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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

04 Feb 2021


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US Nominates Hong Kong's Pro-democracy Movement for Nobel Peace Prize

  • A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has nominated Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, to honour the demonstrators' struggle against the Beijing imposed Draconian national security law.
  • This move by the lawmakers would surely anger Beijing, which has repeatedly received condemnation from the West for its imposition and undermining the region's sovereignty.
  • "We are nominating a movement that has peacefully advocated for and maintained human rights and democracy in Hong Kong since 1997 and continues to fight against the erosion of these rights," Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, Representative James McGovern, a Democrat, and seven other lawmakers, wrote to Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Nobel Peace Prize committee as quoted by South China Morning Post.

Canada Designates Proud Boys as a Terrorist Entity

  • The Canadian government designated the Proud Boys group as a terrorist entity, noting they played a pivotal role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
  • The Proud Boys have faced increased scrutiny after seizing on the former Trump administration's policies and the group was a major agitator during earlier protests and the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The Proud Boys is a far-right, male chauvinist extremist group known for engaging in violent clashes at political rallies. Canada is the first country to designate them as a terrorist entity.
  • During a September presidential debate, Donald Trump had urged the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" when asked to condemn them by a moderator.
  • Senior officials speaking on a technical briefing said authorities had been monitoring and collecting evidence about the Proud Boys before the Capitol Hill insurrection, but confirmed that the event provided information that helped with the decision to list the organization.

NATO Welcomes Extension of 'New START' by Russia and the US

  • NATO welcomes the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and values its contribution to international stability.
  • NATO welcomes and fully supports the agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the New START Treaty for five years. NATO Allies believe the New START Treaty contributes to international stability, and Allies again express their strong support for its continued implementation and for early and active dialogue on ways to improve strategic stability.
  • NATO's allies are determined to uphold existing arms control and non-proliferation agreements and support further negotiations on these issues.
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Parts of Britain are Already Hitting 2030 Carbon Targets

  • As per reports, regions of the U.K. powered by a combination of nuclear and wind are already hitting 2030 climate targets.
  • Britain has pledged the deepest cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the Group of 20 nations to put the U.K. at the vanguard of the fight against climate change. The prime minister's goal to slash pollution by 68% in the four decades through 2030 could put Britain on track to deliver net-zero emissions by the middle of the century.
  • According to the findings from Nuclear Industry Association, Southern Scotland, and Northeast and Northwest England had the cleanest power mix last year.
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Amazon's $200M facility in East Tennessee to Create 800 Jobs

  • Amazon announced that it will invest $200 million in eastern Tennessee to build a new warehouse distribution site that will result in 800 jobs.
  • Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe praised the Alcoa-based project during a virtual event with Amazon officials.
  • The facility is expected to be completed in 2022. It will be Amazon's third fulfilment centre to use robotics technology in Tennessee and the company's eighth fulfilment centre in the Volunteer State.

PNB Restricts Withdrawl of Money from Non-EMV ATMs

  • Punjab National Bank (PNB) has decided to restrict its customers from withdrawing money from non-EMV automated teller machines (ATMs) with effect from 01 February 2021, in an attempt to check frauds, related to money transactions. This restriction will apply to both, financial and non-financial transactions. To overcome this, PNB will introduce OTP based systems for withdrawing cash.
  • Non-EMV ATMs are those which read data through magnetic strips and do not hold the ATM card during the transaction.
  • PNB has also decided to replace the old IFSC and MICR codes. This means that the old codes will not work after March 31, 2021.
  • Customers will have to get a new code from the bank.
  • This decision has been taken due to merger of Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India on 1st April 2020.

Ant Group Reaches Agreement with China Regulators on Overhaul

  • Ant Group Co. and Chinese regulators have agreed on a restructuring plan that will turn Jack Ma's fintech giant into a financial holding company, making it subject to capital requirements similar to those for banks.
  • The plan calls for putting all of Ant's businesses into the holding company, including its technology offerings in areas like blockchain and food delivery, people familiar with the matter said. One of Ant's early proposals to regulators had envisioned putting only financial operations into the new structure.
  • An official announcement on the overhaul could come before the start of China's Lunar New Year holiday next week. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which owns about a third of Ant, erased losses in Hong Kong trading on Wednesday after Bloomberg reported the agreement. The stock closed with a 0.4% gain.
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SatSure Plans Remote Sensing Satellite Fleet

  • SatSure is planning to launch a fleet of remote sensing microsatellites from 2022 to meet the growing need of high-resolution satellite imagery across aviation, banking, insurance and transportation sectors. The satellites will be powered by hybrid-propulsion systems of Bellatrix Aerospace, a startup incubated at the Indian Institute of Science.
  • SatSure will be the second Indian firm after Bengaluru-based Pixxel to look at its own earth observation satellite fleet. Pixxel's first satellite - Anand is expected to be launched on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in early 2021.
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Merv Hughes Inducted into Australian Cricket Hall of Fame

  • Former right-arm fast bowler Merv Hughes has been inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. The 59-year-old played 53 Tests and 33 ODIs for Australia in a career spanning from 1985 to 1994, during which he captured 212 Test wickets and 38 ODI wickets.
  • His career-best figures of 8-87 against the West Indies at the WACA in 1988 included the final wicket of a hat-trick spread across three separate overs, two innings and two different days. In 2005, Hughes became a selector for the Australian cricket team, a role he would hold through until 2010.
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India at UNSC Backs a Balanced Approach on Myanmar

  • India has called for a balanced approach on Myanmar at the United Nations Security Council meeting that took place on Tuesday even as the UK-backed draft is still being considered. New Delhi's balanced approach, which has been perceived as a very constructive one, calls for support for the democratic process in the country, given it is a neighbouring country. 
  • The UNSC has not yet been able to come up with any statement on the coup in the country when the meeting took place on February 2. In the aftermath of the bloodless coup staged by the military in Myanmar, India's Ministry of External Affairs in a statement had expressed its "deep concern", calling for upholding of the "rule of law and the democratic process".

India Slips Two Positions in EIU's Democracy Index

  • India slipped two places to 53rd position in the 2020 Democracy Index's global ranking, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, which said the "democratic backsliding" by authorities and "crackdowns" on civil liberties has led to a further decline in the country's ranking.
  • However, India is ranked higher than most of its neighbouring countries. India's overall score fell from 6.9 in 2019 to 6.61 in the index that provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide for 167 countries. "With mounting pressure on India's democratic norms, India's score fell from a peak of 7.92 in 2014 to 6.61 in 2020 and its global ranking slipped from 27th (in 2014) to 53rd as a result of democratic backsliding" under the current regime.
  • Norway topped the report titled "Democracy in sickness and in health?", with Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada making up the top five.
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India and Saudi Arabia to Set up Joint Working Groups on Defence and Security

  • India and Saudi Arabia held the first meeting of a bilateral committee on political, security, social and cultural cooperation and agreed to create joint working groups on issues ranging from defence and security to the Haj pilgrimage.
  • The committee comes under the India-Saudi Arabia agreement on a Strategic Partnership Council that was launched during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in October 2019.
  • The inaugural senior officials' meeting, which was held virtually, discussed and reviewed cooperation in various areas and existing mechanisms.
  • Both sides agreed to give impetus to the work of existing mechanisms and establish joint working groups for regular dialogue covering various fields such as political, consular, Haj, defence, security, culture, health and education.
  • Discussions have also been held under the committee on economy and investment between the two sides.

Israel's Rafael Unveils New Variant of Spice Weapon Guidance Kit

  • Israeli defence major Rafael plans to offer the Indian Air Force its new weapon guidance kit, Spice 250 ER, which has an extended range of at least 150 kilometres.
  • The new variant from Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, which was unveiled at the Aero India show here, comes with an additional integrated turbojet engine.
  • Dubbed Spice 250 ER (Extended Range), the new system is the smallest of the Spice family that includes the Spice 250, Spice 1000 and the Spice 2000 guidance kits.
  • The IAF had used the Spice 2000 during Balakot air strike in 2019.
  • The Spice 250 ER will incorporate a miniature turbojet engine with an internal JP-8/10 fuel system, providing the weapon a range of at least 150 km, while retaining the same mission-planning system, aircraft interfaces and air crew operation.
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Praveen Sinha Named Acting CBI Chief

  • The Centre appointed the Central Bureau of Investigation's deputy chief, 1988 batch Gujarat cadre Indian Police Service officer Praveen Sinha, as the acting director of the federal agency with immediate effect, according to an order issued by Department of Personnel and Training.
  • Sinha, currently additional director in the agency, will look after the duties of CBI director till the high-powered selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi chooses the replacement for incumbent, Rishi Kumar Shukla, whose fixed two-year term ended, or until further orders.

Zoho's Sridhar Vembu Appointed to Doval-led National Security Advisory Board

  • Zoho founder Sridhar Vembu has been appointed to the reconstituted National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) led by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.
  • Vembu is one of the Padma Shri awardees announced by the government of India this year. He is currently based in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu, working from the company's office in the village.
  • The members of NSAB typically have two-year terms. Other new members in this term include former ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan, Anshuman Tripathy, faculty at IIM Bangalore, and Arun K Singh, former ambassador to France and the United States.
  • National Security Advisor Doval is the key advisor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on six sensitive verticals including defence, internal security, strategic (nuclear) affairs, space, external affairs and intelligence and receives consultations from the NSAB. 

Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio Takes Charge as Chairman of NERPC

  • Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio was appointed as chief of the North East Regional Power Committee (NERPC).
  • Rio took over as chairman from former chairman, James Sangma, Minister of Power, Meghalaya.
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Nitin Gadkari to Inaugurate Webinar Series on Road Safety

  • Union Minister Nitin Gadkari will inaugurate a webinar series on road safety on February 9 with a focus on reducing fatalities in road accidents in the country.
  • The webinar series being organised by the India chapter of the International Road Federation (IRF) focuses on reducing the road fatalities in the country by half by 2030.
  • Total 12 webinars titled "Road Safety Challenges in India & Preparation of an Action Plan" will be held through the year.

World Cancer Day

  • World Cancer Day is celebrated every year on February 4. It is a global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. 
  • World Cancer Day originated in 2000 at the first World Summit Against Cancer, which was held in Paris. The Day was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration, written in 2008.
  • Each year, hundreds of activities and events take place around the world, gathering communities, organisations, and individuals in schools, businesses, hospitals, marketplaces, parks, community halls, places of worship -- in the streets and online -- acting as a powerful reminder that we all have a role to play in reducing the global impact of cancer.
  • The theme for World Cancer Day 2021 is 'I Am and I Will.' This year is a reminder of the enduring power of cooperation and collective action.

International Day of Human Fraternity

  • In December, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare 4th February as International Day of Human Fraternity.
  • The resolution was the outcome of Christian-Muslim cooperation to promote peace and intercultural dialogue in the world.
  • "The General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted three resolutions and one decision today, including one calling for a further comprehensive review of United Nations peace building in 2025 and another proclaiming 4th February as the International Day of Human Fraternity," states the United Nations website.
  • International Day of Human Fraternity aims to underline the importance of raising awareness about different cultures and religions, or beliefs, and the promotion of tolerance.
  • It also aims to educate people that tolerance, pluralistic tradition, mutual respect, and the diversity of religions and beliefs promote human fraternity.
  • The day is to be observed each year, beginning in 2021. 
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Assam Governor Gives Nod to Law Converting Govt-run Madrasas to Regular Schools

  • Assam Governor Jagadish Mukhi has given his assent to a Bill passed by the assembly last month that allowed converting government-run madrasas into regular schools.
  • Assam CH said that with this we mark a historic era for the education sector of Assam as all government madrasas will now be run as regular educational institutes.
  • With the new provision coming into effect, two earlier legislations, the Madrasa Education Provincialisation Act, 1955 and Assam Madrasa Education Act, 2018, will stand repealed.
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Kerala to Gets its first Human Milk Bank

  • The southern state of Kerala will get its first human milk bank. The state-of-the-art facility will be inaugurated by Health Minister K. K. Shailaja at state-owned Ernakulam general hospital in Kochi.
  • The facility will provide breast milk to newborn babies who are deprived of it because of various issues, including the sickness of their mothers.
  • According to the state government, 3,600 babies are born in the general hospital a year and out of those, 600 to 1,000 sick babies are admitted into the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
  • The hospital authorities said that all safety protocols and procedures for collecting, preserving and providing the breast milk to needy children will be ensured as per government guidelines. The collected milk can be stored up to 6 months safely in the bank. 

Bihar Government Increases Scholarship Amount under the Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana

  • The Bihar government has increased its scholarship amount for girl students under the Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana. From this year, girls completing graduation will be provided Rs. 50,000 while those passing intermediate (class 12) would be getting a scholarship worth Rs. 25,000.
  • Earlier, graduate girls or those with an equivalent degree were provided Rs 25,000, while inter-pass girls received Rs 10,000.
  • The Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana has the potential to benefit 1.6 crore girls in the state by promoting education.
  • The Bihar State Cabinet has given its nod for the increase in the scholarship amount allocation for graduate and inter-pass girls under this scheme from the 2021-22 fiscal year.
  • This move was taken to cut down child marriages in the state and to ensure that girls get equal opportunities for higher education irrespective of their financial background.

NSDC Partners with CBSE to Launch First Edition of 'Junior Skills Championship 2021'

  • With an aim to enhance integration of technical and vocational education at the school-level, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has partnered with Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to launch the first edition of Junior Skills Championship 2021. The registration process is open and candidates can apply till February 19 at the website-
  • The event will be held virtually this year. "The championship will be promoted through nearly 21,000 CBSE-affiliated schools across the country, and will focus on students studying from classes 6 to 12."
  • The championship will have various activities over the next two months. It will include skill competitions for schools, career counselling webinars, digital seminars and panel discussions, online boot camps and roundtable conference of academicians and corporates. The final competition will be held in April.
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Work Begins on First Red Sea Project Hotels

  • The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) has awarded contracts to Saudi company Al Bawani and Swiss firm Blumer Lehmann to support the development plans and structural work of its luxury hotels and resorts.
  • The two companies will play pivotal roles in the construction of hotels across the Red Sea Project, with Al Bawani responsible for civil and structural works across 40 hotel villas on the Southern Dunes site.
  • At the same time, Blumer Lehmann is responsible for timber construction planning and fabrication as well as supply works for a hotel situated on Ummahat Al Shaykh Island.
  • The Red Sea Development Company has made significant progress in terms of the design and construction of key infrastructure to enable the development of hotel assets.
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Painting Looted by Nazis to be Returned to Jewish Heirs

  • A commission in Germany has ruled that a painting by expressionist Erich Heckel that is in a German art museum was likely unlawfully obtained under the Nazis and should be returned to the heirs of a Jewish historian who once owned it.
  • Heckel's Geschwister or Siblings was owned by Jewish historian Max Fischer until 1934, the year before he fled Germany to avoid Nazi persecution, according to Baden-Wuerttembergs state commission on Nazi-looted art.
  • The 1913 oil painting ended up back with Heckel, and the artist donated it to the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe museum in 1967.
  • The state commission said it could not be determined when and under which circumstances Heckel came into possession of the piece sometime between January 1934 and January 1944.
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