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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

24 Oct 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Facebook Poised to Face Antitrust Suit

  • US antitrust officials are nearing a final decision on bringing a lawsuit against Facebook that accuses the social media giant of using its dominance to harm competition, according to a person familiar with the matter.
  • The FTC has been investigating whether Facebook violated antitrust laws for more than year, including whether its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were designed to eliminate emerging competitive threats.


India Assumes Chairmanship of International Labour Organisation

  • The Union Ministry of Labour announced that India has assumed the chairmanship of International Labour Organisation after 35 years. The current Labour Secretary Apurva Chandra has been elected as the chairperson of the Governing Body of ILO. He is to preside over the upcoming meeting of the Governing body in November 2020.
  • The Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation is the apex executive body. It decides on policies, agenda, programmes and elects the Director-General. Currently, there are 187 members associated with ILO.
  • India is one of the founding members of ILO. It was created in 1919 under Treaty of Versailles and became a specialized agency in 1946.
  • The organisation creates World Employment and Social Outlook Report and Global Wage Report.
  • Apurva Chandra is a 1988 batch IAS officer who spent more than seven years in Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. He has worked for over four years as Principal Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra. In 2017, he was appointed as the Directorate General (Acquisition) to strengthen Indian Armed Forces.

China Threatens to Stop Recognising BNO Passports

  • China threatened to stop recognising the UK-issued passports for Hong Kong residents after the country reaffirmed its plan to offer a route to its citizenship to thousands of people living in the former British colony.
  • The British government announced in July that it will open a new special pathway to obtaining British citizenship for eligible Hong Kongers from January 2021 after China imposed a new, sweeping national security law on Hong Kong. 
  • The British offer is not for all residents of Hong Kong, but only those holding a British National Overseas (BNO) passport.  
  • China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the Chinese government has repeatedly made clear its strong stance on this issue, but the British side has insisted on interfering with Hong Kong affairs and China's domestic issues.
  • As the British side broke its own promises, the Chinese government will consider not recognising the BNO passport as a valid travel document, and reserve the right to impose further measures.
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ENVIRONMENT

River Ran Through Thar Desert 172 Thousand Years Ago

  • Researchers from Anna University, IISER Kolkata and Max Planck Institute of Germany have found that the population of Stone Age lived in a different landscape in Thar Desert.
  • The researchers have found a lost river in the central Thar Desert. The river had supported human population in the region over 172 thousand years ago. The river would have supported populations of Paleolithic era.
  • The researchers have made the discovery using satellite images. The images from satellite show strong evidence of dense river channels crossing the desert.
  • The different phases of the river activity were deciphered by studying deep deposits of sands and gravels that were exposed during a quarrying activity in a nearby village.
  • The river activity in the region continued between 95,000 to 78,000 years ago. Later, there was only limited evidence for the presence of river. The river activity was at its strongest during weak monsoonal activity in the region. This might have enabled population to inhabit the Thar Desert.
  • Luni is the only inland drainage river in Rajasthan. The river rises on the western slopes of Aravalli range. It is also known as Sagarmati River. It flows southwestward and across the plains of the region.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

GST Compensation Transferred to 16 States

  • The Government of India transferred Rs. 6000 crores to 16 states and two union territories as the first tranche. The interest rate has been fixed at 5.19 %.
  • Over 21 states had opted for the borrowing scheme. And five other states did not have revenue shortfall to claim compensation. Out of these 21 States, 16 states and 2 union territories have received the compensation funds. They are Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Government of India has borrowed 1.1 lakh crore rupees to meet the shortfall of GST compensation. The total shortfall has been estimated as 2.35 lakh crore rupees.
  • According to the ministry, this borrowing will not impact the fiscal deficit of India. This is because the borrowed amount will be reflected as capital receipt of the government.

Flipkart Buys Stake in Aditya Birla Fashion

  • Walmart-owned Flipkart will buy a 7.8% stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail for Rs. 1,500 crore as it taps into the offline retail player's large bank of apparel outlets to bolster its presence in the high-margin fashion business.
  • Billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla's retail business will issue preference shares to Flipkart, giving it a 7.8% stake.
  • Aditya Birla Fashion's current owners will hold a 55.1% stake after the allotment.
  • While Flipkart will gain from Aditya Birla Fashion's range of international and Indian brands, the deal will help the company cut down debt, which stood at Rs. 2,776 crore as of March 31, 2020.

FIIs Hike Stake in Reliance

  • Foreign investors holding in billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries (RIL) has increased to a record high of 27.2% in the quarter ended September 30.
  • The statement showed foreign portfolio investors holding 165.8 crore shares or 25.2% of the total shareholding. In the previous quarter ended June 30, foreign investors held 163.07 crore shares or 24.72%.
  • Besides, qualified institutional buyers (QIBs) held another 2.05% stake at the end of September 30, 2020, taking the total to 27.2%. In an investor note, JP Morgan said that FII ownership of RIL hit new highs and stood at 27.2%, up 60 bps quarter-on-quarter.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Asteroid Samples Escaping from Jammed NASA Spacecraft

  • A  NASA spacecraft is stuffed with so much asteroid rubble from this week's grab that it's jammed open and precious particles are drifting away in space.
  • Scientists announced the news three days after the spacecraft named Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu, NASA's first attempt at such a mission.
  • The mission's lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, said that operation 200 million miles away collected far more material than expected for return to Earth — in the hundreds of grams.
  • The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so deeply into the asteroid and with such force, however, that rocks got sucked in and became wedged around the rim of the lid.
  • Scientists estimate the sampler pressed as much as 48 centimeters into the rough, crumbly, black terrain.

Mars Losing its Atmosphere to Outer Space

  • Mars is losing its atmosphere to outer space at a faster rate, a study of data and images sent by ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) and NASA's Mars Orbiter Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) has found. 
  • Mars, being relatively smaller planet compared to Earth, is losing its atmosphere at a faster rate. 
  • Though other terrestrial planets in the solar system are also constantly losing their atmospheres to outer space, the rate at which this loss happens is determined mainly by the size of a planet and temperature of its upper atmosphere. 
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Govt. to Sell Stake in Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd

  • The government is planning to sell up to 15 per cent stake in the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) out of its shareholding of 87.84 per cent and has invited bids from merchant bankers for managing the share sale process.
  • The government will appoint up to three merchant bankers for managing RVNL share sale.
  • The responsibilities of the merchant banker include advising the government on the timing and the modalities of the OFS, ensuring best return to the government, conducting market survey, domestic and international road shows and investor meetings.

Mandi District Bags Top Position for Implementing PMGSY

  • Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh bagged the first position among 30 districts of the country for successfully implementing the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).
  • Mandi district has received top position for constructing roads of maximum length in 2020-21.
  • Along with Mandi, 6 more districts of Himachal Pradesh have found place among top 30 best performing districts. The 6 districts include – Una, Chamba, Kangra, Shimla, Sirmour, Hamirpur and Solan.
  • Among the states, Himachal Pradesh secured second position for construction of roads under PMGSY.
  • Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) is a nationwide scheme that aims to provide all-weather road connectivity to the unconnected villages. The scheme was launched in 2000 by Late Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The PMGSY is being implemented under the Ministry of Rural Development. It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. In November 2015, it was decided that the project will be funded by both the central government (60%) and states (40%) on the recommendations of 14th Finance Commission. 

Jitendra Singh Addresses First Ministerial Meeting of G-20 Anti-Corruption Working Group

  • Union Minister Jitendra Singh addressed the first ministerial meeting of G-20 anti-corruption working group on October 22, 2020. Saudi Arabia became the first country to host the first ever meeting.
  • Anti-Corruption Working Group of G-20 was established in June 2010 at the G20 summit, Toronto.
  • The objective of the group is to make suggestions on boosting international efforts in order to combat corruption.
  • The group works with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Bank, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • The G-20 countries had agreed on the Anti-Corruption plan for 2019-2021 at Buenos Aires in 2018. The G-20 members planned to look forward to develop targeted actions in promoting the international efforts to combat the corruption.
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DEFENCE

India and Morocco Plan to Sign Defence MoU

  • India and Morocco plan to sign MoU on defence cooperation to elevate ties to the next level riding on emerging strategic partnership and expansion in ties over the last few years.
  • This was decided when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had a virtual meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates of the Kingdom of Morocco Nasser Bourita.
  • The Ministers agreed that both sides should expedite the finalisation of the MOU on defence cooperation and the Cultural Exchange Programme so that these can be signed on an early date.
  • The two Ministers had an in-depth exchange of views on regional and global issues, including the UN reforms, international fight against terrorism, climate change, renewable energy and cooperation under the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) mechanism. 
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DAYS AND EVENTS

United Nations Day

  • October 24 is observed as United Nations Day and came into existence on 24 October, 1945.
  • The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and its founding Charter. This anniversary comes in a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with severe economic and social impacts. But it is also a reminder that times of struggle can become an opportunity for positive change and transformation.
  • To commemorate the 75 years of the United Nations, Member States held a high-level event on 21 September 2020, where they reaffirmed and recognized that our challenges are interconnected and can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism.

World Development Information Day

  • In 1972, the United Nations General Assembly decided to institute a World Development Information Day coinciding with United Nations Day on October 24. The General Assembly had the object of drawing the attention of world public opinion each year to development problems and the necessity of strengthening international co-operation to solve them. 
  • The day was further recognised as the date on which the International Development Strategy for the Second Nations Development Decade was adopted in 1970.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Rajiv Kumar Panel to Reform Urban Planning Education System

  • The NITI Aayog recently constituted a 14-member panel to reform the urban planning education system. The panel is to be headed by Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog. The other members of the panel are Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, secretaries of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Ministry of Education.
  • The panel will review urban planning education system and examine the availability, supply and demand of qualified urban planners in India. It will review the current system in terms of curriculum, multi-disciplinary and other issues at post graduate and graduate levels.
  • Urban planning Education is a practice of learning and teaching urban theory, professional practices and studies. It involves interaction between professional planners, public officials on planning process. Formal education of urban planning is provided as a degree in city, urban or regional planning.

CBSE Introduces Facial Recognition for Accessing Classes 10, 12 Documents

  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has introduced a facial recognition system for accessing digital documents on platforms like "Parniaam Manjusha" and DigiLocker. Now, candidates will be able to download their Class 10, 12 mark sheets and certificates from DigiLocker without providing ADHAAR Card or mobile number.
  • Using the state of the art Facial Recognition System CBSE will enable students, to download their digital academic documents of class X and XII, a live image of the student will be matched with the photograph on the CBSE admit card already stored in repository, and once successful, the certificate will be emailed to the student.
  • CBSE has already uploaded 12 crore digital academic documents, mark sheets, pass and migration certificates, in DigiLocker.
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ART AND CULTURE

Stolen Ming Vase worth £2.5m Found in Charlton

  • A stolen 15th century Ming vase worth about £2.5m has been found during a police raid.
  • The antique is thought to have been taken by a crime group from a collection in Switzerland last June.
  • The vase was found during a raid in Charlton, south London, and as part of an investigation into counterfeit currency. Class A drugs and two suspected Tasers were also found.
  • Last week two men were arrested in Mayfair in central London.
  • Whilst this vase is valued at around £2.5m, it is a one-off and unique and therefore has immeasurable cultural value. It will be repatriated in due course.
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