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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

08 Feb 2021


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Biden Administration Moves to Reverse Trump's Migration Agreements with 3 Nations

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that President Joe Biden's administration has begun the process to terminate migration agreements from former President Donald Trump's administration with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
  • As per reports, the US signed agreements with Guatemala in July 2019 and with El Salvador and Honduras in September 2019 that would have limited the ability of some asylum seekers from those countries to claim asylum in the US and would instead have had them seek protection in their countries of origin.
  • Blinken mentioned that transfers under the US-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement had been paused since mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19, and the Agreements with El Salvador and Honduras were never implemented.

UN Yemen Envoy Makes First Visit to Iran to Push for Peace

  • The United Nations special envoy for Yemen arrived at his first visit to Iran for talks on the grinding war in the Arab world's poorest country.
  • Martin Griffiths was set to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other officials during his two-day visit. The sessions are part of a broader effort to negotiate a political solution to the nearly six-year conflict pitting Iran-allied Houthi rebels against Yemeni government forces supported by a Saudi-led military coalition.
  • The trip comes just days after President Joe Biden announced that the US will end its support, including some arms sales, of the Saudi-led coalition's war against the Houthis. The long-awaited move refocused a spotlight on the world's worst humanitarian crisis and was welcomed by many Yemeni's and aid groups that hope the policy change might add to momentum for peace talks.

Pope Francis Appoints First Woman Under-Secretary with Right to Vote in Synod of Bishops

  • For the first time, Pope Francis has appointed a female Under-Secretary with a right to vote in Synod of Bishops.
  • French Sister Nathalie Becquart is the first woman to be appointed to the position and will have voting rights in the synod.
  • French Sister Nathalie Becquart will now be able to make key decisions in the Catholic Church.
  • As per Cardinal Mario Grech, who heads the Synod, a door has been opened for the possibility of more women being able to vote.
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TN to Get its Fifth Tiger Reserve

  • In what comes as a major boost for wildlife and nature conservation, Tamil Nadu will now have a new tiger reserve, encompassing over one lakh hectares of land that falls under the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary and Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The Union government granted approval for the state's fifth tiger reserve following a letter from the Tamil Nadu government on January 7. This was based on the technical committee meeting that was held on January 22. The state government will notify the reserve as soon as the Union government does.
  • The Forest Department's proposal was to declare 1.48 lakh hectares of land encompassing Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary and Tirunelveli Wildlife Sanctuary as Tamil Nadu's fifth tiger reserve.
  • With the creation of Periyar and Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserves, the water needs of several southern districts have mostly been taken care of. With the new Srivilliputhur – Megamalai Tiger Reserve, the forests will be better protected and the rivers and streams will start flowing again. 
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Federal Bank Launches 'FedFirst' Savings Account Scheme for Children

  • Federal Bank has announced the launch of FedFirst, a special savings account scheme for children below 18 years of age. The account helps children develop healthy saving and spending habits, thereby giving them the freedom to save, spend and earn.
  • The account is designed to enable children to learn the importance of money management. The account comes with unique features and offers.
  • The account holder is provided with a FedFirst contactless Debit Card with a daily cash withdrawal limit of Rs. 2,500 and POS/e-com limit of Rs. 10,000, in addition to free online facilities including access to internet banking, mobile alerts and e-mail alerts.

India and Bahrain Join Hands for Renewable Energy

  • India and Bahrain have agreed to forge deeper engagement in the field of renewable energy. The Joint Working Group in the field of Renewable Energy which held its first meeting in virtual format underscored the importance of renewable energy to meet climate change goals.
  • The two sides presented the initiatives taken, progress made and future targets set by their governments. They also discussed opportunities available in the sector. They agreed to share experiences, expertise and best practices in the field of renewable energy. Furthermore, they decided to have greater engagement in capacity building and focused cooperation.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in July 2018 between India and Bahrain for promoting bilateral cooperation in the field of Renewable Energy.

Major Port Trusts, AAI Out of the Scope of PSE Strategic Divestment Policy

  • Certain classes of public sector entities, such as major port trusts, the Airport Authority of India, those undertaking security printing and minting, will not fall within the purview of the new PSE policy for strategic disinvestment.
  • The new Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) policy for Aatmanirbhar Bharat, which classifies public sector commercial enterprises as strategic and non-strategic sector, would be limited to central public sector enterprises, public sector banks and public sector insurance companies.
  • "The policy, however, does not apply to certain classes of public sector entities such as not-for-profit companies or CPSEs providing support to vulnerable groups or having developmental/promotional roles," said the scope of the PSE policy announced in the Budget.
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World's Largest Radio Telescope- Square Kilometre Array

  • An intergovernmental organisation called the SKA Observatory was launched in order to give a push to radio astronomy. The launch came after the SKAO Council held its first meeting, and it aims to build and operate two radio telescope networks, which would be the largest and most complex ones ever conceived.
  • With these two networks, the intergovernmental organisation hopes to answer some fundamental questions regarding the universe. The two networks will be based in South Africa and Australia.
  • Under the organisation, two radio telescope networks would be set up, and they would not be a single telescope but an array of antennas and dishes of radio telescopes.
  • The network that would be set up in South Africa would consist of as many as 197 dishes having a diameter of 15 metres each, and these would be located in the Karoo region. Of these dishes, 64 already exist and are being operated by SARAO or the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).

UAE's 'Hope' Probe to be First in Trio of Mars Missions

  • The first Arab space mission, the UAE's "Hope" probe, is expected to reach Mars' orbit, making it the first of three spacecraft to arrive at the Red Planet.
  • The United Arab Emirates, China and the United States all launched projects to Mars last July, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.
  • If successful, the wealthy Gulf state will become the fifth nation to ever reach Mars -- a venture timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE -- with the China mission due to become the sixth the following day.
  • "Hope", known as "Al-Amal" in Arabic, will orbit the planet for at least one Martian year, or 687 days, while the Tianwen-1 from China and the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover from the US will both land on Mars' surface.
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India's Tennis Legend Akhtar Ali Passes Away

  • India's celebrated tennis player and legendary coach Akhtar Ali died. Born on July 5, 1939, Ali was a member of the Indian Davis Cup team continuously from 1958 to 1964.
  • A member of India's Davis Cup teams from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s, Ali held an enviable 9-2 win-loss record in the tourney -- rated as the World Cup of the sport.
  • Proficient in both singles and doubles, he played alongside the country's legends like Ramanathan Krishnan, Naresh Kumar, Premjit Lall and Jaidip Mukerjea.

Ankita Fifth Indian Woman in Main Draw

  • Ankita Raina has become only the fifth Indian woman in the Open era to secure a place in the main draw of a Grand Slam as she made the cut for the women's doubles event of the Australian Open.
  • After missing out on the singles main draw, the 28-year-old realised her long-time dream when she signed up with Romania's Mihaela Buzarnecu and earned a direct entry. Nirupama Mankad (1971), Nirupama Vaidyanathan (1998), Sania Mirza and Indian-American Shikha Uberoi (2004) have competed in the Grand Slam main draws. 
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UP Govt. Announces 16-digit Unicode to Identify Landholdings

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has introduced a system of issuing a unique 16-digit Unicode to mark all kinds of landholdings in the state.
  • Every piece of land in the state will have its own unique identity from now onwards that would check cases of land disputes and save people from falling into the trap of fraudsters.
  • The revenue department will be issuing the Unicode for marking all kinds of agricultural, residential and commercial land and a person will now be able to know the details of the land with a single click, he said.
  • The Unicode number of the land will be 16 digits with the first six digits based on the population of the land, the next 4 digits determining the unique identity of the land. The digits from 11 to 14 will be the number of the division of the land. The last 2 digits will have the details of the category, through which, the agricultural, residential and commercial land will be identified.

2021 Uttarakhand glacial outburst flood

  • On 7 February 2021, a glacial lake outburst flood centered on the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand led to massive flooding along the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers.
  • Primary reports suggest the reduced snowfall this winter in Uttarakhand played a part in the disaster.
  • The Rishiganga power project on the Rishiganga River, a tributary to the Dhauliganga River, was damaged and 35 laborers working on the project are missing. The district of Chamoli in Uttarakhand appeared to have been hit the hardest by the surging Dhauliganga River.

PM Modi Inaugurates Key Projects Including LPG Import Terminal in Poll-bound Bengal

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched multiple development projects including an LPG import terminal built by the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited in Haldia of Purba Medinipur district in West Bengal.
  • The other development projects launched by the Prime Minister include -- Dobhi-Durgapur Natural Gas Pipeline section of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project and a Four-Lane ROB-cum-Flyover at Ranichak, in Haldia.
  • Addressing the inauguration event, Prime Minister Modi said that these projects would help transform Haldia into a big import-export centre of India.
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American Soldiers Reach Rajasthan for Joint Indo-US Military Exercise

  • A contingent of 270 American soldiers reached Rajasthan to take part in a fortnight-long joint military exercise with the Indian Army, 'Yudh Abhyas 20', at the state's Mahajan field firing range. The contingent reached Suratgarh in a special aircraft to take part in the exercise which will be the 16th edition of the US military exercise under the military exchange program and begin on Monday.
  • The American soldiers taking part in the exercise are from the US army's 2, Infantry Battalions, 3, Infantry Regiments and 1-2 Striker Brigade Combat Team.
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George Shultz, Who Led US Cold-war Diplomacy, Dies

  • George Shultz, who oversaw the decoupling of the US dollar from the gold standard in the early 1970s and kept the gears of diplomacy running under the din of Cold War rhetoric as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State a decade later, died at 100.
  • An Ivy League-educated economist, Shultz moved seamlessly from academia to government to business. He served as labour secretary, director of the Office of Management and Budget and Treasury secretary under President Richard Nixon. In the Reagan administration, he clashed with more ideological members of the president's team in his efforts to craft a gradualist, consensus-based foreign policy.
  • He became Reagan's second Secretary of State, and the nation's 60th, in July 1982, following the resignation of Alexander Haig, and served through the end of Reagan's second term in January 1989.

Centre Appoints S.N. Subrahmanyan to Vacant Chair of NSC

  • Union Labour Ministry has signalled its intent of speedy operationalisation of the new Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, (OSH) by filling up the post of Chairman of its National Safety Council (NSC).
  • It has appointed S. N. Subrahmanyan as head of the council for a period of three years.
  • Subrahmanyan, who is the CEO and Managing Director of Larsen & Toubro, is an eminent engineer who has spearheaded the infrastructure business of the firm for several years making it the country's largest construction organization and 14th in the world.
  • The NSC will assist the Director-General, Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) in re-writing the regulations governing the OSH.
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'Writing with Fire' Wins Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival

  • "Writing with Fire", an Indian film chronicling the rise of Khabar Lahariya, India's only newspaper run by Dalit women, has won the audience award in the World Cinema Documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival 2021.
  • The festival is presented by Sundance Organisation, a non-profit that discovers and supports independent artists, and introduces audiences to their work.
  • The virtual award ceremony was remotely hosted by actor-comic Patton Oswalt.
  • "Writing with Fire", which also marks the feature debut of directors Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, follows this ambitious group of Dalit women -- led by their chief reporter, Meera -- as the team switches from print to digital in order to stay relevant.
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First Women Team Inducted into CRPF's CoBRA Commando Unit

  • A maiden contingent of 34 CRPF women personnel was inducted into its specialised jungle warfare commando force CoBRA, which will soon be deployed in the anti-Naxal operations grid of the country. The Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) was raised under the CRPF in 2009 for undertaking intelligence-based jungle warfare operations. It has been an all-male affair for this unit till now.
  • The majority of CoBRA teams, whose commandos are expected to have tough mental and physical attributes, are deployed in various Maoist violence affected states while a few are based in the northeastern states for undertaking counter-insurgency operations.
  • A ceremonial event was held at the forces' camp in Kadarpur village here with CRPF Director General A P Maheshwari witnessing combat drills performed by the chosen women as he underlined that it was important to defeat gender-based beliefs and sterrotypes.

UP Govt. Free Coaching Classes for NEET, JEE, UPSC

  • Extending assistance to the youth appearing in competitive exams, the Uttar Pradesh government will start free-of-cost coaching centres at the divisional level in the state from February 16 under a new scheme called 'Mukhyamantri Abhyudaya Yojana'.
  • Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has decided to set up 'Abhyudaya' coaching centres for aspiring candidates preparing to qualify the NEET, JEE (Mains and Advanced), CDS, NDA, UPSC and all other competitive exams.
  • The free coaching facility will provide great support to the poor and deprived students whose guidance will be taken care of by the state government, the spokesman said.
  • The free-of-cost coaching institutes will start functioning from the auspicious day of 'Basant Panchami' on February 16 and registration for classes will commence on February 10.
  • The 'Abhyudaya' coaching centres will be set up at the divisional level in the first phase and to be followed up at the district level in the next phase.
  • The coaching will also involve provision of direct counselling by senior IAS, IPS and PCS officers for the aspirants.

UP Govt. Proposes to Open Sainik Schools at every Divisional Headquarters

  • The government of Uttar Pradesh has sent a proposal to the central government with plans of opening Sainik schools in all the divisional headquarters in the state.
  • At present, there are 31 Sainik Schools being operated by the Defence Ministry in the country with the maximum of them in Uttar Pradesh -- one each in Jhansi, Mainpuri, and Amethi.
  • The plan for the establishment of Sainik schools in all divisional headquarters of Uttar Pradesh came after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during the Union Budget 2021 presentation, proposed the establishment of 100 Sainik schools in the country.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Government's proposal, if approved, will give a huge impetus to the education ecosystem of Uttar Pradesh.
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Hunter Biden to Release Memoir 'Beautiful Things'

  • Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden and an ongoing target for conservatives, has a memoir coming out April 6.
  • The book is called 'Beautiful Things' and will centre on the younger Biden's well publicized struggles with substance abuse, according to Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
  • Acquired in the fall of 2019, 'Beautiful Things' was kept under wraps even as Biden's business dealings became a fixation of then-President Donald Trump and others during the election and his finances a matter of investigation by the Justice Department.
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Akashvani Names Music Festival after Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

  • The prestigious Akashvani Music Festival has been renamed after Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar announced.
  • He made this announcement at a Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Centenary Commemorative function organized in Pune.
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