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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

22 Sep 2020


Lebanese President Warns of 'Hell' If No New Govt. is Formed

  • Lebanon's President warned that the crisis-hit country could be going to hell if a new government was not formed soon.
  • President Michel Aoun criticised his political allies, the Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal, for insisting on holding on to the Finance Ministry portfolio in any new government and on naming the Shiite ministers in the Cabinet.
  • Their insistence has undermined a French initiative led by President Emmanuel Macron for a Lebanese government of independent specialists that was to be formed by September 15 to enact desperately needed reforms meant to extract the country from a devastating economic and financial crisis.
  • The crisis, which has led to the collapse of the Lebanese currency, has been worsened by the August 4 explosion at Beirut's port caused by the detonation of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, which killed nearly 200 people, injured thousands and caused losses worth billions of dollars.

Belarus Opposition Appeal to EU Fails to Unblock Sanctions

  • European Union foreign ministers failed to agree sanctions against Belarusian officials, despite an appeal by the country's main opposition leader.
  • After a sixth straight weekend of huge protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya travelled to Brussels to try to convince the EU to follow through on a sanctions threat it announced last month.
  • So far the bloc has yet to approve a list of some 40 Belarusian officials to be hit with travel bans and asset freezes. Cyprus has been seen as blocking approval by tying the Belarus measures to unrelated sanctions it wants on Turkey in a gas exploration dispute.
  • According to EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell, although there is a clear will to adopt the sanctions, the required unanimity was not reached, referring to EU rules that all 27 states must agree.

Taiwan Military Says it Has Right to Counter Attack Amid China Threats

  • Taiwan said that its armed forces have the right to self-defence and counter attack amid harassment and threats, in an apparent warning to China, which last week sent numerous jets across the mid-line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
  • Tensions have sharply spiked in recent months between Taipei and Beijing, which claims democratically run Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if needed.
  • As per Taiwan's defence ministry, it had clearly defined procedures for the island's first response amid high frequency of harassment and threats from the enemy's warships and aircraft this year.
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Shell Launches Major Cost-cutting Drive

  • Royal Dutch Shell is looking to slash up to 40% off the cost of producing oil and gas in a major drive to save cash so it can overhaul its business and focus more on renewable energy and power markets.
  • Shell's new cost-cutting review, known internally as Project Reshape and expected to be completed this year, will affect its three main divisions and any savings will come on top of a $4 billion target set in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Reducing costs is vital for Shell's plans to move into the power sector and renewables where margins are relatively low.
  • Competition is also likely to intensify with utilities and rival oil firms including BP and Total all battling for market share as economies around the world go green.
  • Last year, Shell's overall operating costs came to $38 billion and capital spending totalled $24 billion.
  • Shell is exploring ways to reduce spending on oil and gas production, its largest division known as upstream, by 30% to 40% through cuts in operating costs and capital spending on new projects.

Privatise Select PSU Banks, Dilute Role of DFS: Raghuram Rajan

  • Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan suggested the government to privatise select public sector banks, set up a bad bank to deal with NPAs and dilute the role of Department of Financial Services.
  • The reforms are necessary to ensure growth of the banking government without the periodic boom-bust cycles, said a paper titled 'Indian Banks: A Time to Reform?' co-authored by Rajan and former Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Viral Acharya.
  • In the paper it is said that re-privatisation of select PSBs can then be undertaken as part of a carefully calibrated strategy, bringing in private investors who have both financial expertise as well as technological expertise; corporate houses must be kept from acquiring significant stakes, given their natural conflicts of interest.
  • Noting that the government obtains enormous power from directing bank lending, it said sometimes this power is exercised to advance public goals such as financial inclusion or infrastructure finance, sometimes it is used to offer patronage to, or exercise control over, industrialists.
  • According to the paper, private asset management and national asset management 'bad banks' should be encouraged in parallel to the online platform for distressed loan sales.

SBI Life Inks Pact with Yes Bank

  • SBI Life Insurance signed bancassurance agreement with Yes Bank to offer a comprehensive bouquet of life insurance solutions to the bank's customers across the country.
  • As part of the partnership, SBI Life's diverse range of individual and group insurance solutions will be offered to the customers of Yes Bank through the bank's branches spread throughout the country.
  • SBI Life's extensive product portfolio coupled with the bank's digital capabilities and widespread presence will ensure easy accessibility of life insurance to the customers.
  • The agreement was signed by Rajan Pental, Global Head - Retail Banking, Yes Bank and AVS Sivaramakrishna, Regional Director-Mumbai region, SBI Life Insurance.
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India-Japan Moon Mission: ISRO Forms Study Group

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), which is working on its second Moon landing mission — Chandrayaan-3 — for next year, has now formed a study group for another moon mission along with Japan.
  • The India-Japan mission, a joint initiative between ISRO and Japanese space agency JAXA, was in the cold storage as ISRO was focusing on its own moon and human missions. Senior scientists have now confirmed that it is back on the space agency's agenda.
  • As part of the mission, Japan will be launching a joint lunar mission — Lunar Polar Exploration (LPE) — and as details shared by JAXA, the mission will be launched after 2023 and will involve a lander and a rover.
  • JAXA diagrams show that the Japanese would be building the overall landing module and the rover, while ISRO would
  • develop the lander system. The mission will be launched from Japan, and the designated launch vehicle is the H3 rocket, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
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Simona Halep Claims Rome Title

  • Top seed Simona Halep gave her French Open preparations a boost when she claimed the Italian Open in Rome after second seed Karolina Pliskova retired from the final with injury when she was down 6-0, 2-1.
  • This victory gave Halep her first title in Rome and her third consecutive title of the year after wins in Dubai -- before the COVID-19 hiatus -- and Prague last month.
  • Pliskova attempted to continue playing after receiving treatment on her lower back and leg between sets but eventually decided to retire, not willing to take any chances before the French Open which begins on September 27.
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Pakistan Globally-recognised Epicentre of Terrorism: India at United Nations

  • In a scathing attack on Pakistan, India has said that if there is an "unfinished agenda" at the UN, it is that of tackling the scourge of terrorism and the country, a globally-recognised epicentre of the menace, which harbours and trains terrorists and hails them as martyrs.
  • Exercising India's right to reply, First Secretary in the country's Permanent Mission to the UN Vidisha Maitra said that Pakistan is a country which is globally recognised as the epicentre of terrorism, which by its own admission harbours and trains terrorists, and hails them as martyrs and consistently persecutes its ethnic and religious minorities.
  • She was referring to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's remarks in the country's Parliament where he had termed former al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden as a "martyr".

Ruckus as Eight MPs Suspended

  • The Rajya Sabha suspended eight Opposition MPs for the remainder of monsoon session for their yesterday's unprecedented display of aggression, including threat of physical harm and use of abusive language for Deputy Chairman of the House Harivansh Singh, during the passage of two farm Bills.
  • Derek O'Brien and Dola Sen (TMC), Rajeev Satav, Ripun Bora and Syed Naseer Hussain (Congress), K. K. Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem (CPM) and Sanjay Singh (AAP) were suspended for their "unruly behaviour, especially with the Chair, and gross disorderly conduct". The motion in this regard was moved by the government and approved by a voice vote.
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Navy Selects 2 Women Officers for Warship

  • Two Indian Navy women officers have qualified to be deployed on a frontline warship as part of crew, while a woman pilot is being trained to join the Rafale fighter jet fleet.
  • In a historic first, the Indian Navy has selected two women officers as helicopter crew for deployment on frontline warships.
  • Selected to join as "observers" (airborne tacticians) in the helicopter stream, Sub-Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub-Lieutenant Riti Singh will be the first set of women airborne combatants to operate from warships.
  • They are part of a group of 17 officers of the Indian Navy, three officers of the Indian Coast Guard, who were awarded "wings" on graduating as "observers". Earlier, entry of women was restricted to the fixed wing aircraft that took off and landed ashore.
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Ang Rita Sherpa, First to Climb Mount Everest Ten Times Passes Away

  • Ang Rita Sherpa, the first man to climb Mount Everest 10 times passed away of a lengthy illness. Fellow sherpas called a major loss to Nepal and the climbing community.
  • All ascents to the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) summit of the world's tallest mountain between 1983 and 1996 by Ang Rita, who went by his first name, like many Sherpas, were made without bottled oxygen.
  • Ang Rita was also known as the 'snow leopard' for his climbing skills.

Veteran Actress Ashalata Wabgaonkar Passes Away

  • Renowned Marathi actress Ashalata Wabgaonkar died aged 79. She was admitted to a private hospital in a critical condition last weekend following her COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Popularly known as Ashalata, the Goa-born actress, had reportedly contracted the infection during the shootings of a teleserial.
  • Ashalata Wabgaonkar acted in several Marathi films and plays. In Bollywood, she starred in films such as 'Apne Paraye', 'Woh Saat Din', 'Namak Halaal', 'Zanjeer' and others.
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World Rose Day

  • September 22 is observed as World Rose Day, for bringing happiness in the lives of people around the world who are fighting with cancer. It's also a day to spread awareness about the disease. On World Rose Day, hand-made roses, cards and gifts are offered to cancer patients. Special events are organised to give strength to those suffering from cancer. Rose, a symbol of love, tenderness and concern, is offered to cancer patients to give them strength as they face the cancer battle.
  • World Rose Day is observed in the memory of 12-year-old Melinda Rose from Canada who was diagnosed with Askin's Tumour, a rare form of blood cancer.
  • Melinda Rose small life touched the lives of many. She, till her last breath, did not give up hope of survival. In the last six months of her life, she continued to fight and made each day count by touching the lives of those around her in a positive way.
  • World Rose Day is dedicated to her and many cancer patients like her who fight the disease bravely. The way Melinda Rose touched people's lives, World Rose Day is a reminder to give back to the cancer patients by spending quality time with them and bringing joy in their lives.
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Emmy Awards 2020

  • Emmy Awards 2020 were hosted live by Jimmy Kimmel from an empty Los Angeles Staples Center. The nominees tuned in from their homes in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. The winners collected their trophies from home this year The Emmys has become the first big awards show to take place amid the pandemic.
  • Popular sitcom Schitt's Creek wons most awards in a single season by a comedy series. He took home seven Primetime awards and nine Emmys in the comedy categories. The family saga series Succession took home five awards that also include best drama series at the 72nd Emmy Awards. Thus a new record is set.
  • Euphoria's Zendaya became the youngest winner for best lead actress in the drama series category.
  • List of winners is: Outstanding Drama Series- Succession, Outstanding Limited Series- Watchmen, Outstanding Comedy Series- Schitt's Creek, Best Actor – Drama- Jeremy Strong, (Succession), Best Actress – Drama- Zendaya, (Euphoria), Best Actor – Comedy- Eugene Levy (Schitt's Creek), Best Actress – Comedy- Catherine O'Hara (Schitt's Creek), Best Actor – Limited Series or Movie- Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True), Best Actress – Limited Series or Movie- Regina King (Watchmen), Outstanding Director – Drama- Andrij Parekh, (Succession), Outstanding Reality Host- RuPaul (Drag Race), Oustanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series- The Last Dance
  • Outstanding Writing – Drama- Jesse Armstrong, (Succession) and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special- The Apollo
  • The Emmy Award recognises excellence within areas of television and emerging media. These awards are administered by three sister organizations – International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and Regional Chapters.
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Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2020 Introduced in Lok Sabha

  • Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha to amend the FCRA Act, 2010.
  • The bill proposes to include those public corporations owned and controlled by the Government of India under the list of entities that are not eligible to receive foreign funding.
  • It proposes to include public servants under the list.
  • The bill makes Aadhar mandatory for all the non-government organisations and other organisations that seeks foreign contributions.
  • It also proposes to limit the foreign funds received under the act from 50% to 20%.
  • Government would now be empowered to question a violator using the funds received from a foreign organisation.
  • As per the new provisions, Persons who have been granted certificate for the foreign funding will receive funding only through accounts that are designated as FCRA account.
  • The bill is aimed at amending the provisions of the FCRA Act to streamline the funding procedure.
  • The bill aims to increase transparency and accountability.
  • It also aims to strengthen the compliance mechanism in the utilisation of foreign contribution.

Parliament Nod to Two Bills

  • The parliament approved two bills replacing ordinances related to the Central Council of Homoeopathy and the Indian Medicine Central Council. The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to further extend the time to form the Central Council of Homeopathy by a year, after exhausting two years for the purpose.
  • The Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks a year's time to reconstitute the central council and provides for a board of directors to exercise its powers in the interim period.
  • Lok Sabha passed the two bills by voice vote. Rajya Sabha had passed the two measures earlier this month.
  • The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend the Homoeopathy Central Council Act, 1973 and replaces the Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, promulgated on April 24.
  • The 1973 Act was amended in 2018 to provide for the supersession of the Central Council of Homoeopathy. The council was required to be reconstituted within a year from the date of its supersession. This provision was amended in 2019 to require the reconstitution of the council in two years.
  • The bill seeks to amend the Act to increase the period for the supersession of the council from two to three years.
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SC Cancels Bengaluru Law Entrance Exam

  • The Supreme Court quashed the National Law Admission Test (NLAT-2020), conducted by National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, earlier this month for admission to its law courses. As per the court, All national law universities have to conduct themselves in a manner which fulfils the cause of education and maintain the trust reposed on them.
  • A Bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, directed the NLSIU to admit students to law courses as per the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) to be held on September 28.
  • The Bench, which had allowed the university to hold NLAT, but restrained it from declaring results, said CLAT results should be declared at the earliest to enable law universities to commence the admission process as soon as possible and start the course by mid-October.

IIIT Amendment Bill Gives National Importance Tag to Five New Institutes

  • The parliament passed a bill to declare five newly established Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) as institutions of national importance. The five new IIITs set up under the Public Private Partnership mode are in -- Surat, Bhopal, Bhagalpur, Agartala and Raichur.
  • The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has alreaby been passed by Lok Sabha in the previous session in March 2020.
  • The bill was introduced in the Upper House by Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
  • There are 25 IIITs in the country out of which 5 are purely run by the central government and 15 operate under public private partnership (PPP) mode.
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