou - the capital of Gansu province - have been diagnosed with the infectious disease usually caused by drinking unpasteurised milk or contact with livestock. However, the infection can also be caused by inhaling the bacteria, which appears to be the case in Lanzhou.
  • Authorities have now discovered that the Zhongmu Lanzhou biological pharmaceutical factory, which was making brucellosis vaccines for animals, accidentally vented an aerosolized version of Brucella (the bacteria that causes brucellosis) into the air last summer due to the use of expired sanitizers and disinfectants.
  • This has led to the spread of the bacterial disease across the surrounding area through the air. S
  • ome experts fear that the zoonosis disease can have more serious side effects, including inflammation of the liver and spleen, respiratory issues, lasting damage to the reproductive system that can lead to infertility in men. 
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BOOKS AND AUTHORS

New book 'Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction.' Released

  • In a video interview with Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico Nick Etze, Roy was asked if she found a parallel between India's caste system and the racial hierarchy in the United States.
  • Arundhati Roy's Azadi is a collection of essays and speeches describing India's recent descent into totalitarianism that speaks to the heart and the mind.
  • In the wake of the release of her new book 'Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction.', Booker Prize-winning author and activist has been facing flak from anti-caste scholars after she made a remark on Brahminism and her own Brahmin heritage.
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