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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

08 Jan 2021

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

WHO Team Investigating Virus Origins Denied Entry To China

  • A World Health Organization (WHO) team due to investigate the origins of Covid-19 in the city of Wuhan has been denied entry to China.
  • Two members were already en route, with the WHO saying the problem was a lack of visa clearances.
  • However, China has challenged this, saying details of the visit, including dates, were still being arranged.
  • The long-awaited probe was agreed upon by Beijing after many months of negotiations with the WHO.
  • The virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, with the initial outbreak linked to a market.

Democrats Take Control of U.S. Senate with Two Georgia Victories

  • Democrats won both Georgia Senate seats — and with them, the U.S. Senate majority — as final votes were counted, serving President Donald Trump a stunning defeat in his last days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden's progressive agenda.
  • Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party's evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Mr. Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the State since 1992.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

NYSE in a Spin Over Chinese Telecoms Delistings

  • The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) said it will delist three Chinese telecom companies after an earlier reversal of the decision.
  • The NYSE first announced it would delist China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom last week, following a Trump administration executive order.
  • It then reversed that decision this week, suggesting the order didn't require it to delist the companies.
  • Now, in a second about-face, the NYSE will delist the companies after all.
  • The second reversal comes a day after the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly raised objections to the NYSE's earlier reversal.
  • The exchange cited "new specific guidance" from the US Treasury Department as a reason for reverting to its original position.

GDP likely to contract by 7.7% in 2020-21, says Govt.

  • India's real GDP (Gross Domestic Product)is estimated to contract by 7.7% in 2020-21, compared to a growth rate of 4.2% in 2019-20, with Real GVA (Gross Valued added) shrinking by 7.2%, as per advance estimates released by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • India's economy had grown at 4.2% in 2019-20, but entered a recessionary phase with two successive quarters of sharp contraction triggered by the COVID-19 national lockdowns beginning March 2020.
  • Following a 23.9% collapse in the economy between April to June 2020 period, the GDP fell by 7.5% in the second quarter — leading to a real GDP contraction of 15.7% in the first half of 2020-21. The second half of the year will surface to record near-zero growth or a mere 0.1% contraction, the advanced estimates suggest.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Pakistan Successfully Test Fires Indigenously Developed Weapons Rocket System

  • Pakistan successfully conducted the test-flight of an indigenously developed Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering conventional warheads, with a maximum range of 140 km.
  • According to Director General of Army, Media Wing, Major General Babar Iftikhar, Fatah-1 weapon system can hit targets up to a range of 140 km.
  • "The Weapon System will give Pakistan Army capability of precision target engagement deep in enemy territory," said Iftikhar.
  • President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Nadeem Raza and the Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa congratulated the participating troops and scientists on the successful flight test.
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SPORTS

Sanjay Kapoor Elected All India Chess Federation President

  • Sanjay Kapoor was elected president of All India Chess Federation (AICF) while Bharat Singh Chauhan retained the secretary's post in the polls held online.
  • Kapoor, representing Uttar Pradesh Chess Association, defeated incumbent PR Venketrama Raja in a close contest. Kapoor received 33 votes as against 31 of Raja.
  • Chauhan beat Ravindra Dongre 35-29.
  • Naresh Sharma, belonging to the Chauhan faction, was elected as treasurer, beating Kishore Bandekar 34-30.
  • The AICF has been split into two factions, one led by Raja and the other by Chauhan. The two have been at loggerheads for some time over various issues, including the conduct of the elections.
  • Several legal battles were fought in the past one and a half year and there were instances when the president and the secretary suspended each other at different times.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

PM Flags Off World's 1st Double-Stack Container Train

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the world's first double-stack long-haul container train from New Ateli in Haryana to New Kishanganj in Rajasthan.
  • He also launched the 306-km Rewari-Madar section of the Western dedicated freight corridor (DFC).
  • Modi said that since the launch of the New Bhaupur-New Khurja section of the DFC, the average speed of freight trains has tripled in that section.
  • One train carries 360 10-feet container equivalent units (TEU), which is equivalent to 270 high capacity trailer trucks, a rail ministry statement said.
  • The corridor is expected to boost farming and allied businesses in Haryana and Rajasthan and impart new energy into cities like Mahendragarh, Jaipur, Ajmer and Sikar.

ITBP Orders Over Rs 8 Crore Worth Of Khadi Mats From KVIC For CAPFs

  • The Indo-Tibetan Border Police placed an order worth over Rs 8 crore with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission for procurement of 'khadi durries' or mats for various central paramilitary forces.
  • A memorandum of understanding procuring 1,71,520 mats was signed between the two organisations as part of a Union government directive to only use and sell 'swadeshi' or indigenously made goods in these forces functioning under the command of the Union Home Ministry. 
  • The central armed police forces (CAPFs) like the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB and CISF, render a variety of duties in the internal security domain of the country.
  • The ITBP, a mountain-warfare trained force deployed to guard the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, is the nodal agency for purchase of certain goods for the paramilitary forces.

A Michael Jackson Concert in India That's Now Tax-free

  • In 1996, Michael Jackson played to a packed audience in Mumbai in what was to be his only performance in India.
  • Some 35,000 fans attended the show in a sports arena on the first day of November. Jackson's 17-song concert in Mumbai (then called Bombay) was part of his 83-show History World Tour from September 1996 to October 1997.
  • At the time, Maharashtra, the state where Mumbai is located, was governed by the right wing Shiv Sena party. It had waived entertainment tax on the show on the grounds that it was meant for a "philanthropic and charitable" purpose.
  • But the show soon became embroiled in a prolonged legal battle involving the government, the concert organiser and a feisty consumer protection group. At stake were issues like whether the show was eligible for a tax waiver and even how Jackson's music could be defined.
  • Jackson had "for reasons known to only a few, waived his performance fee", India Today magazine reported in November 1996.
  • The pop superstar had promised to donate profits from the concert — which eventually ran to more than $1m — to a Shiv Sena-run youth employment project, wrote author Suketu Mehta in his award-winning book, Maximum City.
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DEFENCE

Britain Signs 550 Million Pound Weapons Contract for F-35 Jets

  • Britain signed a 550 million pounds ($751 million) contract with European weapons-maker MBDA to manufacture surface-attack missiles for use on the country's F-35B fighter jets.
  • As per Britain, making the new missiles, known as SPEAR3, would enhance the UK's future combat air capability and support more than 700 jobs in the country.
  • MBDA is jointly owned by British defence company BAE Systems, European aerospace giant Airbus and Italy's Leonardo.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Indian-American becomes U.S. Army's first CIO

  • Indian-American Dr. Raj Iyer has taken over as the first Chief Information Officer of the US Army, after the Pentagon created the position in July 2020.
  • One of the highest ranking Indian-American civilians in the US Department of Defense, Mr. Iyer, who holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, serves as the principal advisor to the Secretary of the Army and directs representation of the secretary in matters relating to information management/information technology (IT), the Pentagon said in a statement.
  • Equivalent in rank to a three-star General, Mr. Iyer will supervise an annual budget of $16 billion for the US Army's IT operations. Over 15,000 civilians and military personnel posted across 100 countries work under him.

Fashion designer Satya Paul dies at 79

  • Ace fashion designer Satya Paul, known for giving the Indian saree a contemporary touch, has passed away at the age of 79, his son Puneet Nanda said.
  • Paul, who had suffered a stroke in December, breathed his last at Sadhguru's Isha Yoga Center.
  • Paul started his journey in the field of retail in the late 60s and expanded to exports of Indian handloom products to high-end retail stores in Europe and America. In 1980, he launched the first 'saree boutique' in India, L'Affaire, and founded the eponymous fashion clothing brand with his son in 1986.
  • The brand soon became synonymous for its sleek sarees.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

EDUCON-2020

  • Union Education Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' inaugurated the two-day Virtual International Akhand Conference 'EDUCON 2020' through a video conferencing platform on January 7, 2021.
  • This two-day International Conference was organised by the Central University of Punjab, Bathinda (CUPB) in collaboration with the Global Education Research Association (GERA) under the patronage of Prof (Dr) Raghavendra P Tiwari, Vice-Chancellor, CUPB & Padma Shri Dr Mahendra Sodha (Patron, GERA).
  • The focal theme of EDUCON-2020 was Envisioning education for Transforming Youth to Restore Global Peace. 

World Day of War Orphans

  • The World Day of War Orphans is observed on January 6 every year.
  • The day aims to raise awareness about children who have been orphaned due to wars. The objective of the day ensures to voice out the predicament of war orphans and highlight the emotional, social, and physical challenges children face while growing up.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Enactus Jamia Millia Islamia Wins Confluence on Entrepreneurship 2020

  • Team Enactus Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) was declared the winner at Confluence on Entrepreneurship 2020 organised by Tata Institute Of Social Sciences, Tuljapur on 30th December, 2020.
  • The confluence had witnessed participation of teams from all over India. The primary objective of the event was to promote enterprise development as an opportunity of livelihood in post-pandemic conditions with the emergence of business models/ approaches to mitigate/ alternatives to counter the ongoing political and economic changes.
  • The team, awarded with a Certificate of Excellence and mentorship sessions, had proposed its project Shrimati which had managed to garner wide appreciation by the members of the confluence board as well as the participants of the event.
  • Through Shrimati, Enactus JMI endeavours to tackle the issues of unemployment, domestic abuse, plastic pollution as well as sanitary waste disposal. For the same project, the team had earlier secured first runner-up position in another similar event hosted by Azim Premji University on 19th December, 2020.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Government Approves Central Sector Scheme For Industrial Development Of Jammu & Kashmir

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in its meeting considered and approved the proposal of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade for Central Sector Scheme for Industrial Development of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The scheme is approved with a total outlay of Rs. 28,400 crore up to the year 2037.
  • Government of India has formulated New Industrial Development Scheme for Jammu & Kashmir (J&K IDS, 2021) as Central Sector Scheme for the development of Industries in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The main purpose of the scheme is to generate employment which directly leads to the socio-economic development of the area.
  • Considering the historic development of reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir with effect from 31.10.2019 into UT of Jammu & Kashmir under the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, the present scheme is being implemented with the vision that industry and service led development of J&K needs to be given a fresh thrust with emphasis on job creation, skill development and sustainable development by attracting new investment and nurturing the existing ones.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Number of India's Elderly to Triple by 2050

  • There will be over 319 million elderly by 2050, threefold the number identified by the Census in 2011, according to the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI).
  • In 2011 census, the 60+ population accounted for 8.6% of population, accounting for 103 million elderly people. Growing at around 3% annually, the number will rise to 319 million in 2050. While 75% of them suffer from one or the other chronic disease, 40% have one or the other disability and 20% have issues related to mental health, said the report prepared by the International Institute for Population Sciences, (IIPS), Mumbai in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Southern California, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the National Institute on Ageing.
  • The report was commissioned by the Health Ministry.
  • It will provide base for national and State-level programmes and policies, said the Ministry.
  • The LASI, Wave 1 covered a baseline sample of 72,250 individuals aged 45 and above and their spouses including 31,464 elderly persons aged 60 and above and 6,749 oldest-old persons aged 75 and above from all States and Union Territories (UTs) of India (excluding Sikkim).
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TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

Building Frozen Castles at China's Harbin Ice Festival

  • The festival in Harbin, a city in China's north-east Heilongjiang province, is one of the biggest of its kind.
  • It features towering ice and snow structures, and will host activities like sledging, ice hockey, ice football, speed skating and Alpine skiing competitions.
  • With entry to China restricted due because of the coronavirus pandemic, domestic tourists are expected to make up the majority of visitors. The festival began in 1963 and was interrupted during China's Cultural Revolution, resuming again in 1985.
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