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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

07 Dec 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

US Ends Five Cultural Programmes with China

  • The departing Trump administration has ended five cultural-exchange programmes with China that it says were being used for Chinese propaganda and had no benefit to the United States.
  • The terminations follow new visa restrictions announced by Washington limiting stays in the US by members of China's Communist Party and signal further erosion in relations with Beijing in the final weeks of President Donald Trump's time in office.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the exchange programmes he ended were fully paid for and operated by the Chinese Government "as soft power propaganda tools".
  • The State Department terminated the Policymakers Educational China Trip Program, the US-China Friendship Program, the US-China Leadership Exchange Program, the US-China Transpacific Exchange Program and the Hong Kong Educational and Cultural Program.
  • Each program allowed US officials to travel in China at Beijing's expense.

Bangladesh Relocates First Batch of Rohingyas to Isolated Island

  • Bangladesh relocated the first batch of 1,600 Rohingyas to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal for a better abode amid reservation from rights groups fearing the place's vulnerability to tropical cyclones and climate change.
  • Rohingyas, who are Myanmar's ethnic minority Muslim community, fled their homeland to evade a ruthless military clampdown since August 25, 2017 and after initial reluctance Bangladesh offered them the refuge on humanitarian grounds.
  • A batch of 1,600 Rohingyas were the first group of people who agreed to move to a better abode, while 19 more ships were kept ready to ferry fellow refugees to the island in the next few days.
  • Aid agencies and rights groups, however, expressed their reservation against the relocation campaign fearing the vulnerability of the island to tropical cyclones and climate change.

Venezuela Holds National Assembly Poll Amid Opposition Boycott

  • Votes are being counted in Venezuela's legislative elections, which are set to hand socialist President Nicolás Maduro control of the only official body still controlled by the opposition.
  • Most opposition parties are boycotting the polls for the National Assembly.
  • The boycott is being led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó who has been in a two-year power struggle with Mr. Maduro.
  • The US and more than 50 other countries recognise Mr. Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader.
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described Sunday's poll as "a fraud and a sham".
  • The results announced by the illegitimate Maduro regime will not reflect the will of the Venezuelan people.
  • The Organization of American States (OAS) has also said that it will not recognise the result.
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ENVIRONMENT

Climate Change Threatens most Alps Glaciers

  • As per researchers, up to 92% of glaciers in the Alps could be lost by the end of the century due to climate change.
  • The mountain range's 4,000 glaciers include popular skiing resorts such as Zermatt in Switzerland and Tignes in France.
  • The findings by Aberystwyth University suggest those ski resorts' glaciers would be all but gone.
  • Water run-off, storage and Alpine eco-systems would also be affected.
  • The university's research covers the entire European Alps region and is based on 200 years of climate records and forecasts covering 1901 to 2100.
  • They modelled what is called the environmental "equilibrium line altitude" (ELA) of valley glaciers across the Alps.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Everstone to Buy Mumbai-based Chemical Maker Calibre

  • Singapore-headquartered private equity fund Everstone Capital will acquire a controlling stake in Calibre, the Mumbai-based specialty ingredients player focused on the pharmaceutical, nutritional and personal care segments.
  • Based in 1984 by Ranjit Bhavnani, Calibre is a number one specialty components participant in iodine derivatives, persulfates and prchlorates. Exports of chemical substances accounted for round 60% of complete income of Calibre Chemical substances. About 35% of Calibre's income is generated from European markets, 25% from the US, 30% from India and relaxation from different markets.

India's Coal Import Drops in April-October this Fiscal

  • India's coal import saw a drop of 18.6 per cent to 116.81 million tonnes (MT) during April-October this fiscal as against the same period a year ago.
  • India had imported 143.63 MT of coal during the corresponding period of FY 2019-20, according to a provisional compilation by mjunction services, based on monitoring of vessels' positions and data received from shipping companies.
  • mjunction -- a joint venture between Tata Steel and SAIL -- is a B2B e-commerce company and also publishes research reports on coal and steel verticals.
  • However, the country's coal import increased to 21.50MT in October this year as against 18.28MT in the corresponding month of the previous fiscal, it said.
  • Of the total import in October 2020, non-coking coal was at 14.46MT. In October 2019, the import was 13.57MT. Coking coal import stood at 4.92MT in October 2020, up from 2.79MT imported in the same month last fiscal.

LDF and Congress Flay Centre's Decision to Name Rajiv Institute Campus after RSS Ideologue

  • The ruling LDF and opposition Congress in Kerala on Saturay flayed the Centre's decision to name the second campus of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology here after late RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar, alleging that the BJP was communalising everything and questioned his contribution to science.
  • Amid the opposition to the move, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged Union Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, to reconsider the decision to name the new campus after Golwalkar and instead name it after some eminent Indian scientist of international repute.
  • The institute is a premier research institution and has been above political divides, Vijayan said in a letter to the Union Minister.
  • The RGCB, which was initially run by the state government, was handed over to the Union Government with an aim of developing it into a centre of international standards in research and development.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Chinese Scientists Make World's First Light-based Quantum Computer

  • Chinese scientists claim to have created the world's first light-based quantum computer which can solve problems far faster than a classical supercomputer, an advance hailed by experts as a major achievement that provides a fundamentally different approach to designing such powerful machines.
  • Jiuzhang, the quantum computer, can reliably demonstrate quantum computational advantage, a milestone in computing.
  • Jiuzhang takes its name from an ancient Chinese mathematical text. It can perform an extremely esoteric calculation, called Gaussian boson sampling, in 200 seconds. The same task would take the world's fastest classical supercomputer Fugaku around 600 million years.
  • It is the second such milestone after Google declared its 53-qubit quantum computer had achieved such a breakthrough last year.

China Successfully Launches New Earth Observation Satellite

  • China successfully launched a new Earth observation satellite which can take high-resolution pictures of ground objects across the globe.
  • The satellite was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China's Sichuan province.
  • The satellite, Gaofen-14, was sent into orbit by a Long March-3B carrier rocket.
  • Geofen-14 is an optical stereo mapping satellite.
  • It can efficiently obtain high precision stereo images globally, draw large scale digital topographic map, produce digital elevation models, digital surface models and digital orthophoto images, and provide basic geographic information.
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SPORTS

Yuzvendra Chahal Equals Jasprit Bumrah's Record for most Wickets for India in Men's T20Is

  • Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has equalled fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah's record for picking the most number of wickets for India in men's T20 Internationals.
  • Chahal returned with figures of 1/51 in his four overs during the second T20I of the ongoing three-match series against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and in the process took his overall T20I wicket tally to 59.
  • While Bumrah has taken 50 matches to scalp 59 wickets, Chahal has taken 44 games to pick the same number of wickets.
  • Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin comes third in the list with 52 wickets from 46 T20I matches for India. He is followed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (41), Kuldeep Yadav (39) and Ravindra Jadeja (39).
  • Overall, Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga is the leading wicket-taker in T20Is, having scalped 107 wickets in 84 matches. He is followed by Pakistan's Shahid Afridi (98) and Shakib-al-Hasan of Bangladesh (92).
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Vijayashanti Quits Congress to Join BJP

  • Actress-turned-politician Vijayashanthi resigned from the Congress party and is set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • Vijayashanthi had joined the Congress in 2014. The former MP, a senior Congress leader, has not been active in the party's activities in Telangana for the past few months.
  • Vijayashanti, who began her political career with BJP, joined TRS Party and switched loyalties to Congress in 2014 before the formation of Telangana state.

In West Bengal, BJP Says Citizenship Amendment Act Rollout by January-end

  • BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has said that the Citizenship Amendment Act rules will be framed in the next one month, after which the Act will be ready for implementation in the state.
  • Accusing the TMC government of not being sympathetic to the refugees' cause, he said that the CAA will change the lives of many members of the Matua, Namasudra and Rajbhanshi communities who do not have citizenship of India, despite having come here many years ago.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act that seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi refugees, who have come to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before 31st December, 2014, was passed by Parliament in December last year and also notified, but the Centre is yet to frame rules under the Act.
  • In August, the government applied for a three-month extension. BJP president Jagat Prakash Nadda had cited the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for the delay.
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DEFENCE

Japan, France and US Plan their First Joint Military Drills

  • Japan, France and the United States will hold joint military drills on land and sea for the first time in May next year as the Chinese military steps up activity in the region.
  • The exercises, conducted on one of Japan's uninhabited outlying islands, will focus on providing relief efforts during a natural disaster, but parts could also form the basis for a defence against attack.
  • The joint exercises aim to counter China, which claims Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea.

UAE and Saudi Interested to Acquire BhahMos Missiles

  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia (KSA) could be interested to acquire Indo-Russian BrahMos Missile, as New Delhi looks to bolster its defense ties with the Arab World.
  • The news comes just before the Indian Chief of Army Staff General M. M. Naravane's visit to the UAE and Saudi next week, during which he would meet many officials apart from his counterparts.
  • In the first-ever visit by any Indian Army Chief to Saudi Arabia, General Naravane is expected to address the Saudi National Defence College, besides other meetings with senior officials.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

Bihar Migratory Bird Festival

  • Bihar is planning its first ever migratory bird festival this year. This is a three-day festival to be organised in Bhagalpur District. It is to be jointly organised by Bhagalpur forest division, Bombay Natural History Society and the local Mandar Nature Club. The region houses a large number of migratory birds between November and March every year. The festival is intended to check cases of poaching in the region.
  • The festival is being organissed mainly because the 6 km long Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary between Kahalagon and Sultanganj has been a hub of migratory birds for a long time. The migratory birds come to the region mainly between March and November as they find the region favourable to spend the winter.

Armed Forces Flag Day

  • The Armed Forces Flag Day has been observed in India since 7th December 1949. The day is dedicated towards collection of funds from the people. The collected fund will be used for the welfare of the armed personnel, ex-servicemen and also to rehabilitate battle causalities. The Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that this day will be celebrated throughout December and has called on people to contribute to the fund.
  • The month of the December is to be celebrated as "Gaurav Maah".
  • In 1949, the Baldev Singh Committee established the Flag Day Fund. In 1993, the Defence Ministry of India consolidated the related welfare funds into Armed Forces Flag Day Fund. They include Flag Day Funds, Amalgamated Special Fund for War Bereaved, Ex-Servicemen and war disabled, Indian Gorkha Ex-Servicemen Welfare Fund and Kendriya Sainik Board Fund.

International Civil Aviation Day

  • The International Civil Aviation Day is observed on 7th December ever year. This day is celebrated worldwide every year to reinforce awareness of the role and importance of international civil aviation organisation in air travel across the globe. The ICAO is an autonomous UN Body accountable for keeping up the safety standards of international aviation.
  • The day is not a public holiday but marked as a global observance.
  • The first celebration of International Civil Aviation Day was held in the year 1994. It was established in the year 1994 as part of ICAO's 50th-anniversary activities. The official recognition of December 7 as International Civil Aviation Day by the UN General Assembly happened in the UN system in 1996.
  • According to icao.int, after every five years, the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO council establishes a special anniversary theme for the International Civil Aviation Day. The theme for International Civil Aviation Day 2020 is, "Advancing Innovation for Global Aviation Development". The council has decided to keep the same theme until the year 2023.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Adar Poonawalla Named 'Asian of the Year'

  • Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of the world's largest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India, is among six people named "Asians of the Year" by Singapore's leading daily, The Straits Times for their work in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has collaborated with the University of Oxford and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for making the COVID-19 vaccine, ''Covidshield'', and is conducting trials in India.
  • The other five named in the list are Chinese researcher Zhang Yongzhen, who led the team that mapped and published online the first complete genome of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that sparked the pandemic, China's Major-General Chen Wei, Japan's Dr Ryuichi Morishita and Singapore's Professor Ooi Eng Eong, who are among those at the forefront of developing vaccines against the virus, and South Korean businessman Seo Jung-jin whose company will enable the making and dispensing of the vaccines and other Covid-19 treatments to the world.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Professional Certification Courses on Applied AI and Fullstack by IIT Mandi and WileyNXT

  • IIT Mandi and Technical Innovation Hub (TIH) tied up with WileyNXT, Wiley's innovative learning solution for emerging technologies, to launch two new executive courses Professional Certification in Applied AI, and Professional Certification in Fullstack Development.
  • Both these programmes are designed for early-career professionals keen on gaining premium credentials to build a career in AI and Analytics. On the successful completion of the course, the participants will get a joint certification from WileyNXT and IIT Mandi.
  • The 6 month online programmes will facilitate simulated learning through a unique learning methodology designed to enable learners to contextualize technology skills with deep business awareness as well as a problem solving mindset.

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Wins National Inter-school Cryptic Crossword Contest

  • The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Hyderabad emerged as the national champion of a pan-India inter-school crossword competition, CCCC Cryptic Crossword Contest (CCCC 2020). The team of V Krishna Sai Gayatri and Nellore Dharshita from the city school won the grand finale of the eighth editions. Don Bosco Academy, Patna bagged the second prize this year followed by The Mother's International School, New Delhi which was at the third spot. The school won the tournament last year also.
  • The teams from over 1,500 schools participated in the two-day competition held by the Patna-based civil society in online mode due to pandemic. The grand finale was held through Zoom meeting with eight qualified teams.
  • The Limca Book of Records has acknowledged the event as the biggest of-its-kind in the country.
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ART AND CULTURE

Indian-American Run NGO Launches Virtual Art Gallery on Disability

  • A US-based global NGO run by an Indian-American has launched a virtual art gallery on the theme of disability that aims at colouring the world with the inclusion of specially-abled people through the creative expression of artwork.
  • The launch of the virtual art gallery by Voice of Specially Abled People (VOSAP) follows the successful VOSAP Art From Heart Contest, which was participated by more than 4,200 artists from 53 countries.
  • An international panel of eight judges declared 50 winners from 24 countries using the online platform of VOSAP. This is the first international online art contest on the theme of disability with this huge response.
  • VOSAP said this unique initiative to spread awareness on skills, a talent of specially-abled people by virtue of powerful tool of visual art and using technology is now taken to the next level with the launch of virtual VOSAP Art Gallery of selected 250 artwork of 250 artists.

Rio Museum Recovers Afro-Brazilian Art Works Confiscated more than a Century Ago

  • After almost three years of negotiations, an art collection of more than 500 pieces connected to Afro-Brazilian religions and confiscated between the years 1889 and 1945 by police forces have been returned to the Museu da Republica in Rio de Janeiro.
  • The art objects were seized in Candomblé and Umbanda terreiros (places of worship) during the country's First Republic and Vargas Era, and were stored in police headquarters for decades. At that time, the Brazil's penal code prohibited the practice of Afro-Brazilian culture and religions, vilifying such beliefs as shamanism and black magic.
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