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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

21 Jan 2021

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Conte Wins Crucial Senate Vote to Stay in Power

  • Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has won a crucial vote to stay in power - days after former PM Matteo Renzi pulled his party out of the coalition.
  • The vote in the Senate - 156-140, with 16 abstentions - means, however, that Mr Conte does not have an absolute majority in the upper chamber.
  • Opposition parties say they plan to ask President Sergio Mattarella to intervene to force him to resign.
  • Mr. Conte, a law professor, has led a centrist coalition since 2018.
  • The main parties in his coalition are the anti-establishment Five Star (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
  • The prime minister told the Senate it was vital to maintain political cohesion faced with the historic challenge" of the pandemic.
  • Speaking in the Senate debate, Mr Renzi told Mr Conte to make bolder reforms, saying "Italy is wasting its biggest opportunity since the Marshall Plan" - a reference to the US aid for war-shattered Europe in 1948. He accused Mr Conte of being preoccupied with distributing government posts.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Make History

  • Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris took the oath as the first woman US Vice President in a historic but scaled-down ceremony. The event took place under the unprecedented security umbrella of thousands of security personnel, who transformed the Capitol into a fortress to prevent any breach by pro-Donald Trump extremists.
  • Biden, the 78-year-old veteran Democrat leader was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice John Roberts at the West Front of the Capitol - the traditional location for presidential inaugural ceremonies where the deadly violence took place just two weeks ago.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Mercedes Unveils Electric Compact SUV in Bid to Outdo Tesla

  • Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz unveiled the EQA, a new electric compact SUV as part of plans to take on rival Tesla Inc and offer more emission-free vehicles to consumers to meet targets in Europe and China.
  • The EQA, the first of several electric models Mercedes-Benz plans to launch this year, will initially have a range of 426 kilometres (265 miles), with a 500 km model coming later.
  • The SUV will go on sale in Europe on Feb 4 at what board of management Britta Seeger described as very attractive price points.
  • Electric vehicle (EV) sales took off in Europe last year as carmakers scrambled to meet European Union CO2 emissions targets. Sales received a boost from subsidies included in economic stimulus measures rolled out in France and Germany, in particular.

Dhir & Dhir Associates Ropes in Sonal Verma to Lead the ESG Practice

  • Dhir & Dhir Associates, a full-service law firm founded in 1993, has serviced clients globally as a single-window legal and regulatory advisor.
  • The firm has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad and a representative office in Japan. The firm is now geared up to set up the ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) practice.
  • The decision comes after observing sustainable development, governance, risk and compliance becoming a central stress point at all global business forums, including the World Economic Forum. In India, the firm would be the first to launch a dedicated ESG practice led by Sonal Verma, who, in his last stint, led the Governance, Risk and Compliance focused consulting business at Legasis Services, Mumbai.

IFFCO Ranks First among Top 300 Cooperatives of the World

  • The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) has stepped up to 65th position in overall turnover ranking from 125th position in last financial year and now is at the top spot among 300 leading cooperatives in the world.
  • The ranking is based on the ratio of turnover over the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
  • It signifies that IFFCO is contributing significantly to the GDP and economic growth of the Nation. It relates the turnover of the enterprise to the wealth of the country according to the 2020 edition of the 9th Annual World Cooperative Monitor (WCM) report published by International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Astronomers Discover Earliest Supermassive Black Hole and Quasar in the Universe

  • The most distant quasar known has been discovered. The quasar, observed just 670 million years after the Big Bang, is 1000 times more luminous than the Milky Way.
  • It is powered by the earliest known supermassive black hole, which weighs in at more than 1.6 billion times the mass of the Sun. Seen more than 13 billion years ago, this fully formed distant quasar is also the earliest yet discovered, providing astronomers with insight into the formation of massive galaxies in the early Universe.
  • The result was released at the January 2021 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
  • Quasars, which are powered by the feeding frenzies of colossal supermassive black holes, are the most energetic objects in the Universe. 

NASA Mission Discovers 10 Billion-year-old Exoplanet 50% Larger than Our Own

  • NASA's TESS mission (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) has discovered a hot and rocky planet that is about 50 per cent larger than Earth and has three times the mass but surprisingly, the same density as Earth. Referred to as an exoplanet owing to its location outside our solar system, it has been named TOI-561b.
  • The discovery of this exoplanet was revealed in a study accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. This study was made public during the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which was held virtually owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Interestingly, the exoplanet TOI-561b which has more mass but the same density as Earth takes only less than half of 24 hours to complete one orbit around its host star. Owing to its features, the exoplanet is also being referred to as a 'Super-Earth'.
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SPORTS

P.V. Sindhu, K. Srikanth Make Impressive Starts at Thailand Open

  • Top Indian shuttlers P. V. Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth notched up straight-game wins in the opening round to make impressive starts at the Toyota Thailand Open Super 1000 tournament in Bangkok.
  • A week after being sent packing by Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt in the first event of the Asia leg, world champion Sindhu showed great discipline and focus to see off world no.12 Busanan 21-17 21-13 in the women's singles opener.

Carolina Marin and Victor Axelsen Win Yonex Thailand Open Badminton Tournament 2021

  • Reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin beat top seed Tai Tzu-ying to claim women's title of the Thailand Open in Bangkok.
  • The former world number one has faced an uphill task to recover from a knee injury in January 2019 to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.
  • The first non-Asian women's player to clinch an Olympic gold, the Spaniard decisively won match point in the second set after beating her Taiwanese opponent 21-9, 21-16 in 42 minutes.
  • Fourth seed Viktor Axelsen beat Angus Long to claim the men's title. The Denmark national took just 44 minutes to triumph 21-14, 21-14 over his opponent from Hong Kong.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha to have 5-hour sessions with Question Hour, Zero Hour

  • With the budget session of Parliament set to start on January 29, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said that both Houses will have five-hour sessions each with Question Hour and Zero Hour. Rajya Sabha will sit from 9 am to 2 pm, and Lok Sabha from 4 pm to 9 pm.
  • On January 29, President Ram Nath Kovind will address a joint session of Parliament in the Central Hall, for which MPs will be seated also in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha chambers. Lok Sabha will sit 30 minutes after the presidential address for the tabling of the presidential address and Economic Survey. Rajya Sabha will sit later for the same.
  • The Union Budget will be presented at 11 am on February 1 in Lok Sabha.
  • The budget session will break for a recess on February 15 to meet again on March 8. The budget session is scheduled to conclude on April 8.

Shahnawaz Hussain Likely to be Included in Bihar's Next Cabinet Expansion

  • The Nitish Kumar-led government in Bihar is ready for its cabinet expansion and has made a list of its nominees, the BJP too has finalised its names and its leaders will hand over the names to CM Nitish Kumar.
  • The BJP has reportedly given the names of 10 MLAs and MLCs. Some names doing the rounds are Shahnawaz Hussain, Nitish Mishra, Sanjay Sarawgi, Pramod Kumar, Krishna Kumar Rishi, Sanjay Singh, Samrat Chaudhary, Ram Pravesh Rai.

TMC's Senior Leader Arindam Bhattacharya, Aditya Birla Group VP Join BJP

  • In another blow to Trinamool Congress (TMC), senior leader Arindam Bhattacharya joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), months ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections. Arindam Bhattacharya joined the saffron party in the presence of senior BJP leaders at its headquarters in New Delhi.
  • Bhattacharya who was elected as a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) on Congress ticket had later joined TMC.
  • On the other hand, the Aditya Birla Group VP Ranjan Banerjee has also joined BJP in Kolkata.  
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DEFENCE

First military Team Heads to Russia to Train on S-400 air Defence Systems

  • The first group of Indian military specialists is set to travel to Russia for training in operating the S-400 air defence systems, deliveries of which are set to start this year against the backdrop of possible US sanctions.
  • Russian ambassador Nikolay Kudashev described the upcoming departure of the Indian military team as a remarkable occasion that will usher in "a new stage in our strategic partnership.
  • He defended the $5.4 billion deal with India for five S-400 systems as part of Russia's bilateral and multilateral commitments within the framework of just and equal relations based on the international law and the UN Charter.
  • India and Russia signed the $5.4 billion deal for five S-400 systems in October 2018, and the first batch is expected to be delivered by the end of 2021. 
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PERSONS IN NEWS

JLL India CEO Ramesh Nair Steps Down

  • JLL India CEO Ramesh Nair is leaving the company to pursue opportunities outside the firm. He is succeeded by Radha Dhir, an experienced financial services executive, who has held senior leadership positions in Deutsche Bank India and Yes Bank.
  • Nair joined JLL as an analyst in 1999. He rose through the ranks to become Chief Operating Officer in 2013 and then CEO of the India business in 2017. He was also a member of the Asia Pacific Executive Board.
  • In India, JLL has presence across 10 major cities (Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Kochi and Coimbatore) and in over 130 tier 2 and 3 markets with a workforce of close to 12,000 professionals.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Pink Seesaws at US-Mexico Wall Win Design Award

  • While a wall is usually designed to keep people apart, this see-saw installation managed to bring people on both sides of the Mexico-US border together.
  • Now, the Teeter Totter Wall has won the 2020 Beazley Design of the Year award, which is run by London's Design Museum.
  • The see-saws were placed through sections of the wall and allowed people in both countries to play together.
  • They were installed by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello at the Anapra zone in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Even though they were only in place for 20 minutes, video footage of people using them went viral.
  • Tim Marlow, chief executive and director of the Design Museum, which awarded the installation the prize, said: "The Teeter-Totter Wall encouraged new ways of human connection. It remains an inventive and poignant reminder of how human beings can transcend the forces that seek to divide us."
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Assam Launches Self-employment Scheme to Help 2 lakh Youth

  • The Assam government re-launched an old scheme with the aim of providing self-employment avenues to around 200,000 young men of the state.
  • Called Redesigned Swami Vivekananda Assam Youth Empowerment (Re-SVAYEM), the scheme worth Rs. 1000 crore will provide Rs. 50,000 each as seed money to selected youth to start business ventures.
  • The scheme was part of the BJP-led government's budget speech in 2017-18, but instead of benefitting 100,000 young men as planned it managed to get only around 7,000 beneficiaries due to lack of adequate support from banks.
  • To claim benefit of the scheme, the applicants will have to be below 40 years of age, must have passed Class X and should be part of existing self-help groups (SHGs).
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Bhawana Kanth to Become the 1st Woman Fighter Pilot to Take Part in Republic Day Parade

  • Flight lieutenant Bhawana Kanth will become the first woman fighter pilot to take part in the Republic Day parade.
  • Kanth, currently posted at a Rajasthan airbase and commissioned on a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane, will be a part of the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) tableau that will showcase mock-ups of the light combat aircraft, light combat helicopter and the Sukhoi-30 fighter plane.
  • She was among the first women fighter pilots, along with Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh, to be inducted into the IAF in 2016.

SSI Innovations Launches Medical Robotics Surgery System in India

  • Medical robotic technology firm SS Innovations launched its SSI multi-arm novel tele-robotic assistance surgical system in the country at a price of Rs. 4-5 crore.
  • As per SSI Chairman and CEO Sudhir P Srivastava, robotics shall be the future of surgery, and his vision is to create a technologically advanced system that will be cost-effective, easy to use, and can be applied to all surgical specialities.
  • Compared to conventional surgery, robotic surgery results in smaller incisions, that reduces pain, scarring and leads to quicker recovery.
  • The MANTRA (multi-arm novel tele-robotic assistance) system was utilized for the first in human pilot study at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, where the surgeons successfully completed 18 complex Urology, Gynaecology and General Surgery procedures in less than a month.
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BOOKS AND AUTHORS

Goa CM Releases Book 'Manohar Parrikar - Off the Record'

  • Goa Chief Minister, Pramod Sawant has released a book 'Manohar Parrikar- Off the Record' at a function organized at Institute Menezes Braganza hall in the city. The book has been written by senior journalist Waman Subha Prabhu.
  • The book 'Manohar Parrikar- Off the Record' is a collection of memories of Mr Prabhu who happened to be with late Parrikar during the journey of his life. In the book, the author has endeavoured to narrate the multi-faceted personality of late Manohar Parrikar. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, while speaking, said Late Manohar Parrikar was a great visionary who had dreamt to serve Goa.
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TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

World's Largest Single-site Solar Power Plant in Abu Dhabi

  • An hour's drive southeast of Abu Dhabi is the world's largest single-site solar plant. Located at Sweihan in Abu Dhabi, Noor Abu Dhabi (which means 'light' in Arabic) features 3.2 million solar panels. The clean, renewable energy produced here will power the daily lives of 90,000 families in the emirate.
  • The plant will eventually replace existing conventional gas-fired power plants.
  • With the capacity to reduce Abu Dhabi's Co2 emissions by one million tonnes, the plant will be looking at an environmental impact equivalent to taking 2,00,000 cars off the roads.
  • The UAE is diversifying its energy mix and aiming to meet 44 per cent of its needs through clean energy by 2050.
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