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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

18 Nov 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

UN Launches 'Team Halo'

  • The United Nations along with "the Vaccine Confidence Project" of University of London launched "Team Halo". More than 100 scientists from different parts of the world have come together under the project.
  • Team Halo aims to tackle misinformation on safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Under the initiative, the scientists will create social-media friendly videos on COVID-19 vaccine science based on their personal experiences.
  • Also, Team Halo will act as a communication platform for the scientists working on COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Over 22 Indian scientists are part of the initiative. The scientists from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Institute of Medical Science, SRM Research Institute, etc. have joined the initiative.

Governance Reforms Approved by Russia

  • The Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved Governance Reforms that are to begin from January 1, 2021.
  • The reforms were earlier postponed several times due to number of reasons including COVID-19 pandemic. The reforms are being made at executive level.
  • According to the reforms, the staff within the central administrative office is to be reduced by 5%.
  • The staff within territorial governments is to be reduced by 10%.
  • The reforms are being introduced to improve the efficiency of Executive branch of the Russian Government.
  • The reform will create a special working group that will deal with matters that are related to reform procedures.
  • The reforms are to be completed by April 1, 2021.

Saudis Seek Buffer Zone with Yemen in Return for Ceasefire

  • As per reports, Saudi Arabia has told Yemen's Houthis in high-level back channel talks that it would sign a UN proposal for a nationwide ceasefire if the Iran-aligned group agrees to a buffer zone along the kingdom's borders.
  • If a deal is struck, it would mark the biggest breakthrough in efforts to reach a political settlement since the conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between arch-enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran, began in 2014.
  • US President-elect Joe Biden pledged in his election campaign to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Middle East's biggest buyer of American weapons, to pressure Riyadh to end the war that has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
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ENVIRONMENT

France's Biggest Glacier is Melting

  • France's largest glacier once looked so mighty sliding down the granite slopes of the Mont Blanc, Western Europe's tallest peak that early explorers struggled to find the words to capture it.
  • British adventurer William Windham was one of the first tourists to explore the glacier in 1741.
  • La Mer de Glace, the Sea of Ice. At that time and until the late 1980s, thousands of years of ice covered the steep valley. Visitors walked from the nearby town of Chamonix to Montenvers, where the glacier was so close they only had to hike down a few metres to touch it.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Lakshmi Vilas Bank Placed under Moratorium

  • Private sector lender Lakshmi Vilas Bank was brought under moratorium with immediate effect till December 16, 2020. All actions and proceedings against this banking company have been stayed during this period.
  • During the month-long moratorium, the cash withdrawal limit has been capped for customers at Rs. 25,000 in a month. The moratorium was imposed on the basis of an application submitted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under Section 45 of the BR Act.
  • Last month, credit rating agency CARE Ratings downgraded the 93-year-old private sector bank's already issued and proposed securities. In a regulatory filing, the bank had stated that CARE has downgraded its ratings of the Rs 50.50 crore unsecured redeemable non-convertible subordinated lower tier-II bonds to CARE BB Minus with Negative Outlook.

Amazon Launches Online Pharmacy in New Contest with Drug Retail

  • Amazon.com Inc launched an online pharmacy for delivering prescription medications in the United States, increasing competition with drug retailers such as Walgreens, CVS and Walmart.
  • Called Amazon Pharmacy, the new store lets customers price-compare as they buy drugs on the company's website or app. Shoppers can toggle at checkout between their co-pay and a non-insurance option, heavily discounted for members of its loyalty club Prime.
  • The move builds on the web retailer's 2018 acquisition of PillPack, which Amazon said will remain separate for customers needing pre-sorted doses of multiple drugs.

Yes Bank Launches Co-branded Prepaid Card with Neokred

  • Yes Bank in partnership with Neokred Technologies launched 'Yes Bank Neokred Card', a co-branded prepaid card, encouraging cashless payments.
  • The card offerings can be personalised to suit the requirements of corporates seeking salary cards or expense cards for their employees.
  • The prepaid card can be loaded with balance and used for spends such as purchases, payment for utility bills, online shopping, ticket bookings and cash withdrawal at ATMs along with various benefits.
  • As per Neokred Technologies founder and Chief Business Officer Rohith Reji, Yes Bank has been instrumental in the growth of various fintechs over the years - giving a strong reason why fintechs and corporates prefer Yes Bank over other banks.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Param Siddhi Bags 63rd Rank in List of most Powerful Supercomputers in World

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) said that Param Siddhi, the supercomputer established under the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM), has achieved 63rd rank in the list of 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world.
  • The supercomputer with Rpeak of 5.267 Petaflops and 4.6 Petaflops Rmax (Sustained) was conceived by C-DAC and developed jointly with support of DST and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under the NSM.

Larsen and Toubro Delivers a Booster Segment to ISRO

  • Larsen and Toubro delivered a Booster segment, the first hardware for the Gaganyaan Mission to ISRO. The company has delivered the module ahead of schedule.
  • Booster segment is an engine or can also be a booster rocket. It is either the first stage of a multi stage rocket or a shorter burning rocket used to augment the take off thrust of the space vehicle. In simple words, the booster segments solve the following two purposes:
  • In Low Earth Orbit rockets, booster segments are used to launch a space craft.
  • Booster segments act as thrust providers when the mission is beyond low earth orbit.
  • Here the Gaganyaan Mission aims to send astronauts to Low Earth Orbit (400 km) and so here the booster segment is used to launch a space craft.
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SPORTS

Pakistan Super League

  • Babar Azam scored a brilliant half-century to help Karachi Kings defeat Lahore Qalandars by five wickets in the final of Pakistan Super League. 
  • Azam's 63 not out off 49 balls guided Karachi to lift their maiden PSL title.
  • Azam performed superbly throughout the tournament to finish on top of the run-scorer chart with 473 runs.

MPL Sports India's New Kit Sponsor

  • The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) named Mobile Premier League's sports merchandise brand MPL Sports as the Indian cricket team's official kit sponsor for a three-year period.
  • As part of a three-year deal, MPL Sports designed and manufactured jerseys will be worn by men's, women's and the Under-19 Indian cricket teams until 2023.
  • The agreement will run from this November to December 2023, replacing sportswear giant Nike whose five-year extension signed in 2016 ended this year.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Bihar Portfolio Allocation

  • A day after taking oath as Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar announced the portfolio allocation. He retained Home Department, General Administration and Vigilance. One of the two Deputy CMs, Tarkishore Prasad, got Finance, Urban Development. The other Deputy CM Renu Devi got Panchayati Raj, Backward Caste Upliftment and Industry.
  • Mukesh Sahni got Animal Husbandry and Fishery, Mangal Pandey got Health and Art and Culture and Bijendra Yadav got Energy, Planning and Food and Consumer Affairs.
  • JDU leader Mewa Lal Choudhary has been given the education ministry in the NDA government, Sheila Kumari has been handed the transport ministry.
  • BJP's Ram Surat has been handed the revenue ministry and law ministry while Jivesh Kumar has been given the tourism department and labour department.

Not Part of J&K Alliance: Congress

  • Hours after Home Minister Amit Shah questioned the Congress over its truck with the PAGD, the party said it was not part of the alliance and did not subscribe to any foreign intervention on the Kashmir issue.
  • "The Congress believes in democratic elections in J&K and is participating in the district development council poll to expose nefarious designs of the BJP," said party media head Randeep Singh Surjewala. 

India and Kazakhstan Sign MoU

  • India and Kazakhstan held the seventh round of foreign office consultations via video conference. The countries signed the "Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Projects in Kazakhstan".
  • During the consultations, the countries reviewed their bilateral cooperation within the framework of their strategic partnership. The consultations covered economic, political, defence, energy, space, cultural matters. Also, the countries shared their experiences in combating COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The countries also agreed to enhance their cooperation in multilateral forums including the forthcoming term of India as a member of United Nations Security Council for the period 2021-22.
  • Kazakhstan sources 80% of India's Uranium needs. Under India-Kazakhstan nuclear deal, so far Kazakhstan has supplied 9,000 tonnes of Uranium to India. In 2019, India and Kazakhstan renewed their nuclear deal for a period of 2020-24.
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DEFENCE

DRDO Successfully Test-fires Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile System

  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully carried out the second test trials of the Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM).
  • The flight test, second in the series was conducted from the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, off the coast of Odisha.
  • The test was carried out once again, against the high-performance Jet Unmanned Aerial Target called Banshee, which simulates an aircraft.
  • The flight test was conducted in the deployment configuration of the weapon system comprising of Launcher, fully Automated Command and Control System, Surveillance System and Multi-Function Radars. 
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Kris Gopalakrishnan as Chairperson of RBI's Innovation Hub

  • Gopalakrishnan, co-founder and former co-Chairman, Infosys, has been appointed as the first Chairperson of the Reserve Bank Innovation Hub.
  • Gopalakrishnan is currently the Chief Mentor of Start-up Village, an incubation hub for start-ups.
  • RBIH would be guided and managed by a governing council led by a Chairperson.
  • Other members of the governing council are CEO (to be appointed), Ashok Jhunjhunwala (Institute Professor, IIT, Madras), H Krishnamurthy (Principal Research Scientist, IISc, Bengaluru), Gopal Srinivasan (CMD, TVS Capital Funds), A P Hota (Former CEO, NPCI), Mrutyunjay Mahapatra (Former CMD, Syndicate Bank), T Rabi Sankar (Executive Director, RBI), Deepak Kumar (CGM, Department of Information Technology, RBI), and K Nikhila (Director, Institute for Development & Research in Banking Technology, Hyderabad).

Former HP Assembly Speaker Tulsi Ram Passes Away

  • Former Himachal Pradesh assembly speaker and senior BJP leader Tulsi Ram passed away at Palampur. He was 78.
  • Tulsi Ram was the speaker of the Himachal Pradesh assembly from 2007 to 2012 and was elected MLA thrice in 1990, 1998 and 2007 from the Bharmour assembly constituency.
  • He was a great statesman who worked tirelessly for the cause of vulnerable sections of society.
  • Tulsi Ram's contributions for the development of the Bharmour assembly constituency were immense and he would always be remembered.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

Twelfth BRICS Summit

  • During the 12th BRICS Summit, the members adopted counter terrorism strategy. The main objective of the strategy is to deal with terrorism.
  • The Counter Terrorism Strategy is based on the following principles:
  • Respect sovereignty of participating countries, commit to international laws, recognise coordinating role of the United Nations, consider member countries' priorities and national interests and adopt comprehensive approach to combat terrorism
  • The goals adopted in the strategy are: Implement United Nations Security Council resolutions, to broaden counter terrorism operations with G20 and FATF, to counter global threats based on UN Charter and to increase information sharing about terrorist organisations as listed by the UNSC.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting

  • The members of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held a ministerial meeting virtually. During the meeting, the members committed to pursue free and open trade and investment towards the economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The meeting was chaired by Malaysia. This ministerial meeting comes ahead of the APEC Economic Leaders Meet that is to be held on November 20, 2020. The Bogor Goals of APEC is one of its flagship initiatives and the deadline set for the goals was 2020.
  • In 1994, when the leaders of APEC met at the Bogor town of Indonesia, they adopted a long term free and open trade and investment. The deadline to achieve the Bogor Goals was set as 2020. The Bogor Goals did not target specific nations. However, it provided guidance to member countries to implement bilateral, multilateral and unilateral policies. The policies adopted were consistent with the rules of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and also with those of the successors of GATT (of World Trade Organisation).
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Ramesh Pokriyal 'Nishank' Inaugurats the Lilavati Awards

  • The Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokriyal 'Nishank' inaugurated the Lilavati Awards. The award is an initiative of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
  • The Lilavati Award aims to recognise the efforts of AICTE affiliated institutions in treating women.
  • The Lilavati Awards are to be presented based on the theme of women empowerment.
  • There are seven categories that are included in the award. They are literacy, self-defence, women entrepreneurship, legal awareness, women health and sanitation and hygiene.
  • The award has been named after the 12th century book called "Lilavati". The book was written by the mathematician Bhaskara II. Lilavati was the daughter of Indian Mathematician Bhaskara II. The prize was handed out for the first time at the International Congress of Mathematicians that was held in 2010.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Madhya Pradesh to Bring Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020

  • The state governments in Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are taking steps to check the rising incidents of inter-religious marriages. While the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government in MP is mulling over introducing the Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020 in the next session of the state Assembly, the Manohar Lal Khattar cabinet in Haryana is going to set up a committee to draft a 'strict' law against such cases.
  • Madhya Pradesh's Home Minister Narottam Mishra said that his government is working on bringing the 'Dharma Swatantrya Bill' 2020 in the state assembly with a provision for five-year rigorous imprisonment for luring a person through fraud and forcing marriage by religious conversion by making it a cognisable and non-bailable offence. 
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

WHO Launches Strategy to Eliminate Cervical Cancer

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer, aiming to reduce more than 40% of new cases and 5 million related deaths by 2050 with vaccination, screening and treatment.
  • For the first time, 194 countries, including India, have committed to eliminating the cancer following adoption of a resolution at this year's World Health Assembly. The WHO said that by 2030 the countries should achieve a target of 90% of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by 15 years of age, 70% of women screened using a high-performance test by age 35 and again by 45 and 90% of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment (90% of women with pre-cancer treated and 90% of women with invasive cancer managed).
  • The strategy also stresses that investing in the interventions to meet these targets can generate substantial economic and societal returns. 

Srinagar Administration to Upgrade Govt-run Schools into Smart Schools

  • The Srinagar district administration has decided on an ambitious project of turning 180 government-run schools into smart schools by equipping them with modern technology and learning tools. The main objective of the project is to improve the quality and learning outcome of public schools and bring them to par with private schools.
  • A dedicated team has been constituted for the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the project, to be completed within six months for Rs. 6 crore, they added.
  • The administration will upgrade the infrastructure of the schools and will improve the learning outcome through a range of interventions.
  • Under the project, the administration will make interventions including the refurbishing of buildings, upgrading of furniture and equipment, round-the-clock power and water supplies, and establishment of libraries, science laboratories, IT labs, and smart classes.
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BOOKS AND AUTHORS

Obama Publishes a Memoir Called "A Promised Land"

  • Former President of the United States Barack Obama published a memoir called "A Promised Land". It is the first of the two volumes that Obama had written during his tenure as President of the United States which is between 2009 and 2017.
  • The book concludes with the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. The book is to be translated in several foreign languages such as Chinese, Polish, Vietnamese, French, German, Hungarian, Hebrew, etc. The former president has mentioned Ramayana and Mahabharata in his book. Also, he has included his fascinations about Mahatma Gandhiji. He has spoken about the Gandhis and BJP as "Divisive Nationalism".
  • Joe Biden, the presidential candidate who recently won the US elections, 2020 was the vice president of the USA during Barack Obama's tenure as President.
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