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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

15 Dec 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Electors Meeting to Formally Choose Biden as Next US President

  • Presidential electors are meeting across the United States to formally choose Joe Biden as the nation's next President.
  • The results will be sent to Washington and tallied in a January 6, 2021 joint session of Congress over which Vice President Mike Pence will preside.
  • The electors' votes have drawn more attention than usual this year because President Donald Trump has refused to concede the election and continued to make baseless allegations of fraud.

Sudan no Longer on List of Terror Sponsors

  • The US Embassy in Khartoum said that President Donald Trump's administration has removed Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that could help the African country get international loans to revive its battered economy and end its pariah status.
  • The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
  • Delisting Sudan is also a key incentive for the government in Khartoum to normalise relations with Israel.

Kuwait Names New Oil and Finance Ministers

  • Kuwait's emir approved the formation of a new cabinet that included new ministers of oil and finance for the OPEC member state, following a parliamentary election this month.
  • Mohammad Abdulatif al-Fares was named Oil, Electricity and Water Minister, replacing Khaled al-Fadhel. Khalifa Hamade became Finance Minister, replacing Barak al-Shitan.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Torrent Gas to Invest Rs. 5,000 crore in Chennai City Gas Project

  • Torrent Gas Ltd pledged Rs. 5,000 crore investment to develop infrastructure to retail CNG to automobiles and piped gas to households and industries in Chennai, the biggest city gas license in its portfolio.
  • Torrent Gas, part of the pharma-to-energy Torrent Group, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Tamil Nadu for development of city gas infrastructure at the Growth and Investment Conclave in Chennai.
  • The firm will lay pipelines and other infrastructure in Chennai and Tiruvallur districts, covering an area of 3,569 square kilometres, to provide piped natural gas (PNG) connections to homes, industries and commercial establishments. It will also set up the infrastructure to dispense compressed natural gas (CNG) to automobiles.

MG Motor Announces Partnership with TES-AMM for Recycling of Li-ion Batteries

  • MG Motor India has announced its partnership with the TES-AMM for battery recycling in the country. The partnership will ensure the correct and safe recycling of lithium-ion batteries used in the brand's ZS EV electric-SUV.
  • According to the company, the partnership will ensure environmentally-sustainable and secure recycling of MG ZS EV batteries. It will ensure greater peace of mind to the ZS EV owners about their ecological footprint by proper recycling of batteries.
  • TES-AMM is Asia's only Li-ion battery recycling plant. It is one of the few companies certified in multiple management systems including battery recycling and more. 
  • Annually TES process millions of devices across from over 35 countries. It uses a unique mechanical-hydrometallurgical process for enhanced asset recovery that is environmentally superior and safer. 

Tata's among Multiple Bidders for Air India

  • Salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group and US-based fund Interups Inc were among multiple entities that put in preliminary bids for buying loss-making carrier Air India.
  • A group of 219 Air India employees submitted an expression of interest (EoI) for the carrier in partnership with Interups at the close of the deadline.
  • The identity of the bidders or the number of bids received for buying the national carrier  were revealed.
  • As per reports, Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, has put in an EoI and so did Interups, whose chairman Laxmi Prasad had in the run-up to the disinvestment made his intentions clear to bid for Air India.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Russia Test-launches Angara A5

  • Russia successfully test- launched its heavy lift Angara A5 space rocket after a six-year hiatus in a project President Vladimir Putin describes as having huge significance for national security.
  • First test-launched in 2014, it is being developed to replace the Proton M as Russia's heavy lift rocket, capable of carrying payloads bigger than 20 tonnes into orbit. A launch pad for the new rocket is due to open in 2021.
  • The Angara has, however, been dogged by manufacturing delays and technical issues, including the discovery last year of a defect in its engines that scientists said could destroy it in flight.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

NITI Proposes 'Surveillance Information Platform' to Boost Public Health

  • Government think tank NITI Aayog proposed setting up a surveillance information platform to strengthen India's public health surveillance system.
  • According to a report titled 'Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India: A White Paper', which is jointly prepared by NITI Aayog and University of Manitoba, Canada -India's public health surveillance will be a predictive, responsive, integrated and tiered system of disease and health surveillance.
  • Going forward, India's public health surveillance will be based on individual Electronic Health Records (EHR) that capture and amalgamate individuals' health-care related information through the use of a unique health identifier (UHID).
  • According to the Aayog, this is used in every clinical, laboratory, or pharmacy visit and for vertical disease control programmes.

Demands for Renaming Certain Areas Justified

  • Amid demands by some leaders of the ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh to change names of certain places, state Culture Minister Usha Thakur said that such demands are absolutely valid if they are backed by facts and evidences.
  • Some leaders of the BJP from Bhopal and Indore have demanded that the existing names of some areas be changed.
  • If the names of some places in the state are changed on the basis of facts and evidence, and in accordance with the Constitution, then these changes must surely take place.
  • MP Assembly Speaker and senior BJP leader Rameshwar Sharma recently demanded that the name of Idgah Hills in Bhopal be changed to "Guru Nanak Tekri".
  • Indore Lok Sabha MP Shankar Lalwani had said that local people wanted the area adjacent to the famous Ganesh temple in Khajrana locality be renamed, either as Ganesh Nagar, Ganesh Dham or Ganesh Colony.

No Winter Session of Parliament This Year

  • The Centre said that there will be no winter session of Parliament this time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi confirmed this in a letter responding to Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, who has demanded for a short Winter Session. 
  • According to Joshi, all parties supported the scrapping of the Winter session in order to curb the spread of coronavirus and hold the Budget Session in January.
  • It is expected that the Budget session would be held in the last week of January and Budget would be tabled on February 1.
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DEFENCE

Navy's Advanced Frigate 'Himgiri' Launched

  • 'Himgiri', the first of the three Project 17A ships being built at Kolkata's Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE), made her first contact with the waters of Hoogly River.
  • Project 17A has upheld India's vision for Atmanirbhar Bharat. P17A ships have been indigenously designed by Directorate of Naval Design (Surface Ship Design Group) — DND (SSG), and are being built at indigenous yards namely Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and GRSE.
  • General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was the chief guest at the ceremony. In keeping with Naval traditions Smt Madhulika Rawat, spouse of CDS, launched the ship. The ship has taken its name and crest of the second frigate of the Leander Class of ships, which incidentally was launched 50 years ago in 1970.
  • Under the Project 17A programme, a total of seven ships, four at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and three ships at GRSE are being built with enhanced stealth features, advanced indigenous weapon and sensor fit along with several other improvements.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

HDFC Bank Names Sanmoy Chakrabarti as Chief Risk Officer

  • HDFC Bank has appointed Sanmoy Chakrabarti as the Chief Risk Officer in place of Jimmy Tata, who will take on the role of Chief Credit Officer.
  • The board of directors of the bank has approved the appointment of Sanmoy Chakrabarti, Head, Risk Management, as the Chief Risk Officer of the bank, for three years.

John Le Carre, Best-selling Author of Cold War Thrillers, Passes Away

  • John le Carré, whose exquisitely nuanced, intricately plotted Cold War thrillers elevated the spy novel to high art by presenting both Western and Soviet spies as morally compromised cogs in a rotten system full of treachery, betrayal and personal tragedy, passed away at the age of 89.
  • Before le Carré published his best-selling 1963 novel "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold," which Graham Greene called "the best spy story I have ever read," the fictional model for the modern British spy was Ian Fleming's James Bond — suave, urbane, devoted to queen and country. With his impeccable talent for getting out of trouble while getting women into bed, Bond fed the myth of spying as a glamorous, exciting romp.
  • Le Carré upended that notion with books that portrayed British intelligence operations as cesspools of ambiguity in which right and wrong are too close to call and in which it is rarely obvious whether the ends, even if the ends are clear, justify the means.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

51st IFFI to Be Organised in January 2021

  • Prakash Javadekar, minister of Information & Broadcasting, said that the 51st edition of International Film Festival of India will be organised in a hybrid manner. The event that will take place in Goa, can be witnessed online while the opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the location with a smaller audience.
  • This edition of IFFI will include participation of 21 non-feature films.
  • Registrations have opened for the film festival that is scheduled to start on January 16, 2021 up to January 24, 2021. The registrations will be conducted on a first-come-first serve basis to limited number of participants keeping in view the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
  • This event was earlier scheduled to be held in November, this year but has been pushed to the above dates due to the pandemic.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Greenlight Planet Honoured at S&P Global Platts Global Energy Awards 2020

  • Greenlight Planet Inc, the largest provider of solar-powered home energy products in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, has won the 'Award of Excellence — Power' at the 22nd annual S&P Global Platts Global Energy Awards, an annual awards programme that recognises exemplary corporate and individual innovation, leadership and superior performance.
  • Often described as "the Oscars" of the energy industry, the S&P Global Platts Global Energy Awards highlight achievement in 21 categories spanning the entire energy complex.
  • Greenlight Planet was selected out of twelve finalists, which were selected from a broad range of 300 energy companies from over three dozen countries who develop innovative and pioneering technology to address the world's greatest energy challenges.
  • The company was recognised for its innovation of a pay-as-you-go energy business in Nigeria involving a complex cash collections model that has already impacted more than 200,000 lives across the country and is poised to enable significant scale in reaching Nigeria's 20 million under-electrified households.
View Month Wise

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

India's Population is Stabilising

  • India's population is stabilising as per the Fifth National Family Health Survey as the total fertility rate has decreased across the majority of the states.
  • Of the 17 states analysed in the NFHS-5 data, except for Bihar, Manipur and Meghalaya, all other states have a TFR of 2.1 or less, which implies that most states have attained replacement level fertility.
  • The first set of findings from the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted in 2019-20 were released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India four years after the last survey (NFHS-4, 2015-16). 

BHU to Start Two-year Kashi Study Course from 2021

  • The Banaras Hindu University will soon introduce a two-year postgraduate course on 'Kashi Study' from the next academic session.
  • The course will help students decipher the mystique of the heritage city through academia.
  • Students from India and abroad who have an interest in understanding the mystery of Kashi can take admission in the course. This will teach them about the city which is one of the oldest in the world and is a symbol of life, and used to be known for its streets. The religious culture, musical tradition and sculpture art of Kashi always attracts and mesmerizes the world.
  • The first session of the course under the Faculty of Social Sciences will begin in July next year.
  • Dean of Social Sciences Faculty (BHU) Kaushal Kishore Mishra said that a committee will prepare a course structure by December 30.

IBM and Telangana Govt. Join Hands for Skilling Students

  • Tech major IBM and the Telangana government have entered into a collaboration to provide curated online courses for the states' students that will enhance their technical and professional skills.
  • IBM will work with Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) to offer Open P-TECH, a free digital education platform focused on emerging technologies and professional development skills. A total of 30,000 students of engineering, degree and polytechnic courses would benefit from the initiative over a period of one year.
  • Apart from providing access, IBM and its training partners will also train college teachers in using the platform so that they can guide their students and mentor them to learn these skills that will enhance their readiness for their future careers and workplace.
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ART AND CULTURE

Philip Tinari Appointed Curator of Inaugural Ad-Diriyah Biennale in Saudi Arabia

  • Philip Tinari, the director and chief executive of Beijing's UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, has been named curator of the inaugural Ad-Diriyah Biennale in Saudi Arabia. The biennial, scheduled to take place next year, is billed as the largest contemporary art exhibition ever held in the Kingdom.
  • The Saudi Arabian government announced plans to launch the new contemporary art biennial at the historic Ad-Diriyah city located on the outskirts of Riyadh earlier this year. The event was initiated by the Ministry of Culture and is organised by the newly formed Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation which is chaired by the Culture Minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud. Another new initiative, the Islamic biennale, is planned for 2022 (the biennials will run alternate years).
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TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

Ice Cave that Forms Naturally Open to Tourists

  • An ice cave that forms naturally on a high-altitude glacier in the Swiss Alps is open to visitors and tourists are delighted about the view of the huge blue vault of the ice cathedral.
  • The size and the shape of the ice cave differs from year to year. It has a rounded ceiling made of thick ice about 5 metres high, and is about 20 metres long. The interiors of the cave are quite flat this year, and it is pretty much easy to access it.
  • Also known as the Mill, the ice cave forms through a siphon effect. The cavity fills with water from the snow melt, forming a lake, every spring and summer. In autumn, the plug disappears and the water drains, leaving the cave.

Fortune Hotels Inks Operating Agreements

  • Fortune Hotels have signed four individual operating agreement for hotels in Candolim (Goa), Deogarh (Uttarakhand), Haldwani (Uttarakhand) and Tirpur (Tamil Nadu).
  • Samir, Managing Director, Fortune Park Hotels Limited said that with these additions, we not only increase our appeal in the domestic market but also offer a very interesting mix of our business and leisure customers, thereby opening up new vistas for their travel.   
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