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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

03 Dec 2020


Court Strikes Down Trump's H-1B Rules

  • A US judge threw out two rules proposed by the Trump administration to narrow eligibility for H-1B visa aspirants and raise their salaries in an effort to make it tougher for companies, mostly in IT, to use this short-term employment programme to hire foreigner workers instead of local Americans.
  • US district judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California ruled that the changes were introduced in a hurry and did not abide by the usual transparency obligations: provide notice and sufficient time for public comments.

Kabul and Taliban Reach 1st Written Peace Deal

  • The Afghan Government and Taliban representatives reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks, their first written agreement in 19 years of war and welcomed by the United States as a chance to halt the violence.
  • The agreement lays out the way forward for discussion but is considered a breakthrough because it will allow negotiators to move on to more substantive issues, including talks on a ceasefire, even as Taliban attacks on Afghan government forces have continued unabated.
  • "The procedure, including its preamble of the negotiation, has been finalised and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda," Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan Government's negotiating team, said.

Thai PM Acquitted, Retains Post

  • Thailand's highest court acquitted Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of breaching ethics clauses in the country's constitution, allowing him to stay in his job.
  • The Constitutional Court ruled on a complaint brought by the Pheu Thai Party that Prayuth had violated the law by continuing to live in his military residence after he retired as an army commander in September 2014.
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World's Biggest Iceberg is Fraying at the Edges

  • Iceberg A68a has been imaged at high resolution for the first time in months - and it is in a ragged condition.
  • The world's biggest berg is riven with cracks. Battered by waves and under constant attack from warm waters, it's now shedding countless small blocks.
  • A68a, which broke away from Antarctica in 2017, is on a direct heading for the South Atlantic island of South Georgia.
  • If it grounds there in the shallows, it could cause immense problems for the British Overseas Territory's wildlife.
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Finin Launches as Neobank in India in Partnership with State Bank of Mauritius

  • Finin, a fintech company, has launched itself as a 'neobank', in partnership with SBM Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of State Bank of Mauritius in India, focussing on saving rather than lending.
  • Finin will provide features such as detailed break-up of user spending and send prompts if they exceed pre-set limits and automatic sweeps of money into liquid funds. The bank will target white-collar workers and freelancers and has waiting list of 15,000 people before launch. It aims to open 50,000 accounts in six months.
  • Neobanking as a space already has incumbents such as Niyo which has a tie up with IDFC First. Finin has secured funding from Unicorn India Ventures, PointOneCapital, and Astir Ventures in a pre-Series A funding round.
  • No RBI permission is required to use the term neobank in India.

L&T to sell UK Marine Tech Arm Servowatch Systems to Rolls-Royce

  • Larsen & Toubro, an engineering, procurement and construction project company, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Larsen & Toubro International FZE, has signed definitive agreements with Rolls-Royce's Power Systems division, a global player in power systems for the divestment of its UK-based integrated marine automation solutions provider Servowatch Systems.
  • A leading supplier of advanced and innovative integrated ship control systems, Servowatch Systems has grown into an internationally recognized provider of Marine Automation platforms over the past eight years of L&T's ownership. The company headquartered in Heybridge, Essex, United Kingdom has 44 employees in the UK and India, who deliver integrated marine automation solutions for navies, commercial vessels and large yachts.
  • Servowatch Systems revenue during FY 2019-20 was Rs. 50.42 crore, constituting around 0.03% of consolidated revenue of L&T for the FY 2019-20.

India Looks to Resume Iran and Venezuela Oil Imports under Biden

  • According to Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, India, the world's third-largest energy consumer, wants the new US administration to allow resumption of oil supplies from Iran and Venezuela so as to give the country more options to meet its requirements.
  • Iran was India's second-biggest supplier of crude oil after Saudi Arabia till 2010-11, but Western sanctions over its suspected nuclear programme led to reduced volumes.
  • India stopped importing crude oil from Iran following the re-imposition of economic sanctions in May 2019, by the US.
  • Venezuela was India's fourth-biggest oil supplier but import dwindled after Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA in January 2019, to put pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
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SpaceX Plans Uncrewed Mars Flight Launch in 2 Years

  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the company is working towards launch of an uncrewed Mars flight in about two years.
  • Starship is SpaceX's ambitious spacecraft to take humans to the Red Planet. The company has been working on prototypes to find the right design that will work for the transport.
  • Musk revealed SpaceX's Mars mission plans during an award presentation ceremony in Berlin.
  • He pointed out that Earth and Mars synchronisation of orbits around the Sun happens approximately every 26 months and the next synchronisation is due in two years.
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Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja Set New Record

  • In the third ODI against Australia Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja added 150 runs together in just 108 balls as they broke a 21-year-old record for the highest 6th-wicket partnership against Australia in ODI cricket. They went past the tally of 123 set up by Robin Singh and Sadagopan Ramesh in 1999 against the Australians in Colombo in 1999.
  • This is also the third-highest 6th-wicket partnership for India in ODI cricket. Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny hold the record with a 160-run stand against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2015. Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni are second on the list with 158-run stand against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2005.
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India Invites Boris Johnson as Republic Day Chief Guest

  • India has invited UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be the chief guest for its 2021 Republic Day.
  • As per reports, the invite was extended on 27th November during a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Johnson.
  • However, there was no confirmation from the British High Commission on this with officials reportedly saying that Johnson was keen to visit India as soon as possible.
  • Johnson, on his part, invited Modi to the G-7 summit in the United Kingdom next year.
  • If Johnson accepts the invite, he would become the first British Prime Minister to grace the parade at Rajpath in nearly three decades.
  • The last UK premier to be the chief guest at the 26th January parade was John Major in 1993.

India Forms High-level Committee to Implement Paris Agreement Targets

  • The Centre has constituted a high-level ministerial committee for the implementation of the targets under the Paris agreement on the climate crisis.
  • The high-level inter-ministerial Apex Committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA) is under the chairmanship of Secretary, MoEFCC.
  • The purpose of AIPA is to generate a coordinated response on climate change matters that ensures India is on track towards meeting its obligations under the Paris Agreement including its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).
  • The high-level committee of senior officials from 14 ministries will oversee the progress in the implementation of India's NDC and receive periodic information updates to monitor, review and revisit climate goals to fulfill the requirements of the agreement.
  • Another key function of AIPA would be to operate as a national authority to regulate carbon markets in India under the agreement.

Telugu NRI Organisations Push for Bharat Ratna for P. V. Narasimha Rao

  • As many as 81 Telugu Non-Resident Indian organisations across the world have launched a joint campaign for mobilising public support to request the Government of India to confer the country's highest civilian award - Bharat Ratna - on former Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year.
  • Under the banner of Mythri International, USA, these organisations including Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Telugu Association of North America (TANA), North American Telugu Association (NATA), American Telugu Association (ATA) etc, started a signature campaign in October through various for appealing that Rao be conferred with Bharat Ratna. The campaign concludes in the first week of December.
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IAF Carries Out Firing of Akash and Igla Missiles

  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) has carried out firing of the indigenously developed Akash missile system along with Russian short-range Igla missiles as part of a drill at air force station Suryalanka in Andhra Pradesh.
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MDH Owner 'Mahashay' Dharampal Gulati Passes Away

  • The owner of MDH spices, Dharampal Gulati, passed away. He was 97.
  • Dharmpal was born on 27th March 1923 in Sialkot (Pakistan). A school dropout, who moved to India after the Partition, he had opened his first store in Delhi's Karol Bagh.
  • According to the company's website, MDH spices are not just popular in India but are also exported to the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, South East Asia, Japan, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. The company has its own offices in London (U.K.) and a state of art manufacturing unit at Sharjah (U.A.E.).
  • MDH is the second largest leader in the Indian market with 12% market share, following S. Narendrakumar's Everest Spices.
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Ninth Edition of International Sand Art Festival

  • The ninth edition of the International Sand Art Festival has begun at the Chandrabhaga Beach of Konark in Odisha's Puri district with adherence to government prescribed Covid-19 protocols.
  • About 70 artists from across the country are set to take part in the much-awaited festival that provides a platform for both national and international sand artists to showcase their talent.
  • The last few years of the festival saw enthusiastic participation from artists from countries like the United States, Russia, Singapore and Italy. This year, however, international artists will not be participating due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Sudarsan Pattnaik, world-renowned sand artist and Padmashree Awardee, has been appointed as Chief Curator of the festival.
  • Artists create sculptures based on relevant themes like environment, culture and national and international affairs. This year, the main themes of the sculptures are 'Environment' and 'Covid-19'.
  • Every year, the festival is celebrated with great fervour in the first week of December as part of the Konark Dance Festival that is organised during the same time.

World Day of the Handicapped

  • International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed on 3rd December is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It has been observed with varying degrees of success around the world. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. It was originally called "International Day of Disabled Persons" until 2007. Each year the day focuses on a different issue.
  • UNESCO marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a week-long programme from 25 November to 3 December 2020 under the theme: "Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World".
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Infosys Prize, 2020

  • The Infosys prize, 2020 was announced. Gold medal carries prize money of hundred thousand USD and is awarded in six fields namely Humanities, engineering and computer science, mathematical Sciences, life sciences, Social Sciences and Physical Sciences. The winners of the award are Prachi Deshpande of the Centre of studies in Social Sciences and Humanities, Hari Balakrishnan of Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Engineering and Computer science, Rajan SankaraNarayanan of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology for life sciences, Arindam Ghosh of Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Sourav Chatterjee of Stanford university for mathematical Sciences and Raj Chetty of Harvard University for Social Sciences.

UK Author Anita Gets Prize for Story on Jallianwala Bagh

  • British Indian journalist and author Anita Anand's book that tells the story of a young man caught up in the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar has won a prestigious history-literary prize in the UK. 'The Patient Assassin: A True Tale of Massacre, Revenge and the Raj' beat six other titles for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2020, awarded annually for a non-fiction book of specifically historical content.
  • The judges described it as a "genuine historical classic" that would be read for decades to come.
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Cambridge University Names Chemistry Department after Indian Scientist Yusuf Hamied

  • Yusuf Hamied, Polish-born Indian scientist and the chairman of Cipla, was honoured as 'generous benefaction' by the University of Cambridge. The Chemistry department of the university will be named after him until 2050.
  • Dr. Hamied is a former alumnus of Cambridge University and made a transformational gift to his alma mater and ensured that the chemistry of the university will continue to be world-leading in both teaching and research.
  • In 2018, he endowed one of the world's oldest academic Chairs in Chemistry, now known as the Yusuf Hamied 1702 Chair. His academic mentor and supervisor, Nobel Laureate Lord Alexander Todd, held the Chair during Hamied's time at Cambridge as an undergraduate and PhD student.
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