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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

05 May 2021


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Lebanon and Israel Resume Indirect Talks on Maritime Border

  • After a nearly six-month pause, Lebanon and Israel resumed indirect talks with US mediation over their disputed maritime border.
  • The resumption comes after a new US administration took over.
  • Lebanon has sunk deeper into it economic and financial crisis that started in late 2019 — a culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class.
  • The small Mediterranean country is eager to resolve the border dispute with Israel, paving the way for potential lucrative oil and gas deals.
  • The talks resumed at a UN post along the border known as Ras Naqoura, on the edge of the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. The Lebanese delegation will speak through UN and US officials to the Israelis.

PM Oli to Seek Trust Vote

  • Nepal's embattled Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will seek a vote of confidence from Parliament on May 10 in his bid to stay in power.
  • President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on the recommendation of Oli, summoned a Parliament session on May 10 to obtain a vote of confidence in his government.
  • Oli requires at least 136 votes in the 275-member House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament, to win the confidence motion as four members are currently under suspension. During a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Oli said that he would try to win the trust of Parliament to stay in power.
  • Oli's decision comes amid the current chaotic state of political affairs in the country that emerged since the Prime Minister's controversial move to dissolve the House of Representatives in December last year.

Netanyahu Loses Mandate to form Israel Govt.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's mandate to form a government following an inconclusive election expired, giving his rivals a chance to take power and end the divisive premier's record tenure.
  • Netanyahu, on trial over corruption charges he denies, had a 28-day window to secure a coalition following the March 23 vote, Israel's fourth in less than two years.
  • The 71-year-old's right-wing Likud party won the most seats in the vote, but he and his allies came up short of an absolute majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel's parliament.
  • President Reuven Rivlin's office said in a statement that Netanyahu had "informed (the presidency) that he was unable to form a government and so returned the mandate to the President."
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Sale of Coal and Wet Wood Restricted in England

  • Curbs on the sale of house coal and wet wood for household burning in England have come into force under new rules aimed at cutting air pollution.
  • People will still be able to use stoves and open fires but they will need to burn cleaner alternatives.
  • These are the first restrictions on what people can burn in their homes since the clean air acts of the 1950s.
  • The UK's air is far cleaner now, but in recent years pollution from log burners has increased dramatically.
  • Only 8% of households use them, but they are now the biggest source of the tiny pollution particles that are most damaging to health, according to government data.
  • Log burners and open fires are not being banned, but the government says people will have to buy dry wood or manufactured solid fuels which produce less smoke.

Scops-Owl Subspecies Rediscovered in Malaysia

  • The Bornean subspecies of Rajah scops owl (Otus brookii brookii), documented in the wild for the first time since 1892, may be its own unique species and deserving of a conservation designation. Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center ecologist Andy Boyce reported the rediscovery and photographed this elusive subspecies in the mountainous forests of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia.
  • Almost all data on the Rajah scops-owl is of the Sumatran subspecies. The vocalizations, distribution, breeding biology and population size of the Bornean subspecies are totally unknown.

100 Million-year-old Bones of Sauropod Dinosaurs Discovered in Meghalaya

  • Researchers have identified fossil bone fragments of sauropod dinosaurs dating back to about 100 million years from an area around West Khasi Hills District in Meghalaya.
  • The yet-to-be-published findings were made during a recent field trip by researchers from the Geological Survey of India's Palaeontology division in North-East.
  • The GSI researchers noted that this is the first record of sauropods of probable Titanosaurian origin discovered in the region.
  • Sauropods had very long necks, long tails, small heads relative to the rest of their body, and four thick, pillar-like legs. They are notable for the enormous sizes attained by some species, and the group includes the largest animals to have ever lived on land.
  • The finding makes Meghalaya the fifth state in India after Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu and the only state in the North-East to report Sauropod bones having titanosaurian affinity.
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Blackstone Group Elevates India PE Head Amit Dixit to Head of Asia PE

  • Global private equity major Blackstone Group elevated Amit Dixit , senior managing director, co-head of Asia Acquisitions, and head of India for Blackstone Private Equity to the post of Asia private equity head, among a series of international promotions.
  • Dixit received an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MS in Engineering from Stanford University, and a B.Tech. from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. Dixit joined Blackstone in 2007 from another US-based PE major Warburg Pincus.
  • Blackstone also appointed Martin Brand as head of North America private equity and Peter Wallace as global head of core private equity, WSJ said, quoting Joseph Barrata, board member and global head of PE.

Ola Electric Appoints Wayne Burgess as Head, Vehicle Design

  • Ola Electric announced the appointment of Wayne Burgess, as head of vehicle design for its entire product range including scooters, bikes, cars and more.
  • Burgess has spent almost three decades designing vehicles for the majority of British premium automotive manufacturers, from Rolls Royce and Bentley in his early career, to Aston Martin and Jaguar Landrover to, more recently, Lotus. Notably, he was the chief designer for the Jaguar F-Type sports car, and then studio director for the Jaguar F-Pace SUV.

Kotak Mahindra Life Appoints Mahesh Balasubramanian as MD

  • Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance Company Limited (KLI) appointed Mahesh Balasubramanian as managing director of the company. He has been appointed following the retirement of G. Murlidhar.
  • The appointment of Balasubramanian is for a period of three years.
  • Suresh Agarwal has been elevated to MD & CEO of Kotak General Insurance.
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T20 WC May Get Shifted to UAE

  • This year's T20 World Cup is set to be moved from India to the UAE with the BCCI acknowledging that none of the participating teams would be "comfortable" coming here because "a third wave" of COVID-19 cases is expected at the time of the event.
  • While a final decision will be taken in a month's time but it is understood that even the Indian cricket board is jittery about holding the 16-team tournament in October-November after the ongoing IPL had to be suspended because of multiple COVID-19 cases inside the bio-bubble.
  • The suspension of IPL within four weeks is an indicator that it's not really safe to host a global event of that magnitude at a time when the country is fighting its worst health crisis in last 70 years.

Find a Way to Send Back Foreign Players: IPL Chairman Brijesh Patel

  • IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said that the BCCI will "find a way" to send the league's foreign recruits back to their respective countries after the event was suspended indefinitely due to a COVID-19 outbreak in its bio-bubble.
  • The suspension of the tournament was announced after SunRisers Hyderabad's wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha tested positive for COVID-19 along with Delhi Capitals' veteran spinner Amit Mishra.
  • The foreigners involved in the lucrative league are concerned about returning to their respective countries due to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of a deadly resurgence of the pandemic in India.
  • The BCCI had assured foreign players of a safe return earlier as well.
  • The IPL had 14 Australian players left, after three pullouts a few days ago, along with 10 from New Zealand and 11 Englishmen. South Africa had 11 players in the league, which also featured nine West Indians, three Afghans and two from Bangladesh.
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Modi, Johnson Hold Virtual Summit; UK PM Announces 1 bn Pound Trade Deal

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual summit with his British counterpart Boris Johnson with an aim to further bolster bilateral ties in a range of areas including healthcare and trade, as the UK Prime Minister announced GBP 1 billion worth of UK-India trade and investment.
  • According to a statement from Johnson's office, "more than 6,500 new jobs will be created around the UK thanks to the one billion pounds of new UK-India trade and investment announced by the Prime Minister."
  • The package contains over 533 million pounds of new Indian investment into the UK, which is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in vital and growing sectors such as health and technology, Downing Street said.

DMK Chief Stalin Elected as Legislature Party Leader

  • DMK president M K Stalin was unanimously elected as legislature party leader and he is to be sworn-in as Chief Minister on May 7.
  • The meet to elect him was held at headquarters 'Anna Arivalayam' and it witnessed participation of 133 DMK MLAs, which includes eight from alliance parties like the MDMK.
  • Stalin had already said that the ceremony shall be held in a simple manner in the Raj Bhavan premises here. The DMK top leader is expected to call on Governor Banwarilal Purohit and stake claim to form the government.

UP Panchayat Polls

  • The BJP has won just eight out of the 40 zila panchayat seats in Ayodhya, a disappointment for the ruling party in the district on which the Centre and the state government have lavished much attention. The opposition Samajwadi Party claimed to have made major gains in the panchayat elections held last month, saying candidates it backed won 22 district level seats here. The Bahujan Samaj Party claimed its candidates won four zila panchayat seats in Ayodhya.
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Rolls-Royce Partners with Hindustan Aeronautics for Warship Engines

  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Rolls-Royce signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish a support system in India for the highly regarded Rolls-Royce MT30 marine engines.
  • The HAL-Rolls-Royce partnership will provide packaging, installation, marketing and services support for the MT30 engine, creating a business case for the Indian Navy to consider using the engine for powering and propelling its warships.
  • The Indian Navy, one of the world's major warship builders, has not used the MT30 for even a single warship. Most Indian frigates and destroyers are propelled by Ukrainian Zorya turbines or by American General Electric LM-2500 gas turbines.

Armed Forces Use Lease Route to Cut Red-tape, Stay Prepared for Adversaries

  • Rather than getting caught in the laborious defence acquisition process, the armed forces are using the financial powers of vice-chiefs to lease out critical weapon platforms from strategic allies like the United Sstates, France and Russia. The vice-chiefs have the power to purchase Rs. 300 crore worth of equipment as part of capital purchases as well as half of Rs. 500 crore can be used for emergency requirements for the service but outside capital outlay.
  • According to South Block officials, the leasing of two Predator unmanned aerial vehicles from the US, a nuclear power submarine Akula class to replace the presently leased INS Chakra from Russia, and the proposal to lease a Airbus 330 multi-role transport tanker from France are examples in this direction.
  • While the leasing process allows the armed forces to train on a platform that it plans to acquire, it also short-circuits the labyrinth of acquisition process like acceptance of necessity, request for information, request for proposal, defence acquisition committee, finance ministry approvals and finally the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS).
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Scientist Manas Bihari Verma, Key Man Behind Tejas, Dead

  • Aeronautical scientist Manas Bihari Verma, who played a key role in the development of the country's first light combat fighter aircraft (LCA) 'Tejas', passed away at Darbhanga in Bihar.
  • Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed grief over Verma's demise and said his role in the field of aeronautical engineering will always be remembered.
  • Verma was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2018.
  • He worked with several aeronautical engineering establishments in the country and went on to become a programme director of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Bangalore between 2002 and 2005. Here, he got a chance to work with former President Kalam, the architect of India's nuclear program.

Sindhu, Michelle Li Appointed Ambassadors for IOC's 'Believe in Sport' Campaign

  • The Badminton World Federation announced that India shuttler PV Sindhu and Canada's Michelle Li have been nominated as athlete ambassadors for the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) 'Believe in Sport' campaign aimed at preventing competition manipulation.
  • Sindhu and Li will be working alongside other athlete ambassadors from around the world to raise awareness on the topic of competition manipulation amongst athletes and encourage. Both have been global ambassadors for BWF's 'I am badminton' campaign since April 2020. The IOC's 'Believe in Sport' campaign was launched in 2018 to raise awareness among athletes, coaches and officials of the threat of competition manipulation.
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International Midwives Day

  • The International Midwives Day has been in celebration since the year 1991. The Day is also termed as the International Day of the Midwife. International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) has established this international day for midwives. Following the suggestions and discussion held in the 1980s by the Midwives Associations, the Day has been created. The idea to recognize and honor midwives with a Day came out in the International Confederation of Midwives conference held in 1987 in the Netherlands. ICM has launched the Midwives Day initiative formally in the year 1992. Since then, Midwives Day has been observed in more than 50 nations from around the world. The Day is an international celebration that recognizes and highlights the work of all midwives globally.
  • This year's International Day of the Midwife (IDM) on 5th May 2021 is being celebrated under the theme of "Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives". The day coincides with the launch of the 2021 State of the World's Midwifery (SoWMy) Report. Developed by UNFPA (the UN sexual and reproductive health agency), WHO (World Health Organization) and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), the report evaluates the midwifery workforce and related health resources in 194 countries and includes policy recommendations to improve sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health service delivery.
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Schemes Related to Children, Pregnant, Lactating Women must Remain Functional

  • The Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA) wrote to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal demanding that all schemes related to children, pregnant and lactating women should remain functional and be considered essential services.
  • In view of several children being affected by COVID, the DRRAA has also demanded that there should be a special mechanism in place to track children who test positive, test their families and provide care.
  • In its letter to Mr. Kejriwal, the DRRAA said: "Children who need institutional care should be identified proactively and ensured access. This can be done in coordination with the child welfare committees and Anganwadi centres and monitored by Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights [DCPCR]. Masks should be distributed in the communities and the message needs to be given that even children need to wear mask."
  • The DRRAA also said growth monitoring, identification and follow-up of severely malnourished children must continue and depending on the local situation, a provision for cooked meals that are delivered at home be made available.

Restore MPLADS so That MPs can Use it for Covid Management

  • Bahujan Samaj Party leader and Member of Parliament from Amroha, UP, Kunwar Danish Ali has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately restore the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) so that lawmakers can utilise it to provide immediate medical relief to people in their respective constituencies amid the second wave of Covid-19.
  • MPLADS, which has been suspended for the past two years by the government which wanted to utilise them for Covid management and healthcare facilities, is a scheme under which each MP can suggest to the district collector works to the tune of Rs. 5 crore per annum in their constituency.
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SC Directs Rajasthan Private Schools to Reduce Fees for 2020-21 Session

  • The Supreme Court bench noted that schools and educational institutions that have been closed for the past one year and continue to do so should reduce fees as their running and overhead costs of maintenance, electricity, petrol/diesel to run generators, water costs, and stationery charges have come down with various facilities provided on campus remaining closed.
  • The Supreme Court directed Rajasthan private schools to reduce the annual school fees for the 2020-21 period by 15 per cent.
  • The SC was hearing an appeal filed by some private schools of Rajasthan against an HC order upholding the Rajasthan government's direction to schools to give a deduction of 30 percent in fees.

XLRI Jamshedpur Appoints Fr Paul Fernandes, SJ as the New Director

  • The Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur has appointed Fr Paul Fernandes, SJ, as the new Director of the institute with immediate effect. He has taken charge of the position by succeeding Fr P Christie, SJ.
  • An alumnus of XLRI Jamshedpur, Fr. Paul. Fernandes (1986 Batch) had worked at XLRI for many years in various capacities. Besides being a faculty member, he was the financial controller.
  • He was also the founder chairperson of Father Arrupe Centre for Excellence (FACE), now rechristened as 'FACES.'
  • Fr. Paul earned his PhD in Economics and Ethics from KU, WWF Ingolstadt, Germany. He has an MSc degree in Economics and an MA Licentiate in Applied Ethics from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.
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Archaeologists Fund Marble Head of Roman Emperor Augustus

  • Archaeologists have uncovered a marble head of the Roman emperor Augustus in the Italian town of Isernia, located in the region of Molise. According to a report by the Italian publication Il Giornale del Molise, the finding sheds new light on the imperial Roman impact in the region.
  • Led by archaeologist Francesca Giancola, the team of researchers found the head and the discovery was announced by the Archaeological Superintendency of Molise. Il Giornale del Molise reports that the Augustus head "bodes well for other and more important, historical finds" for a town that was conquered by the Romans in 295 B.C.E. In 90 B.C.E., it was subsequently taken by the Samnites, an ancient people of southern Italy, and then fell back into Roman control.
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