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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

27 Sep 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Donald Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court Judge

  • Ending all speculation, US President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett as the new judge for the Supreme Court on Saturday. The nomination was made to fill up the vacancy following the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
  • Notably, Donald Trump has nominated three judges on the non-member bench of the US Supreme Court. The other two being justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
  • The nomination was made 40 days prior to the US Presidential election which is scheduled to be held on November 3. Donald Trump was highly critised by the opposition for hurrying the process. However, he justified it saying this is his highest and most important duties under the United States Constitution.

Malaysia's Sabah State Holds Election in Key Test for PM

  • Malaysia's 7-month-old ruling alliance triumphed in its first electoral test in eastern Sabah state, a major victory for embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin amid challenges to his leadership.
  • Sabah was ruled by the opposition and the state poll was seen as a referendum for Muhyiddin's unelected government. As per analysts, the victory could push Muhyiddin to call for early national elections to bolster his coalition that has a thin two-seat majority in Parliament.
  • The win could also help Muhyiddin thwart a challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who declared he has secured majority support in the national Parliament to oust Muhyiddin and form a new government.
  • Sabah and neighboring Sarawak on Borneo island hold about a quarter of the seats in Parliament and are seen as crucial for political leverage. The two states are rich in oil and timber, but are among the poorest in Malaysia. They have a greater level of autonomy in administration, immigration and judiciary.

Russia and China Block Release of UN Report Criticising Russia

  • Russia and China blocked the official release of a report by UN experts on Libya that accused its warring parties and their international backers -- including Russia -- of violating a UN arms embargo on the conflict-wracked country. Germany's deputy UN ambassador, Gunter Sautter, brought the issue to the Security Council after the two countries blocked the report's release by the committee monitoring sanctions on Libya, which Germany heads. Many delegations have asked for the publication of the panel of experts' interim report.
  • This would create much needed transparency. It would contribute to naming and shaming those who continue to blatantly violate the arms embargo in spite of agreements that have been made.
  • The report, seen by The Associated Press earlier this month, said the arms embargo was being violated by Libya's UN-supported government in the west, which is backed by Turkey and Qatar, and by rival east-based forces under commander Khalifa Hifter, backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Jordan.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Eight of Top 10 Valued Firms Lose Rs. 1.57 lakh cr in Market Valuation

  • Eight of the top 10 valued firms witnessed a combined erosion of Rs. 1,57,277.53 crore in market valuation last week, with Reliance Industries Limited emerging as the biggest laggard.
  • Only Infosys and HCL Technologies emerged as gainers among the most valued firms.
  • The market valuation of Reliance Industries Limited tumbled Rs. 70,189.95 crore to Rs. 14,88,797.82 crore.
  • Bharti Airtel's market capitalisation tanked Rs. 31,096.67 crore to Rs. 2,39,880.86 crore and that of ICICI Bank plummeted by Rs. 14,752.95 crore to reach Rs. 2,40,329.93 crore.
  • The market valuation of HDFC declined by Rs. 12,737.66 crore to Rs. 2,96,339.09 crore and that of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) dived Rs. 10,675.53 crore to reach Rs. 9,08,940.15 crore.
  • HDFC Bank witnessed an erosion of Rs. 7,286.42 crore to Rs. 5,74,614.23 crore and Kotak Mahindra Bank Rs. 5,710.01 crore to Rs. 2,47,292.12 crore.
  • Hindustan Unilever Limited's valuation also dropped by Rs 4,828.34 crore to Rs 4,88,179.05 crore.
  • In contrast, HCL Technologies Limited, the latest entrant in the coveted list of most valuable companies, added Rs. 4,450.79 crore to Rs. 2,24,555.79 crore in its m-cap.
  • The valuation of Infosys rose by Rs. 3,622.14 crore to Rs. 4,30,647.81 crore.
  • In the list of most valuable firms, RIL was at the number one rank followed by TCS, HDFC Bank, HUL, Infosys, HDFC, Kotak Mahindra Bank, ICICI Bank, Airtel and HCL Technologies.

Sri Lanka Seeks Fresh Currency Swap Facility, Deferment of Debt Payments from India

  • Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa sought an additional currency swap facility and deferment of debt payments from India during an online bilateral summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • Sri Lanka owes about $960 million to India and earlier this year India agreed to a $400 million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka until November 2022.
  • As per the Indian foreign ministry, an additional request for a bilateral currency swap arrangement worth around $1 billion by the Sri Lankan side remains under discussion.
  • Sri Lanka, located off the southern tip of India, has become an arena of competing influence between India and China, which has built ports, power stations and highways as part of President Xi Jinping's signature "Belt and Road Initiative", designed to boost trade and transport links across Asia.
  • But the terms of some of these projects have drawn domestic criticism in Sri Lanka and opened the way for countries such as India, the United States and Japan to rebuild ties in the Indian Ocean country that lies near key shipping lanes.

India and Denmark Ink Pact to Increase Cooperation on IPRs

  • India and Denmark inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to increase cooperation in the area of intellectual property rights (IPRs) by exchanging best practices and collaborating in training programmes.
  • The two sides will draw up a biennial work plan to implement the MoU which will include detailed planning for carrying out cooperation activities, including scope of action.
  • The MoU aims to increase IP cooperation between the two countries by way of exchange of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP awareness among authorities, businesses and research and educational institutions, and collaboration in training programmes, exchange of experts, technical exchanges and outreach activities.
  • Both the sides would also exchange information and best practices on processes for disposal of applications for patents, trademarks, industrial designs and Geographical Indications, as also for protection, enforcement and use of IP rights.
  • Besides, the MoU is aimed at enhancing cooperation in development of automation and implementation of modernisation projects, new documentation and information systems in IP and procedures for management of IP, and understanding ways to protect traditional knowledge.
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SPORTS

Neetu David New Head of Women's Selection Panel

  • Neetu David, one of India's finest woman cricketers in the late '90s and early 2000s, has been appointed chairman of the women's selection committee replacing Hemalata Kala.
  • The other members of the panel are Mithu Mukherjee, Renu Margrate, Arati Vaidya and V. Kalpana, all former India players.
  • The four-year term of the previous panel, led by Kala, ended in March 2020. It had Sudha Shah, Anjali Pendharkar, Shashi Gupta and Lopamudra Banerjee as other members.
  • Their last assignment was selecting the team for the women's World T20 in Australia, where India ended runners-up.
  • Neetu David holds the world record for best bowling figures in an innings in a Test – 8/53 – against England in Jamshedpur in 1995.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Shiromani Akali Dal Breaks Ties with BJP-led NDA

  • Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the oldest ally of the BJP announced to quit the ruling party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after sharp difference over three newly-passed farm bills.
  • SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal announced the move after attending a core committee meeting of the party.
  • According to a party statement, the said the decision to quit the NDA was taken because of the Centre's stubborn refusal to give statutory legislative guarantees to protect assured marketing of farmers crops on MSP and its continued insensitivity to Punjabi and Sikh issues like excluding Punjabi language as official language in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The SAD becomes the third major NDA ally to pull out of the grouping after the Shiv Sena and the TDP. The development comes days after SAP MP Harsimrat Kaur resigned from the Cabinet due to rift widening between the two parties over farm bills.
  • Badal said that the SAD will continue to stand by its core principles of peace, communal harmony and guard the interest of Punjab and Punjabi in general, and Sikhs and farmers in particular.
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DEFENCE

India and Israel to Co-develop Hi-tech Weapon Systems

  • India and Israel now plan to further crank up their already expansive defence partnership by going in more co-development and co-production projects of high-tech weapon systems and exporting them to other friendly countries.
  • A new sub-group to promote such joint projects, under the overarching joint working group on defence cooperation headed by Indian defence secretary and his Israeli counterpart, was set up.
  • The main focus of the sub-working group (SWG) on defence industrial cooperation will be on transfer of technology, co-development and co-production, technology security, Artificial Intelligence, innovation and joint export to third countries.
  • Israel has been among the top four arms suppliers to India for almost two decades now, notching military sales worth around $1 billion every year. With the Indian defence industry now also becoming stronger, the need was felt for the two countries to establish more R&D, co-development and co-production projects.
  • Israel is a world leader in missiles, sensors, cyber-security and various defence sub-systems. The SWG will be headed by Sanjay Jaju, joint secretary (defence industries production) in the Indian defence ministry and Eyal Calif, director Asia & Pacific from the Israeli one.
  • This comes at a time when the Indian armed forces are inducting the next-generation Barak-8 surface-to-air missile systems under three joint DRDO-Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) projects worth over Rs. 30,000 crore.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Economist Isher Judge Ahluwalia Passes Away

  • Economist Isher Judge Ahluwalia passed away at New her Delhi residence after a long battle with high-grade cancer for months. She was 74.
  • The wife of India's leading economic policy driver, and former deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Isher Judge carved her niche in the sector serving as the head of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Affairs for 15 years.
  • Isher Judge stepped down as the chairperson of ICRIER on August 10, 2020, on account of her poor health. She was elected as the Chairperson of the Council at the Annual General Meeting held on August 8, 2005.
  • Isher—as she affectionately known to her friends and colleagues— however, continued as the Chairperson Emeritus of the Council. The position was created to honour her exceptional contributions to ICRIER.
  • Isher Judge is known to have curated and chaired the ICRIER-India Habitat Centre 'Conversations on Urbanisation' that became very successful and widely appreciated.
  • She was awarded the Padma Bhushan by President of India in 2009 for her services in the field of education and literature.

Jaswant Singh, Former External Affairs Minister, Passes Away

  • Jaswant Singh, former leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and External Affairs Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, passed away . He was 82.
  • Singh was one of its early founding members of the BJP after serving in the Indian Army. In 2014, he had a bitter falling out with his party when he was denied a Lok Sabha ticket of his choice from Barmer in Rajasthan.
  • Singh held several high-profile portfolios like external affairs, defence surface transport, over the years.. He often acted as Vajpayee's globetrotting trouble-shooter. Within the BJP, he was considered a gentleman politician but also known for his heated debates in Parliament.
  • He contested the 2014 general election, which was his last as an independent, but lost.
  • Singh has authored six books including "Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence" and "Defending India".
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DAYS AND EVENTS

World Tourism Day

  • Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation has celebrated World Tourism Day as international observances on September 27. This date was chosen as on that day in 1970, the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. The adoption of these Statutes is considered a milestone in global tourism. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
  • Tourism has been among the hardest hit of all sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. No country has been unaffected. Restrictions on travel and a sudden drop in consumer demand have led to an unprecedented fall in international tourism numbers, which in turn have led to economic loss and the loss of jobs.
  • The tourism crisis is also a threat to wildlife conservation initiatives and to the protection of the world's cultural heritage. The sudden fall in tourism revenues has cut off funding for biodiversity conservation. With livelihoods at risk in and around protected areas, cases of poaching and looting are expected to rise. With 90% of World Heritages Sites closed as a result of the pandemic, humanity's cultural heritage is at risk in all parts of the world.
  • For the first time in the history of World Tourism Day, the 2020 official celebration was hosted by a group of countries and not a single UNWTO Member State. The cross-border cooperation of the MERCOSUR Member States (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, plus Chile, Member Associate) reflects the current need for international solidarity and cooperation. This is especially true for tourism, working together towards a common goal.
  • World Tourism Day this year focuses on the theme "Tourism and Rural Development". The theme encourages the celebration of the unique role played by tourism in job creation outside of the big cities. It also in a huge way helps in the conservation of cultural and natural heritage of nations.

World Rivers Day

  • World Rivers Day is observed every year on the fourth Sunday of September.
  • In 2005, the United Nations launched the Water for Life Decade to help create a greater awareness of the need to better care for our water resources. Following this, the establishment of World Rivers Day was in response to a proposal initiated by internationally renowned river advocate, Mark Angelo.
  • The proposal for a global event to celebrate rivers was based on the success of BC Rivers Day, which Mark Angelo had founded and led in western Canada since 1980. River enthusiasts from around the world came together to organise the inaugural WRD event.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Ritesh Agarwal Gets Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award

  • Dr. Ritesh Agarwal, Professor in Department of Pulmonary Medicine, PGIMER, has been awarded the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology for the year 2020 in the medical sciences category, for his significant contributions in the field of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA).
  • The award is named after the founder Director of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) India, the late Dr Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar. The prize is given each year for outstanding contributions in science and technology.
  • Dr. Agarwal is the first faculty from the PGI, Chandigarh, to be honoured with this award.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Karnataka Assembly Passes Amendment to Land Reforms Act

  • The Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed amendments to the land reforms act that liberalised farmland ownership, despite opposition Congress strongly opposing it, with some party members tearing copies of the bill, and staging a walkout calling it a "black law." The contentious Karnataka Land Reforms (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020 that further amends the act of 1961, removing almost all restrictions on buying farm lands was passed by the assembly with a voice vote.
  • The act passed, repeals Section 79(A) that sets a limit of non-agricultural income at Rs 25 lakh to buy agricultural land, Section 79(B) that bars non-agriculturists from purchasing agricultural lands, and Section 79 (C) that deals with penalty for falsely claiming eligibility to hold agricultural land.
  • It also makes certain amendments to Section 80 and states that the Class-A irrigated land (irrigated with water from a dam) can be used only for agricultural purposes.
  • It also inserts a new Section 80 (A) which states that no conditions laid in this act shall be relaxed in respect of lands granted to persons belonging to the SC/STs, during the period of prohibition under the Karnataka SC and ST (Prohibition of Transfer of Certain Lands), Act, 1978.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

NPPA Caps Price of Liquid Medical Oxygen and Medical Oxygen Cylinders

  • To ensure availability of medical oxygen in the country at a reasonable price amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the national drug pricing regulator NPPA has capped the price of medical oxygen cylinders and liquid medical oxygen for six months, the government said on Saturday. The present situation of COVID-19 has resulted in increased demand of medical oxygen up to almost four times from 750 MT per day to around 2,800 MT per day.
  • The issue related to availability, including pricing of oxygen, has been under the continued consideration of Empowered Group 2, Government of India.
  • It recommended the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to consider capping the ex-factory price of liquid medical oxygen in order to ensure its supply to fillers at reasonable prices.
  • The Empowered Group 2 also requested NPPA to consider a cap for ex-factory price of oxygen in cylinders in order to ensure supply of oxygen cylinders from fillers at reasonable prices.
  • NPPA decided "to cap the ex-factory price of LMO at manufacturers end at Rs 15.22/cubic metre (CUM) exclusive of GST; and to further cap the ex-factory cost of medical oxygen cylinder at filler end at Rs 25.71/CUM exclusive of GST in suppression of the existing ceiling price of Rs 17.49/CUM, subject to transportation cost fixation at state level, for six months.

Odisha To Hold Radio Classes For School Students

  • With schools remaining closed since March 17 due to COVID-19 pandemic, students from classes one to eight of government-run institutes in Odisha will be taught via radio from Monday.
  • The "Radio Pathsala" programme will be held every day from Monday to Friday between 10 am to 10:15 am from September 28.
  • Lessons to be conducted for two classes in each day will be aired through all radio stations in the state, he said. The audio programme will also be uploaded in the central government's DIKSHA online platform.
  • Students are also being imparted online classes through smart phones, the minister said. Earlier, the state government had decided to reduce the syllabus by 30 per cent for the 2020-21 academic year.
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