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General Awareness

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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

24 Sep 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Alexander Lukashenko Sworn in for Sixth Term as President

  • Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in for his sixth term as the President of Belarus at a secret ceremony held with no prior announcement. As per reports, the inauguration ceremony took place in the Palace of Independence, Minsk which hosts landmark events in the country.
  • Known as 'the last dictator of Europe', Lukashenko has been facing mass protests and numerous accusations since the results of Presidential vote were first announced. The elections, which were held in August, saw a competition between Alexander Lukashenko, who was contesting for a sixth term and Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, who joined the race after her husband was jailed.
  • One opposition leader called the secretive ceremony "a farce," and several European countries reiterated that they don't recognize the results of the election and refuse to regard Lukashenko as the legitimate president. In the evening, thousands of people took to the streets in the capital of Minsk to protest the inauguration and were met with a strong response from police.

Former Rebel Leader Ishmael Toroama Bougainville's New President

  • Former rebel military commander Ishmael Toroama has been elected president of Bougainville, the autonomous region in the South Pacific, and he is set to lead talks for the territory's independence from Papua New Guinea.
  • The victory by the former rebel leader, Ishmael Toroama, is a break from the current administration, led by President John Momis, after the government's candidate was eliminated in the region's preferential voting system.
  • The general election was the first since Bougainville voted overwhelmingly for separation from Papua New Guinea last year, with Mr. Toroama defeating an open field, according to Bougainville's electoral commissioner.
  • The mineral-rich group of islands of 250,000 people has been hampered by years of little economic progress after a decade-long civil war that claimed as many as 20,000 lives. The war ended in 1998.

TIME's 100 most Influential People of 2020

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, London-based Indian-origin doctor Ravindra Gupta, who found a cure for AIDS, Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana and Bilkis - 'Dadi' of Shaheen Bagh - a Delhi neighbourhood that became the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests, are among the TIME magazine's list of 100 most influential people of 2020.
  • PM Narendra Modi's inclusion in the list is not due to his or the NDA government's achievements but in connection with its alleged targeting of Indian Muslims, according to a piece written by Karl Vick.
  • China President Xi Jinping, United States President Donald Trump, German leader Ursula von der Leyen, Black Lives Matter Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, Alibaba Group Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang, musician Megan Thee Stallion, tennis star Naomi Osaka, US Federal Reserve Chairperson Jeremy Powell, singer Selena Gomez, actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge were among many who feature on the list.
  • For more than a decade, the TIME 100 annual list has featured some of the world's most significant artists, leaders, scientists, activists, and entrepreneurs. The list includes people influencing the world while working in different fields.
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ENVIRONMENT

Warming Shrinks Arctic Ocean Ice to2nd Lowest on Record

  • Ice in the Arctic Ocean melted to its second lowest level on record this summer, triggered by global warming along with natural forces.
  • The extent of ice-covered ocean at the North Pole and extending further south to Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia reached its summertime low of 1.4 million square miles (3.7 million square kilometers) last week before starting to grow again. Arctic sea ice reaches its low point in September and its high in March after the winter.
  • This year's melt is second only to 2012, when the ice shrank to 1.3 million square miles (3.4 million square kilometers), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which has been keeping satellite records since 1979.
  • In the 1980s, the ice cover was about 1 million square miles (2.7 million square kilometers) bigger than current summer levels.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

NSE and SGX Ink Formal Pact on NSE IFSC-SGX Connect

  • National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Singapore Exchange (SGX) have entered into a formal agreement to cement the key terms for operationalising the NSE IFSC-SGX Connect. The two exchanges will also withdraw arbitration proceedings.
  • The parties did not elaborate on the terms and structure of the formal agreement, but said that the proposed NSE IFSC- SGX Connect will bring together international and Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) participants to create a bigger liquidity pool for Nifty products in GIFT City.
  • In August 2019, the two exchanges had received a set of approved regulatory dispensations from their statutory regulators obtaining their support on a joint proposal that the two exchanges submitted earlier this year.
  • As per Loh Boon Chye, Chief Executive Officer of SGX, building connectivity across international platforms in Singapore and India will facilitate unfettered access for global market participants, and in turn enhance investments and capital market flows between India and the world.

KKR Picks Up Stake in Reliance Retail

  • US private equity firm KKR & Co will invest Rs. 5,550 crore to buy a 1.28% stake in Reliance Industries Ltd's retail arm as the Mukesh Ambani-run conglomerate extends fundraising spree that has already netted more than $20 billion.
  • KKR will invest Rs. 5,550 crore into Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd.
  • The investment values Reliance Retail, which runs grocery stores and fashion chains, at a pre-money equity value of Rs. 4.21 lakh crore.
  • KKR's investment will translate into a 1.28% equity stake in RRVL on a fully diluted basis.
  • This is the second investment by KKR in Reliance Industries (RIL) units. It had previously picked up a 2.32% stake in the digital arm, Jio Platforms for Rs. 11,367 crore.
  • For Reliance Retail, KKR is the second investor. US private equity firm Silver Lake Partners had earlier this month agreed to buy 1.75% stake in the venture for Rs. 7,500 crore.

CCI Approves Acquisition of 100 Equity Shares of Midlife by API Holdings

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) approved the acquisition of 100 per cent equity shares of Medlife International Private Limited (Medlife) by API Holdings Private Limited (API Holdings) and of up to 19.59 per cent equity share capital of API Holdings by Medlife's shareholders.
  • The proposed combination relates to the acquisition of 100 per cent of equity shares of Medlife by API and as consideration, the acquisition of up to 19.59 per cent of the equity share capital of API Holdings (on a fully diluted basis), by the Medlife Promoter Shareholders and other shareholders of Medlife. (Prashant Singh, Tushar Kumar and the Prasid Uno Family Trust (Trust) are collectively referred to as Medlife Promoter Shareholders).
  • API is a private company, incorporated in 2019. API directly or through its subsidiaries carries out various business activities including wholesale sale and distribution of drugs; transportation and delivery services primarily focused on pharmaceutical sector; owning technology and intellectual property for developing e-commerce platforms; and provision of manpower supply, support, business function support for group companies of API Holdings.
  • Medlife, incorporated in 2014 is primarily a healthcare company engaged in the wholesale sale and distribution of drugs. It also engages in the retail sale of such pharmaceutical products, medical devices and OTC drugs, though pharmacies and an online marketplace. Medlife also healthcare services such as medicines and wellness products, digital doctor consultation and online diagnostic tests services.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

NASA Outlines Plan for First Woman on Moon by 2024

  • The US space agency (NASA) has formally outlined its $28bn (£22bn) plan to return to the Moon by 2024.
  • As part of a programme called Artemis, NASA will send a man and a woman to the lunar surface in the first landing with humans since 1972.
  • But the agency's timeline is contingent on Congress releasing $3.2bn for building a landing system.
  • Astronauts will travel in an Apollo-like capsule called Orion that will be launched on a powerful rocket called SLS.
  • NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the $28bn represents the costs associated for the next four years in the Artemis programme to land on the Moon. SLS funding, Orion funding, the human landing system and of course the spacesuits - all of those things that are part of the Artemis programme are included.
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SPORTS

Howzat Appoints Cricketing Legends as the Official Brand Ambassadors

  • Howzat, India's most trusted Fantasy Sports App, roped in cricketing legends Kumar Sangakkara, Keiron Pollard and Irfan Pathan, as the official brand ambassadors. The association will cement the integrity and passion that millions of fans look for in a fantasy app. The tie-up is also timed with Howzat's next growth phase, as the fantasy app is looking to expand its presence pan-India. Irfan Pathan will be featuring in advertisements online.

Kevin De Bruyne, Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer on UEFA Player of Year Shortlist

  • According to European football`s governing body, Kevin De Bruyne, Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer have been shortlisted for the UEFA men`s Player of the Year award.
  • Lewandowski guided Bayern Munich to their sixth Champions League title, finishing as the competition`s top scorer with 15 goals.
  • The Polish striker netted 55 goals in 47 games in all competitions as Bayern won the treble.
  • Neuer, also part of Bayern`s treble-winning squad, kept six clean sheets in the Champions League and missed just one game the entire season.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Africa is India's Priority: Jaishankar at 15th CII-EXIM Digital Conclave

  • "India's engagement with Africa is among the earliest and most important vectors of its foreign policy," External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar said while inaugurating the 15th Confederation of Indian Industry--EXIM Digital Conclave. He said that Africa's rise for India is not just desirable but necessary.
  • EAM S Jaishankar cheered the Indo-African ties and said that India and said that India is committed towards supporting African countries in their endeavour towards development. He outlined four pillars of India's commitment towards Africa.
  • According to S. Jaishankar, the four pillars are 'developmental partnership, trade and investment, strong people-to-people ties, particularly in areas like education and capacity building for young Africans, and most recently, defence and maritime security.'
  • He said that India has executed 194 developmental projects in 37 African countries at a cost of $11.6 billion and is currently working to complete 77 additional ones in 29 countries. The projects range from infrastructure to ICT, power generation and distribution of water and irrigation, railways to roads, and agriculture to sugar plants.
  • The partnership between India and Africa has seen a steady growth over past few years, so much so, that India has become Africa's third-largest export destination. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, with an investment of $54 billion, India happens to be one of the biggest investors in the continent.
  • The sectors where India has contributed include energy, mining, banking, textiles among others. Apart from that, the oil and gas sector of India also invested around $7 billion in Mozambique, South Sudan and other regions of North and West Africa.

Turkish President's Remarks on J&K at UNGA Unacceptable: India

  • India and Turkey clashed for the second year running at the UN General Assembly's high-level session after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Kashmir as a burning issue.
  • Speaking at the high-level segment of the UNGA, Erdogan did not name India, but criticised the situation in Kashmir after the August 5, 2019, change in status and the lockdown.
  • India's Permanent Representative in the UN TS Tirumurti hit back by describing his remarks as gross interference in India's internal affairs and said that they were completely unacceptable.
  • However, the relevant UNSC resolution asks Pakistan to first remove its troops and personnel from the region. Erdogan rubbed a few more countries the wrong way in his speech and in case of Armenia and Azerbaijan, even named them. Last year at the same event, Pakistan and Malaysian PMs, besides Erdogan, had touched the Kashmir issue.

Narendra Tomar Assumes Charge of Ministry Vacated by Harsimrat Kaur Badal

  • Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar assumed additional charge as the Minister of Food Processing Industries in Panchsheel Bhawan.
  • Tomar is currently holding the charge of the Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Minister of Rural Development, and Minister of Panchayati Raj. The MoFPI was previously held by Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal who resigned in protest against three agri-legislations
  • The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has a clear goal of attaining these objectives by facilitating and acting as a catalyst to attract quality investments from within India and abroad into this sector with the aim of making food processing a national initiative.
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DEFENCE

Kazakhstan Proposes Global Agency to Control Threat of Biological Weapons

  • Central Asia's biggest state Kazakhstan has proposed to establish a special multilateral body – the International Agency for Biological Safety to control threat of biological weapons. It has further proposed to establish a food reserves initiative to meet global food security.
  • These proposals were put forward by Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev while addressing UNGA.
  • According to the Kazakh President, the greatest challenge remains the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing deep suffering among the people around the world and has seriously affected the global economy.

Shivangi Singh, Commissioned in 2017, to be First Rafale Woman Fighter Pilot

  • From the country's oldest fighter jets to the newest, Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh is getting set to graduate to flying the omni-role Rafale after becoming fully-operational on the ageing MiG-21 'Bison'.
  • Flt. Lt. Singh, who hails from Varanasi, will formally join the 17 'Golden Arrows' Squadron of the 4.5-generation Rafales at the Ambala airbase after she finishes her "conversion training", which is required when a combat pilot switches from one fighter to another.
  • But it should be a breeze for Flt Lt Singh after flying the highly-demanding and ageing MiG-21s, which have virtually the highest landing and take-off speed in the world at 340 kmph.
  • Flt. Lt. Singh, who studied at the Banaras Hindu University, was among the second batch of women fighter pilots who were commissioned in 2017. IAF currently has 10 women fighter pilots, who have undergone the arduous training to fly supersonic jets. It takes around Rs 15 crore to train a single fighter pilot.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

A. K. Dixit as New Administrator of PMC Bank

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) appointed former Union Bank of India general manager A. K. Dixit as the new administrator of crisis-hit Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank with effect from September 23. The present administrator Jai Bhagwan Bhoria stepped down on September 22 due to health reasons.
  • Mumbai-based PMC Bank has been placed under directions of the RBI since September 23, 2019 after the central bank superseded the troubled lender's board and appointed Jai Bhagwan Bhoria as the administrator of the bank. The directive is presently valid till December 22, 2020.
  • The central bank had imposed restrictions on the urban cooperative bank after it discovered that the lender allegedly created fictitious accounts to hide over Rs. 6,700 crore in loans extended to the almost-bankrupt Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL).
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DAYS AND EVENTS

World Maritime Day

  • World Maritime Day is observed on September 24 to mark the contribution of international maritime industries towards the economy of the world especially shipping. Every year the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) celebrates World Maritime Day. The exact date is left to individual Governments but, it is usually celebrated during the last week in September, generally the last Thursday of the month.
  • World Maritime Day focuses on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security, and the marine environment.
  • The theme for 2020 World Maritime Day is "Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet". This theme is to focus on providing an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The shipping industry, with the support of the IMO regulatory framework, has already started the transition towards this sustainable future.
  • The world relies on a safe, secure, and efficient international shipping industry, which is an essential component of any program for future sustainable green economic growth in a sustainable manner. International shipping transports more than 80 percent of global trade to peoples and communities all over the world. World Maritime Day was first held on March 17, 1978, to mark the date of the IMO Convention's entry into force in 1958.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

MIT Professor Wins Top AI Award for Cancer, Drug Research

  • Regina Barzilay , a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor using computer science to detect cancer and discover new drugs won a new $1 million award for artificial intelligence.
  • The world's biggest AI society awarded its top prize to Regina Barzilay, a professor at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
  • Barzilay is a breast cancer survivor whose 2014 diagnosis led her to shift her AI work to creating systems for drug development and early cancer diagnosis.
  • Her early diagnosis tool has been tested in multiple hospitals, including Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital and others in Taiwan and Sweden.
  • She's the inaugural winner of the new annual award given by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and funded by Chinese online education company Squirrel AI.
  • It's meant to elevate AI advancements to the level of a Nobel Prize or computer science's Turing Award, while also highlighting AI research that benefits society.

Nobel Winners to Get $110,000 More as Prize Money Increased

  • Winners of the prestigious Nobel prizes this year will receive an extra 1 million crowns ($110,000), the head of the foundation which oversees the awards said.
  • Prize money will increase to 10 million crowns this year.
  • "The decision has been made due to the fact that our costs and capital are in a stable relation in a completely different way than previously," said the head of the Nobel Foundation Lars Heikensten.
  • Dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel left around 31 million crowns - about 1.8 billion crowns in today's money according to the Foundation - to fund the prizes, which have been awarded since 1901.
  • The prize amount has varied over time, starting at 150,000 crowns and reaching 1 million crowns in 1981.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Government Proposes to Formulate Retail Trade Policy: Piyush Goyal

  • The government has proposed to formulate a National Retail Trade Policy and stakeholder consultations are being held for the same, Parliament was informed. In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that the government has set up a National Traders' Welfare Board with the objectives of welfare of traders and their employees, simplification of the Acts and rules applicable to traders, reduction of compliance burden and improvement in acces to fubds.
  • he said the government is in the process of finalising a National Logistics Policy which will help bring down logistics cost significantly.
  • He also said 24 sub-sectors (such as agro-food processing, steel, agro chemicals, electronics products, furniture, leather, auto parts and textiles) in manufacturing have been identified in consultation with industry based on export potential, import substitution and employment generation capacity, where attention would be given to make India a self-reliant country and a global supplier.

Approval to Labour Reform Bills by Parliament to Help Create Job Opportunities

  • According to industry body CII, the passage of three key labour reform bills in Parliament would facilitate expansion of establishments to create employment opportunities and help India become a preferred investment destination. Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed by voice vote the three labour codes on industrial relations, social security and occupational safety.
  • The move truly represents the big bang structural reforms which will go a long way towards improving the climate for both workers and industry.
  • The reforms, it said, promise to reset the entire regulatory framework to benefit millions of workers and provide enterprises with flexibility, transparency and clarity.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Bharat Biotech Inks Deal with Washington University School of Medicine

  • Bharat Biotech signed a licensing agreement with Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, US for a novel "chimp-adenovirus", single dose intranasal vaccine for COVID-19.
  • The city-based vaccine maker, Bharat Biotech owns the rights to distribute the vaccine in all markets except the US, Japan and Europe.
  • While the Phase I trial will take place in St. Louis University's Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit, Bharat Biotech, upon obtaining the required regulatory approval, will pursue further stages of clinical trials in India and undertake large-scale manufacture of the vaccine at its GMP facility in Genome Valley.
  • Adenoviruses are the basis for many investigational vaccines for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, such as Ebola virus and tuberculosis. They have good safety and efficacy records, but not much research has been done with nasal delivery of these vaccines.

AICTE Approves Inclusion of Geospatial as Subject in GATE, NET Exam

  • The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has approved the inclusion of Geospatial subject in the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) and National Eligibility Test (NET) examination. This was approved on the recommendation of the National Geospatial Task Force Report 2013 under the Chairmanship of former ISRO Chairman, K. Kasturirangan.
  • Students competing for the popular NET for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) and lectureship in Indian universities and colleges, including IITs and NITs and GATE for JRF in CSIR laboratories, can now opt for Geospatial as a subject.
  • Department of Science and Technology (DST) as an organisation and many professionals have highlighted the need for Geospatial subject especially in GATE and NET examination at different forums.
  • The step will benefit the increasing number of students who are taking up geospatial as a subject at different levels and help in the evolution of Geospatial Ecosystem in the country.
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ART AND CULTURE

The Story of the Museum of Art and Photography and a Mural

  • Bengaluru's Museum of Art and Photography now sports a large, colourful façade featuring elements that make the city what it is.
  • There is a new addition to the Bengaluru cityscape. The façade of the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) on Kasturba Road, which is under construction, has been transformed into a large, colourful mural.
  • The project was brought to life over 10 days by Aravani Art Project, a city-based cis and transwomen art collective. The artwork titled Story of Bangalore or Bengaluru Kathegalu, features the myriad people that make the bustling metropolis: from the morning walker and the pourakarmika to the traffic policeman, complete with orange reflector jacket.
  • The people in the mural remain faceless, painted in different shades of brown. The idea being, "it could be you".
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