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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

27 Jan 2021

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Joe Biden Signs Order to Reverse Trump's Transgender Military Ban

  • President Joe Biden signed an executive order that brought in a policy of including all qualified Americans to serve in the US military, effectively overturning a ban on transgender persons that was introduced by the former Trump administration.
  • The Defense Department said that it was ready to immediately implement Biden's Executive Order.
  • Transgender people were officially allowed to serve in the military by the Obama administration in 2016. However, in 2017 former President Donald Trump said transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in any capacity in the US military. Trump explained he introduced the ban because the military could not be burdened with the tremendous medical costs of transgender persons undergoing sex-change operations.

Joe Biden Signs "Buy American" Executive Order

  • President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Monday that will strengthen the rules surrounding government procurement in a bid to shore up domestic manufacturing and encourage the federal government to buy more products made in the United States. 
  • Biden's "Buy American" plan will make it more difficult for federal agencies to contract with companies overseas to purchase foreign products by reducing loopholes and waivers in existing Buy American rules and changing the definition of an "American-made" good. 

K.P. Sharma Oli Expelled from Nepal Communist Party's General Membership

  • Nepal PM K.P. Sharma Oli has been expelled from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) over his decision to dissolve the Parliament.
  • Nepal's Caretaker PM K.P. Sharma Oli was removed from ruling Nepal Communist Party by a Central Committee Meeting of the splinter group of the party.
  • The decision comes amid repeated threats by the rival faction leaders who had said that they would revoke Oli's membership over his decision to dissolve the Nepal Parliament. The rival faction spokesperson Narayankaji Shrestha said that the party leaders are planning further action against Oli after his ouster from the party.
  • The splinter group of the party was led by former Prime Ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar.
  • Both the members had earlier asked PM Oli for explanation for his unconstitutional decisions. They sent letter to seek clarification. But the PM Oli failed to do so.
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ENVIRONMENT

Global Climate Risk Index, 2021

  • The Global Climate Risk Index was released by Germanwatch-a NGO based in Bonn, Germany. In the index, India has been ranked at seventh position among the countries that are most effected by climate change in 2019.
  • India ranks seventh among countries most affected in 2019 by climate change.
  • In 2019, monsoon continued for a month longer than normal in India. From June to the end of September 2019, 110% of the long-period average was recorded. Flooding caused by heavy rain was responsible for 1,800 deaths across 14 states and led to the displacement of 1.8 million people. There were eight tropical cyclones in India. Six of them intensified to become very severe.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

China Overtakes Germany to Run World's Largest Current Account Surplus

  • China overtook Germany to become the country with the world's largest current account surplus in the year 2020, as per a survey by the Munich-based Ifo institute.
  • The current account surplus of China more than doubled to $310 billion in 2020, while the current account surplus of Germany shrank for the fifth year in a row in 2020 to $261 billion.
  • The data underlines a tectonic shift in world trade triggered by the coronavirus crisis as higher demand across the globe for medical protection gear and electronic devices boosted Chinese exports.
  • The United States remained the country with the world's largest current account deficit which rose roughly by a third to $635 billion in 2020 or 3.1% of economic output.
  • Japan ranked third with a current account surplus of $158 billion. Ifo (Information and Forschung) Institute for Economic Research is a research institution based in Munich, Germany, which analyses economic policy.

Ministry of Road Transport to Impose "Green Tax"

  • The Ministry of road transport has decided to impose the additional taxes on old vehicles that are no more fit on the road. This additional tax is being called as the "Green Tax". The decision was taken to curb pollution. It will also motivate people to switch to environment-friendly alternatives to the vehicles.
  • The Green tax will reduce the pollution level. It will also make the polluter to pay for creating pollution.
  • Revenue collected from the green tax will be kept in a separate account. The amount will be used for tackling the problem of pollution.
  • The states have been asked to set up state-of-art facilities to monitor the emission.
  • Green tax is also called as the pollution tax or environmental tax. The tax is an excise duty on goods that results into the environmental pollutants. An economic theory says, that if taxes will be charged on emissions causing pollution will lower the environmental impairment in a cost-effective manner. The tax will encourage the behavioural changes in households and firms that are required to reduce the pollution. The tax mainly aims to ensure that polluters are duly punished for their pollution creating activities.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

SpaceX Launches 143 Satellites on Single Rocket

  • Elon Musk's SpaceX created a new world record by launching 143 satellites on a single rocket last night. SpaceX has beaten the Indian space agency ISRO's record of deploying 104 satellites in a single launch in February 2017. The launch vehicle for the SpaceX record-breaking flight was the Falcon 9 rocket.
  • The 143 satellites launched last night include commercial and government CubeSats, microsats and 10 Starlink satellites. Onboard was also a spacecraft belonging to NASA. With these satellites, SpaceX aims to provide near-global broadband internet coverage all over the world by 2021. According to sources, SpaceX offered a very low price of 15,000 dollars per kilogram for each satellite to be delivered to a polar sun-synchronous orbit.
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SPORTS

Florida Offers to Replace Tokyo as Olympics Host

  • Florida's chief financial officer has asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider relocating the 2021 Games to the Sunshine State amid speculation that Tokyo organisers may back out as hosts due to concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Tokyo organisers have vowed to press ahead with the re-scheduled Games, which are due to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year because of the novel coronavirus, but Florida's Jimmy Patronis has offered an alternative option.
  • There is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida to meet with statewide and local officials on holding the Olympics in the Sunshine State.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray Launches Jail Tourism Project

  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray launched a jail tourism initiative in the state with an aim to help students and other citizens experience "vignettes from history". People will be able to understand the struggles of freedom fighters by visiting jails under the new initiative.
  • The initiative was launched from the 150-year-old Yerawada prison in Pune, where several freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu and Subhas Chandra Bose, had been imprisoned under the British rule.

Consistently Supported Palestinian Nation-building Efforts, Says India at UNSC

  • India has reiterated its position on the Israel-Palestine conflict and pointed out its consistent support to 'Palestinian nation-building efforts' during a discussion on the issue at the United Nations Security Council.
  • Speaking at the meet, India's envoy to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti highlighted New Delhi's human resource development and institutional building for Palestine and has currently undertaken several projects in many sectors, including health, education and technology of around USD 72 million.
  • India has also provided over 250 scholarships for Palestinian youth and officials on an annual basis. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Tirumurti said, "India has supplied critical life-saving drugs and medical equipment to Palestine as assistance".

Indian Railways' Longest Freight Train 'Vasuki' Sets a New Record

  • The South-East Central Railways (SECR) zone in Chhattisgarh broke its own previous record by successfully operating the longest ever freight train by amalgamating five rakes of goods trains as one unit of around 3.5 km. Named as 'Vasuki', it covered the distance of 224 km between the railway stations of Bhilai and Korba and took about seven hours. The 'Vasuki', comprising 300 wagons of long haul rake of five goods trains, ran with the help of one pilot, one assistant loco pilot and a guard.
  • South East Central Railway (SECR) zone has also operated two freight trains recently. These freight trains got attention due to their length. The two freight trains were 'Sesh Naag' and 'Super Anaconda'. Super Anaconda was a fully loaded three rake combined freight trains. 'Sesh Naag' was a 2.8 km long four empty BOXN rakes train combined.
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DEFENCE

India Successfully Tests New Gen Akash Missile

  • India successfully test-fired the Akash-NG (new generation) surface-to-air missile for the first time off the Odisha coast.
  • Akash-NG missile has been designed to strike low radar cross-section aerial targets. It weighs only half of the existing Akash missile and requires fewer ground systems.
  • The existing Akash missile has a range of 25 km, while the upgraded variant (NG) can strike targets at a distance of 30 km.
  • Akash-NG is a new generation surface-to-air missile meant for use by Indian Air Force with an aim of intercepting high maneuvering low radar cross-section aerial threats.
  • The Akash-NG system has been developed with better deploy ability compared to other similar systems with canisterised launcher and much smaller ground system footprint.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Dhanlaxmi Bank Board Approves Appointment of Shivan as MD and CEO

  • Board of Directors of Kerala-based Dhanlaxmi Bank has given approval to appoint J. K. Shivan as Managing Director and CEO of the Bank.
  • It may be recalled that the shareholders of the Kerala-based had voted against MD & CEO Sunil Gurbaxani in September 2020. Then, in December 2020, the lender appointed Shivan as the new MD & CEO. However, the banking regulator, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), had asked the Dhanlaxmi Bank Board to get shareholders' approval before appointing J. K. Shivan as the next chief of the bank.

Jayati Ghosh Named by UN to High-level Advisory Board on Economic, Social Affairs

  • Indian development economist Jayati Ghosh is among 20 prominent personalities appointed by the United Nations to a high-level advisory board that will provide recommendations for the UN Secretary-General to respond to the current and future socio-economic challenges in the post-COVID-19 world.
  • Ghosh is a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has taught economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University for nearly 35 years and has authored several books.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

Bharat Parv Begins on Virtual Platform

  • Bharat Parv 2021, a festival to celebrate the spirit of India has begun today. The festival is being organised on a virtual platform www.bharatparv2021.com this year from 26 till 31st of January. The mega event envisages generating patriotic fervour and showcases the rich and varied cultural diversity of the country. Ministry of Tourism organizes Bharat Parv every year since 2016 in front of the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of Republic Day Celebrations. Themed pavilions of multiple States and Union Territories have showcased their tourism destinations, cuisine, handicraft and other features.
  • Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla inaugurated the Bharat Parv-2021 in the presence of Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel.

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

  • Every year around 27th January, UNESCO pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and reaffirms its unwavering commitment to counter antisemitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence.
  • The date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops on 27th January 1945. It was officially proclaimed, in November 2005, International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • For the first time, the United Nations and UNESCO will jointly organize a series of events, in partnership with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, to mark the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  • Due to restrictions put in place because of COVID-19, and to reach global audiences, the events will be entirely online. Events will include a commemoration ceremony on 27 January 2021 and a panel discussion on Holocaust denial and distortion, broadcast by UNTV and CNN, in addition to   exhibitions in Paris and UNESCO Field Offices around the world.  
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar 2021

  •  The Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar has been awarded to 32 children this year for their tremendous and outstanding accomplishments and exceptional abilities in several fields such as innovation, scholastics, sports, arts, culture, social service, and bravery.
  • The children who have been awarded this prize are from across the country. The Ministry of Women and Child Development issued a statement saying that the awardees are from 32 districts of 21 states and Union territories.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar is awarded to children every year to recognize their excellence and outstanding efforts made in several fields. This year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the event virtually.
  • Indian President Ram Nath Kovind congratulated the awardees of the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar, saying that this award will motivate the children of India to push for excellence and get inspired to perform better.

Government Confers 119 PADMA Honours

  • Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, legendary singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, spiritual leader Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and controversial archaeologist BB Lal were among seven people awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian award.
  • The list of Padma awards also comprised 10 Padma Bhushan and 102 Padma Shri recipients. This included 29 women, 10 people of Indian origin, non-resident Indians and foreigners, 16 posthumous awardees and one transgender person.

President Kovind Confers Jeevan Raksha Padak Series of Awards to 40 People

  • President Ram Nath Kovind approved the conferment of the Jeevan Raksha Padak series of awards, 2020, to 40 people, ahead of 72nd Republic Day.
  • The award is given to a person for an exemplary act of human nature in saving someone's life. It can be awarded under three categories - Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak, Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak and Jeevan Raksha Padak. It is also given posthumously.
  • The awardee receives a medal, a certificate signed by the Union home minister and a lump sum monetary allowance which is presented to the receiver by the respective union ministries/organizations/state government to which he or she belongs.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Rajasthan's New M-Sand Policy

  • The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, has released the new M-Sand Policy of Rajasthan in light with the government's commitment to meet the quantity of sand which is needed for construction work.
  • The M-sand policy has been launched with the aim of reducing the dependency on the traditional sand from rivers.
  • Through this policy, the use and production of manufactured sand or M-sand in the state will be encouraged.
  • With this policy, the problem of waste generated from the mines in the mining areas of Rajasthan will also be solved.
  • This will also create huge employment opportunities at the local level.
  • The policy designated the M-sand units the status of an industry.
  • In the state of Rajasthan, the availability of sand is not as per the requirement of construction works. There is a demand of around 70 million tonnes of river sand for various construction work. But, only 20 M-sand units are operating in the state. These 20 units produces 20,000 tonnes of M-sand every day.  Now, this new M-sand policy will be promoting it as a long-term alternative to gravel and help in setting up of new mining units.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Janet Yellen to be First Female US Treasury Secretary

  • Janet Yellen has been confirmed as the first ever female US treasury secretary in a Senate vote.
  • Ms. Yellen, who headed the US central bank from 2014 to 2018, earlier won bipartisan support from members of the Senate Finance Committee.
  • She will be responsible for guiding the Biden administration's economic response to the pandemic.
  • The US is struggling to rebound economically from the hit caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • At her confirmation hearing, Ms. Yellen urged Congress to approve trillions more in pandemic relief and economic stimulus, saying that lawmakers should act big without worrying about national debt.

DRDO Offers Online Course on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cyber Security

  • Defence Institute of Advanced Technology, a deemed university and an autonomous organisation funded by the department of defence research and development, is offering short-term programmes on artificial intelligence, machine learning and cybersecurity.
  • Both the courses are 12-weeks long. The classes will include two hours of contact lectures five days a week. Selection will be based on an online entrance test. Registration for the test is free and anyone who has a graduate or equivalent level of education can apply for these courses.
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