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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

17 Apr 2021


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European Union-UK Talks over Brexit Fail to Reach a Breakthrough

  • Top European Union and British officials failed to get a breakthrough at talks on Northern Ireland trade rules and said that contact would continue over the coming weeks.
  • The meeting between European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic and U.K. Brexit minister David Frost took place a month after the EU started legal action against its former member country, arguing that the UK had not respected the conditions of the Brexit agreement and violated international law.
  • The two sides are trying to find common ground on trade rules in Northern Ireland, where Britain's exit from the EU has unsettled a delicate political balance.
  • Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. but remained part of the EU's single market for goods after Brexit to avoid checks at the territory's border with EU member Ireland.

Iran Starts Enriching Uranium to 60% Purity

  • Iran began enriching uranium up to 60 per cent purity, its highest level ever, after an attack targeted its Natanz nuclear site.
  • However, it is likely to raise tensions even as Iran negotiates with world powers in Vienna over a way to allow the US back into the agreement and lift the crushing economic sanctions it faces.
  • The announcement also marks a significant escalation after the sabotage that damaged centrifuges, an attack this past weekend suspected of having been carried out by Israel.

Turkey Bans Cryptocurrency Payments

  • Turkey's central bank has banned the use of cryptocurrencies and crypto assets including Bitcoin to purchase goods and services, citing possible irreparable damage and significant transaction risks. The bank published a legislation, saying that cryptocurrencies and other such digital assets based on distributed ledger technology could not be used, directly or indirectly, as an instrument of payment.
  • In a statement, the central bank said that crypto assets were neither subject to any regulation and supervision mechanisms nor a central regulatory authority, among other security risks.
  • Payment service providers will not be able to develop business models in a way that crypto assets are used directly or indirectly in the provision of payment services and electronic money issuance, and will not provide any services.
  • Turkey's decision comes after Royal Motors, which distributes Rolls-Royce and Lotus cars in the country became the first to announce that it would accept payments in cryptocurrencies. Globally, giants such as Apple, Amazon and Expedia also accept such payments. In India, no company has officially announced that it will accept cryptocurrencies as payment.
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IOC to Buy Guyanese Crude as India Doubles Up on Cutting OPEC Dependence

  • Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) will buy a consignment of Guyanese crude oil in a push to diversify the sources. According to oil ministry officials, this deal is at competitive rates and is in line with the strategy to have multiple sources of crude oil for Indian refiners. "We are no longer constrained by West Asian crude oil grades.

Richard Verma Appointed as Mastercard's Head of Global Public Policy

  • Former US Ambassador to India Richard Verma was appointed as General Counsel and Head of Global Public Policy of Mastercard.
  • The announcement from Mastercard came as it appointed Tim Murphy, the company's General Counsel, to the newly created position of Chief Administrative Officer.
  • Verma served as US Ambassador to India from 2014 to 2017.
  • The first and only Indian American to serve in this position so far, Verma joined Mastercard in October 2020, bringing more than 25 years of international experience across senior levels of business, law, diplomacy and the military.

Jindal Steel Exits Oman Business

  • Moving towards the completion of its Oman unit divestment, Naveen Jindal-led Jindal Steel & Power (JSPL) arm Jindal Steel & Power (Mauritius) Limited has sold its balance stake to Vulcan Steel in the second and final tranche.
  • The Delhi-based primary steel producer today informed that the balance stake sold represented 51 percent of the share capital of Jindal Shadeed Iron and Steel LLC, Oman was sold to the private limited company, in accordance with shareholder approval secured at the extraordinary general meeting held in July last year.
  • Jindal Steel owned 48.99 percent stake in the Oman unit via Jindal Steel & Power (Mauritius) Limited.
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NASA Set to Launch SpaceX Crew-2 from International Space Station

  • US space agency NASA is set to launch SpaceX Crew Dragon second flight to the International Space Station on April 22.
  • The Crew-2 with four astronauts on board, will lift-off on April 22, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • The Crew-2 flight will carry NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur – who will serve as the mission's spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively -- along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronauta-Akihikoa-Hoshidea-and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomasa-Pesquet, who will serve as mission specialists to the space station.
  • The Crew-2 astronauts will remain aboard the space station for approximately six months as expedition crew members, along with three crewmates who will launch via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
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Vinesh Phogat Bags Maiden Gold at Asian Wrestling Championship

  • Vinesh Phogat won her maiden Asian Championship gold medal after she pinned her rival in the summit clash in Almaty, Kazakshtan. There was no stopping the Tokyo-bound wrestler in the absence of the Chinese and Japanese rivals as she cruised to the title without losing a point in the 53kg category.
  • Vinesh has notched up seven podium finishes at the Asian meet over the years, including three silver medals before this edition.

ICC T20 World Cup: India to Grant Visas to Pakistan Team and Media

  • Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has got the approval for visas for the Pakistan cricket team as well as the media for the upcoming T20 World Cup that will be held in India in October-December, it was announced at BCCI's Apex Council meeting.
  • However, this wouldn't yet break the deadlock between the Indian and Pakistan cricket boards.
  • The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani had earlier said that they are looking for visas for not just the players and the media but also for their fans. A failure on that count from the Indian board will push them into asking the International Cricket Council (ICC) to host the tournament in UAE.
  • The Apex Council, however, was apprised that the Union home ministry will decide on giving visas to Pakistan fans.
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S. Jaishankar Holds Talks with Maldivian Foreign Minister

  • The Maldives requested India for assured supply of essential commodities to it as the two sides discussed a plethora of issues relating to the bilateral, regional and international domains.
  • The issue of supply of essential commodities figured in the talks between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid who is on a two-day trip to India.
  • As per reports, Shahid requested the Indian side for renewal of DGFT (directorate general of foreign trade) notifications regarding assured supply of essential commodities to Maldives from India as per the bilateral trade agreement.
  • Jaishankar assured that Indian commitment will be honoured.
  • It was the eighth meeting between the two foreign ministers since November 2018 when the government under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took office in the Maldives.

U.K. Approves Nirav Modi's Extradition

  • The U.K.'s Home Department has approved the extradition of diamond merchant Nirav Modi to India in connection with the Rs. 13,758-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, about two months after the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London ruled that a prima facie case was made out against him.
  • According to the U.K. government's website, unless there is an appeal, a requested person must be extradited within 28 days of the Secretary of State's decision to order extradition (subject to any appeal).
  • The businessman had fled the country on January 1, 2018. On India's request, he was arrested in London on March 19, 2019, and he has since then been in judicial custody there.
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Norway to Allow US Military to Build on its soil in New Accord

  • Norway, which shares a short border with giant neighbour Russia, has signed a revised agreement with the United States on how to regulate U.S. military activity on its soil.
  • The agreement between the two NATO allies will let the U.S. build facilities at three Norwegian airfields and one naval base, but will not amount to separate U.S. bases.
  • The deal made by the minority government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg must be ratified by Norway's parliament before coming into force.
  • "The agreement regulates and facilitates U.S. presence, training and exercises in Norway, thus facilitating rapid U.S. reinforcement of Norway in the event of crisis or war.
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World Hemophilia Day

  • Every year on 17th April World Haemophilia Day is recognised worldwide to increase awareness of haemophilia, von Willebrand disease and other inherited bleeding disorders. This is a critical effort since with increased awareness comes better diagnosis and access to care for the millions who remain without treatment.
  • World Haemophilia Day was started in 1989 by the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH), which chose 17 April as the day to bring the community together in honour of WFH founder Frank Schnabel's birthday.
  • This year the theme is 'Adapting to Change, Sustaining Care in a New World.' This theme has been decided considering the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on people with a bleeding disorder and is it important for the world to stand together in this changing scenario.
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Marathi Film Puglya Wins Best Foreign Feature at Moscow Film Fest

  • The Marathi film "Puglya" has won the Best Foreign Language Feature award at Moscow International Film Festival, 2021. The film Puglya has been directed and produced by Vinod Sam Peter under the banner Abraham Films.
  • So far, this film has won over 45 awards and recognitions at various international film festivals. The film is yet to be released in India. The film revolves around a pug and two boys, who are around 10 years old.
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Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Opens Admissions for Two UG Courses with AI Application

  • The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), ranked No. 1 in Times Higher Education's Young University Rankings 2020 and No. 27 among global universities in the QS World University Rankings 2021, invites applications for its two popular undergraduate degree programs - Science (Group A) * or Engineering, with an extended Major in Artificial Intelligence for the new 2021- 2022 academic year, among others.
  • While AI is a hot topic, studying a new program solely on new emerging knowledge may not be the most effective for students, as such knowledge should be best integrated into the existing system so students could make sense of such novel technologies in real-life applications.
  • The two programs are set within a four-year timeframe with a well-defined study pathway, the graduates will earn a title bearing both the traditional major subject they selected, as well as the extended major which now only covers AI, but will be extended to cover data science, FinTech and digital media and arts in the near future.
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