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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

15 Feb 2021


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Italy's New PM Mario Draghi Announces Composition of Government

  • Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, and Health Ministers Roberto Speranza retained their mandates in the new government formed by Mario Draghi.
  • Former head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi officially accepted the post of prime minister after the meeting with President Sergio Mattarella, to whom he presented the list of ministers of the new government. 

Myanmar Amends Law on Protecting Citizens' Personal Freedom, Security

  • Myanmar's new military-led State Administration Council led by Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing issued an order amending the Protection of the Citizens for the Personal Freedom and Personal Security Law.
  • According to the order issued, Sections 5, 7 and 8 of the law will be suspended during the state of emergency declared on February 1.

Mexico's President Welcomes US Cancellation of Border Wall Construction

  • Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador welcomed the decision by his US counterpart Joe Biden to cancel the construction of a border wall separating the two countries.
  • Lopez Obrador also welcomed Biden's proposal to set up a visa system for Mexican and Central American migrants. Both measures are among Biden's first actions since taking office in January.
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Edinburgh Aims to Become Sanctuary for Swifts as Numbers Decline

  • Conservationists are hoping to turn Edinburgh into a sanctuary for swifts after a drastic decline in the bird's population.
  • Numbers fell by more than 50% in the UK between 1995 and 2016, when the estimated average population dropped from 125,500 to 59,000.
  • One of the biggest challenges that the species faces is the loss of nesting sites in older buildings, which are often blocked off during renovation work or lost when buildings are demolished.
  • The Edinburgh Swift City Project is asking people to make boxes in a bid to encourage pairs to nest and breed.
  • Residents are also being urged to report any sightings of swift screaming parties - groups of two or more swifts flying at low level while calling loudly, which means they are breeding nearby.
  • Hubs are being created along a cycle route through the city to raise awareness, and a huge mural depicting the bird's long migration path between Africa and Europe is also being planned.
  • The bird conservation charity RSPB Scotland is currently searching for a building in the city and an artist to create the mural.
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JSW Cement Digitising its Sales and Marketing Operations

  • JSW Cement, a part of $12 billion JSW Group, is digitizing its sales & marketing operations.
  • The move will provide its channel partners ease of doing business by leveraging Artificial Intelligence-based digital interventions.
  • JSW Cement has partnered with Yalochat, a leading conversational commerce service provider, which enables the company to upsell, transact and provide better service to its customers over messaging apps like WhatsApp.

Canadian Regulator Clears World's First Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund Launch

  • Canada's main securities' regulator has cleared the launch of the world's first bitcoin exchange traded fund, providing investors greater access to the cryptocurrency that has sparked an explosion in trading interest.
  • The Ontario Securities Commission has approved the launch of Purpose Bitcoin ETF, Toronto-based asset management company Purpose Investments Inc. 
  • The ETF will be the first in the world to invest directly in physically settled Bitcoin, not derivatives, allowing investors easy and efficient access to the emerging asset class of cryptocurrency.

ONGC Floats Subsidiary to Buy Own Gas

  • State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is forming a new subsidiary for gas business that could be used to bid and buy gas from the firm's own fields.
  • The board of ONGC at its meeting on February 13 approved the creation of a new wholly-owned subsidiary company for gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) business value chain subject to necessary approvals, according to the firm's third quarter earnings announcement.
  • The company is being formed with the objective of sourcing, marketing and trading of natural gas, LNG business, Hydrogen enriched CNG (HCNG), gas to power business, bio-energy/ bio-gas/ bio methane/ other biofuels business, etc.
  • ONGC may use the new subsidiary to buy any new gas that the firm produces from fields such as KG-D5 in the Krishna Godavari basin.
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Indian Astronomers Detect Huge Optical Flare from Super Massive Black Hole

  • Indian astronomers have reported one of the strongest flares from a feeding supermassive black hole or blazar called BL Lacertae, analysis of which can help trace the mass of the black hole and the source of this emission.
  • Such analysis can provide a lead to probe mysteries and trace events at different stages of evolution of the Universe.
  • Blazars or feeding supermassive black holes in the heart of distant galaxies receive a lot of attention from the astronomical community because of their complicated emission mechanism. They emit jets of charged particles travelling nearly at the speed of light and are one of the most luminous and energetic objects in the Universe.
  • BL Lacertae blazar is 10 million light-years away and is among the 50 most prominent blazars that can be observed with the help of a relatively small telescope. It was among the 3 to 4 blazars that was predicted to be experiencing flares by the Whole Earth Blazar Telescope (WEBT), an international consortium of astronomers.
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Ashwin Becomes Second Highest Wicket-taker in Tests in India

  • Senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin surpassed Harbhajan Singh to become the second highest wicket-taker in Tests played in India.
  • Ashwin got past Harbhajan, who took 265 wickets at an average of 28.76, by dismissing Ben Stokes with a perfect off-spinner on the second day of the second Test against England here. Ashwin's average is 22.67.
  • Spin legend Anil Kumble is the leading wicket-taker in India with 350 scalps at 24.88. He is also India's leading wicket-takers in tests with 619 scalps to his game.
  • Harbhajan is third in the standings with 417 wickets and Ashwin, who is inching towards the 400-wicket mark, is fourth. The legendary Kapil Dev is second with 434 wickets.

Priyanka Goswami Shatters National Record in Women's 20 km Walk

  • Three Indian race walkers qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics during the National Open Race Walking Championships, with Sandeep Kumar and Priyanka Goswami shattering national records in the men's and women's 20 km events respectively.
  • The National Open Race Walking Championships are the first major athletics event after the end of a COVID-19 lockdown, which had caused the entire domestic calendar to be wiped out last season.
  • With the three new entrants, the total number of Indian race walkers who have qualified for the Tokyo Games has swelled to five as KT Irfan (men's 20 km) and Bhawana Jat (women's 20 km) have already made the cut earlier.
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PM Dedicates Kochi Petrochemical Complex to Country

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation Rs. 6000 crore petrochemical complex of oil major Bharat Petroleum and Ro-Ro vessels of Inland Waterways at Willingdon Islands in Kochi, asserting that these projects will fuel the country's growth.
  • The Prime Minister also inaugurated the International Cruise Terminal "Sagarika" at Cochin Port; Marine Engineering Training Institute, Vigyana Sagar, Cochin Shipyard Limited and laid the foundation stone of Reconstruction of South Coal Berth at Cochin Port.

Govt. Introduces J&K Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha

  • A bill to replace an ordinance to merge the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) cadre of civil services officers with the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
  • Introducing 'The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Amendment) Bill, 2021', Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said the government was working to take Jammu and Kashmir on the path to development.
  • He said around 170 central laws are being implemented in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution that gave a special status to the erstwhile state.

Bill to Modify List of SCs in Tamil Nadu Introduced in House

  • In a move that gathers significance in poll-bound Tamil Nadu, the Union government introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha to group seven Scheduled Caste groups in the state under a common nomenclature as Devendrakula Vellalars.
  • Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Krishan Pal Gurjar introduced the Bill to recognize Devendrakulathan, Kudumban, Pannadi, Kaalaadi, Kadayan, Pallan and Patharian, predominantly agrarian castes, collectively as Devendrakula Vellalars.
  • Despite the common nomenclature, the seven caste groups will continue to be accorded the same reservation in education and jobs as SCs.
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PM Modi Hands over Indigenous Arjun tank to Indian Army

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the indigenous main battle tank Arjun Mk-1A to the Army in a function at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai. Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane received the model of the tank, designed and developed by Chennai-based Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), a unit of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • The state-of-the-art indigenous main battle tank has been indigenously designed, developed and manufactured by CVRDE, DRDO along with 15 academic institutions, eight labs and several MSMEs.

Tonbo Bags Multi-million-dollar Deal for Indigenising Indian Missiles

  • Tonbo Imaging, a night-vision startup backed by top investors such as Artiman and Qualcomm Ventures, is clinching defence deals despite all odds.
  • The Bengaluru-based firm has won a large deal with Bharat Dynamics Ltd to indigenize new missile seekers for the multi-million dollar anti-tank guided missile programme that BDL is building for the Indian Army. For Tonbo, it is an opportunity to tap over $500 million in the next few years.
  • Tonbo signed up with BDL to supply the EO-IR (electro-optical-infrared) seeker and command launcher unit (CLU) that controls and launches the missile and engages with the target before launch.

Pakistan Army Holds Month-long War Games

  • The Pakistan Army is holding a month-long exercise in the Thar Desert in Sindh province to prepare for conflict in an extreme desert environment.
  • The exercise, codenamed Jidar-ul-Hadeed', began on January 28 and is scheduled to conclude on February 28.
  • The four-week-long defensive manoeuvre exercise is aimed at validating the concept of defence in deserts.
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Volvo Cars India Elevates Jyoti Malhotra as its New MD

  • Volvo Cars India appointed Jyoti Malhotra as its new Managing Director with effect from March 1, 2021.
  • Malhotra, who currently serves as the Director of Sales and Marketing, would be the first Indian to head the company in India.
  • Malhotra succeeds Charles Frump who has been at the helm since October 2017.
  • Frump has completed a successful tenure in India and is moving over to another global assignment. 

Rashmi Samant, First Indian Female President of Oxford University Student Union

  • Rashmi Samant has made history after she became the first Indian woman to be elected president of the Oxford University Student Union (SU), on a manifesto promising syllabus decolonization and decarbonizing the world-famous institution.
  • Samant, a graduate student reading for an M.Sc. in energy systems, with a focus on sustainability, at Linacre College at the university, scored a landslide win in the election earlier this week when she received 1,966 of the 3,708 votes cast for the post amid a large turnout.
  • The Manipal Institute of Technology, Karnataka, a student's Indian roots were referenced in her manifesto as she highlighted the need for greater "decolonization and inclusivity" on campus in the Oxford SU leadership election.

Indo-American Rohit Chopra Nominated as Director of Consumer Financial Protect

  • Indo-American Rohit Chopra's nomination has been sent to the Senate for Director of Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB).
  • Chopra of the District of Columbia will assume the post of the Director, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection for a term of five years.
  • Previously Chopra had served as a CFPB assistant director and as student loan ombudsman person after the agency was launched in 2011. Since 2018, he has served as a Federal Trade Commissioner and Special Advisor at the US Department of Education.
  • Rachel Leland Levine to be Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, vice Brett Giroir; Victoria Nuland, of Virginia, to be the Under Secretary of State (Political Affairs), vice David Hale; and Julie A. Su, of California, to be Deputy Secretary of Labour, vice Patrick Pizzella are some of the other nominations that have been sent to the Senate.
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International Childhood Cancer Day

  • International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD), celebrated on 15th February, is a global collaborative campaign to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors and their families. The day promotes increased appreciation and deeper understanding of issues and challenges impacting childhood cancer and the survivors. It also spotlights the need for more equitable and better access to treatment and care for all children with cancer, everywhere.
  • In September 2018, WHO launched the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC), with the objective of addressing these profound inequities, the target is to achieve at least 60% survival for children with cancer by 2030 and to reduce suffering for all.

Union Culture Ministry Organises Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav in West Bengal

  • The 11th Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav will be inaugurated by Governor  Jagdeep Dhankhar at the Cooch Behar Palace in West Bengal.
  • The Ministry of Culture is mandated with the task of preservation, promotion, and propagation of Indian culture, both tangible and intangible which also includes traditional folk dances, art forms, performing arts, and rich tribal heritage.
  • The eleventh edition of Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav is being held from February 14 to 28 at Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, and Murshidabad.
  • Renowned artists including local artists take part in this major festival. The Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav will cover a mix of folk art forms, and it would offer the chance to experience the best in established and emerging virtuosity. 
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SERB Announces Women Excellence Award 2021

  • The SERB Women Excellence Award was announced on the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021.
  • Four young women fellows from the National Science Academies have been awarded for excelling in science and engineering.
  • The four young women are: Shobhna Kapoor, Antara Banerjee, Sonu Gandhi and Ritu Gupta.
  • The SERB Women Excellence Award will provide them a grant of Rs. 15 lakh.
  • The grant would be provided for a period of three years to the awardees in order to pursue their research ideas.
  • The SERB Women Excellence Award is given by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB). It is given in order to support the basic research in the frontier areas of science and engineering. This award was launched in 2013. It is a one-time award and is given to women scientists who are below 40 years of age. It is given to those women scientists who have received recognition from any of the National Academies like Young Scientist Medal, Young Associateship, etc.
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Govt. Introduces Bill in Lok Sabha to Abolish 5 Tribunals

  • Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur introduced a bill in Lok Sabha to abolish some tribunals where public at large is not litigant. The bill proposes to 'provide a mechanism for filing an appeal directly to the commercial court or the High Court, as the case may be', instead of the tribunals.
  • The government proposes to wind up five tribunals, including Airport Appellate Tribunal, Authority for Advance Rulings and Intellectual Property Appellate Board, reported PTI. Besides, Appellate Tribunal under the Cinematograph Act and Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal will be abolished.
  • The proposed Bill seeks to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952, the Customs Act, 1962, the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994, the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001 and certain other Acts.
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PM Modi Lays Stone for IIT Madras' Scientific Discovery Campus

  • The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) is setting up a Discovery Campus at a cost of around Rs. 1,000 crore near Chennai. The institute aims to develop the facility as a key destination for global scientific discovery.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the Discovery Campus of IIT Madras, which will be located at Thaiyur near Chennai, to accommodate the growing research infrastructure requirements of students and faculty.
  • IIT Madras allotted 163 acres of land in 2017 at Thaiyur, which is located about 36 km from the main campus at Guindy.

Skill Ministry Rolls Out MGNF

  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) launched Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) 2021-23 in partnership with nine IIMs. The application process for the two-year government-funded programme will begin on February 15 and will conclude on March 27.
  • During the course, fellows will be given a stipend of Rs 50,000 per month for the first year and Rs 60,000 per month for the second year of the course.
  • The fellowship is rolled out under the World Bank loan assisted programme SANKALP (Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion). Fellows after getting training from IIMs will further strengthen the district skill administration and the District Skill Committees (DSCs) under the fellowship.
  • The fellows under MGNF will acquire academic expertise and technical competency in understanding the overall skill ecosystem along with being attached to DSCs and help them manage the skill development planning at district level through the mechanism of formulating District Skill Development Plans (DSDPs).

Over 56 lakh School Teachers to be Trained Through NISHTHA

  • The Ministry of Education is planning to train over 56 lakh school teachers in the academic year 2021-22.
  • This is in line with the announcement made in the Union Budget which states that "in 2021-22, training of 56 lakh school teachers will be enabled through NISHTHA".
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30 lakh elementary school teachers were trained digitally.
  • The training will be more focused and specialized, as per the ministry.
  • Specialized online NISHTHA training will be extended to teachers of foundational years from August 2021. Online training for teachers of the secondary/senior secondary level will be initiated in July 2021. Mentors will also be prepared alongside for continuing the hand holding of teachers after training is over.
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Kerala Moves to Establish, Promote Mini Museums

  • Home to Kochi-Muziris Biennale, one of India's biggest art events, Kerala is now aspiring to become the museum hub of India. "It's time we came out of the notion that museums are places where history sleeps. They should be able to converse with visitors, more so youngsters," stated Dr Venu V, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, who oversees the departments of Archaeology, Archives and Museums.
  • Under the initiative, mini museums will be promoted across the state.
  • Anchored by Keralam Museum, an organisation formed to build and modernise museums, the "new museum movement strives to challenge old-fashioned norms about conservation of cultures, replacing them with revolutionary concepts that are gaining ground in other parts of the world".
  • Among other projects, the Bastion Bungalow at Fort Kochi will now function as the Ernakulam District Heritage Museum, with its galleries visually explaining the interventions of the colonial Portuguese, Dutch and the British powers into the political domain of Kerala's kingdoms.
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Peter Mukerjea Pens Memoir

  • Beleaguered media baron Peter Mukerjea has come out with his memoir, which he says is just a personal recollection of his experiences in the satellite television industry in India and is neither intended to open a can of worms nor is a set of kiss-and-tell stories.
  • "It is intended purely to share my journey, to highlight and showcase the plenty of mistakes made and the plenty of lessons learnt over almost three decades," says the former chief executive of Star India, who was media mogul Rupert Murdoch's right-hand man once in the television industry of the region.
  • "Starstruck: Confessions of a TV Executive" is the story of the Indian television industry, authored by the man who was at the forefront of it all.

Manipur's First Comic Book on Folktales of 3 Tribes Released

  • The first comic book based on folktales of three major tribes -Mao, Maram and Poumai - inhabiting in Manipur's Senapati district was formally released during a function in Imphal.
  • The 135-paged colour comic book called 'Folktales of Mao, Maram and Poumai' is written by The Kirankumar, the current deputy commissioner of Senapati district, with inputs provided by literature societies of the three major tribes.
  • The book is a collection of 15 short stories consisting of seven folktales of Poumai, five of Maram and three of Mao. It was formally released by Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh in the presence of vice-chancellor P Gunindro Singh of Manipur University of Culture at a hotel in Imphal.
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