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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

20 Jul 2021


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China, Iran Diplomats Among People in Pegasus list: Report

  • A number once used by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and those of dozens of diplomats in India from countries such as China and Iran are among potential targets selected by users of the Pegasus spyware programme.
  • Paris-based Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International have gained access to a leaked list of more than 50,000 records of phone numbers that clients of the Israeli company NSO Group, the developer of Pegasus, selected for surveillance.
  • More than 1,000 phone numbers in India were part of the list, according to 17 media outlets that examined the list.
  • The records included at least one number once used by Prime Minister Khan and that had been selected by a NSO client for surveillance.

UK Celebrates 'Freedom Day' But Covid Cases Peak

  • Day-to-day pandemic restrictions were lifted in England as the country's "freedom day" met with deep concern from scientists as coronavirus cases surge across the nation.
  • In other parts of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — devolved governments are taking more cautious steps and will not reopen fully.

US, allies accuse China of Microsoft Exchange hack

  • The United States and its Nato, EU and Five Eyes allies on Monday jointly accused the Chinese government of using "criminal contract hackers" to carry out the hacking of Microsoft Exchange's mail servers earlier this year that impacted tens of thousands of entities around the world.
  • The White House has called the move "unprecedented". This is the first instance of the Nato, a military alliance of 30 nations, condemning China for cyberattacks.
  • The collection of countries in this effort is the largest to jointly denounce aggressive cyber operations by China. The EU has 27 members, and the Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing pact of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
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WWF-UNEP report

  • A new report by WWF and UNEP has found that 35 per cent of India's tiger ranges currently lie outside protected areas. The report, A Future for All – A need for Human-Wildlife Coexistence, examined increasing human-wildlife conflict, and has found that marine and terrestrial protected areas only cover 9.67 per cent globally.
  • With most of these protected areas disconnected from each other, many species depend on human-dominated spaces for their survival, and shared landscapes. Protected areas play an increasingly important role for the survival of key species such as large predators and herbivores, says the report.
  • Apart from India's tigers, 40 per cent of the African lion range and 70 per cent of the African and Asian elephant ranges fall outside protected areas, finds the report.
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Microsoft Acquires Cybersecurity Firm RiskIQ for $500M

  • Microsoft has reached a deal to acquire RiskIQ, a San Francisco-based provider of cybersecurity services, including malware and spyware monitoring and mobile app security.
  • RiskIQ's services and solutions will join Microsoft's suite of cloud-native security products, including Microsoft 365 Defender, Microsoft Azure Defender, and Microsoft Azure Sentinel.
  • While Microsoft hasn't valued the deal, Bloomberg reported that the company is said to be paying more than $500 million for RiskIQ. 

India's First Monk Fruit Cultivation Exercise Begins in HP's Kullu

  • The 'monk fruit' from China, which is known for its properties as a non-caloric natural sweetener, was introduced for field trials in Himachal Pradesh by the Palampur-based Council of Scientific Research and Industrial Technology Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) in Kullu.
  • The field trials have begun three years after the CSIR-IHBT imported its seeds from China and grew it in the house.

Google Cloud Adds 2nd Cloud Region in country

  • Google Cloud has announced the launch of its new Cloud Region in Delhi NCR, for customers and the public sector in India and across the Asia Pacific. With the new region, the customers operating in the country will benefit from lower latency and higher performance of their cloud-based workloads and data.
  • This new Google Cloud region is the second such in India after Mumbai and the 10th in Asia-Pacific. As the second cloud region, customers are expected to benefit from improved business continuity planning, while maintaining data sovereignty. Totally, 26 Google Cloud regions are present across the world.
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AI Tool Developed to Study Cancer-causing Mutations

  • Researchers at IIT Madras have developed an AI tool called NBDriver (neighbourhood driver) for use in analysing cancer-causing mutations in cells. By looking at the neighbourhood, or context, of a mutation in the genome, it can look at harmful "driver" mutations and distinguish them from neutral "passenger" mutations.
  • This technique of looking at the genomic neighbourhood to make out the nature of the mutation is a novel and largely unexplored one. In a paper published in the journal Cancers, the researchers explain that the nature of the mutation depends on the neighbourhood, and how this tool may be used to draw the line between driver and passenger mutations.

Indian Federal Bank Releases Feddy Virtual Assistant

  • The Federal Bank in India officially launched a virtual assistant accessible by voice through both Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.
  • The AI, known as Feddy, is part of a growing trend of banking-focused virtual assistants, a trend that accelerated in the wake of COVID-19 and the limitations put on in-person banking.
  • Feddy serves to answer questions for banking customers who want to know the basics like the nearest branch for the bank, how to open accounts, or how to receive statements at any time, regardless of whether the bank is open. What makes the virtual assistant stand out is that it's not limited to a website text interface. Alexa and Google Assistant can both be used as intermediaries, answering the questions when the right voice app is installed.
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Shibaji Banerjee to be Conferred with Mohun Bagan Ratna Posthumously

  • Former India and Mohun Bagan shot-stopper Shibaji Banerjee, who famously denied Brazil's legendary football player Pele from scoring a goal in an exhibition match in 1977, will be conferred with Mohun Bagan Ratna posthumously.
  • The friendly match against New York Cosmos at the iconic Eden Gardens ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
  • Banerjee played more than one half of the game, in which he made at least five good saves. Apart from denying Pele the chance to score from a direct free kick, the Bagan goalkeeper also blocked Pele in a one-on-one situation, drawing massive cheers from the crowd.
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Goa Govt Signs MoU With Mineral Corp

  • The Goa government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL), a Union government-owned public sector undertaking, to build an inventory of Goa's minerals -- mainly iron ore.
  • Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant, who is currently on a two-day visit to New Delhi, oversaw the signing of the agreement along with Union minister of coal and mines Pralhad Joshi.
  • The MoU will help the government assess its mineral resources and establish its mineral inventory. The MoU is seen as a step towards the government restarting mining through its own state-run corporation after the Supreme Court ruled that if mining is to restart, fresh leases will have to be allotted, which now involves an auction.
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Philippines Challenges Chinese Warship in South China Sea

  • The Philippines Coast Guard said it drove away a Chinese warship in the South China Sea, in another sign of tension between the two nations in the disputed waters.
  • The Coast Guard said it had sent a verbal challenge to Chinese warship spotted at Marie Louise Bank. The Chinese vessel eventually moved away from the area, the statement said.
  • The foreign vessel sent a radio message identifying itself as "Chinese Navy Warship 189" and asked the Philippine ship tailing it to keep distance, the Coast Guard said.
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IOA Names Security Attache B K Sinha as Press Attache of India's Olympic Contingent

  • Retired IPS officer B K Sinha will perform the dual role of Security as well as Press Attache of India's Olympic contingent at the Tokyo Games, which begins on July 23, the IOA announced.
  • Sinha is a former Haryana DGP and also a recipient of the President's Police Medal.
  • "Mr B K Sinha (Retd DG Police, IPS) who is going with Indian contingent for Tokyo Olympics as Security Attache, will now, along with handling the responsibilities of Security Attache, will also be handling the responsibilities of Press Attache," Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra and Secretary General Rajeev Mehta said.
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Science Exploration Day

  • Science Exploration Day (also called Moon Day) is marked every year on 20 July. It was on this day in 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon's surface.
  • The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s.

International Chess Day

  • The International Chess Day is celebrated annually on July 20, the day the International Chess Federation was founded, in 1924.
  • The idea to celebrate this day as the international chess day was proposed by UNESCO, and it has been celebrated as such since 1966, after it was established by FIDE.
  • This year will mark FIDE's 97th anniversary.
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India's Payal Kapadia Wins Best Documentary Award

  • Director Payal Kapadia's A Night of Knowing Nothing won the Oeil d'or (Golden Eye) award for best documentary at the 74th Cannes Film Festival.
  • The Mumbai-based filmmaker's first feature bagged the prestigious prize in a formidable field made up of 28 documentaries presented across various sections of the festival. A Night of Knowing Nothing screened as part of the Directors' Fortnight, a section that runs parallel to the festival.
  • The Oeil d'or jury was headed by American documentary producer Ezra Edelman. It had four other members: French filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli, French actor Deborah Francois, Franco-American film critic Iris Brey and Orwa Nyrabia, artistic director of the International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) Amsterdam.

Two Indian Organisations Win UNDP Equator Prize 2021

  • Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited and Snehakunja Trust are among the 10 awardees of the prestigious Equator Prize for their work in the field of conservation and biodiversity, said United Nations Development Fund (UNDP).
  • The UNDP gives a biennial award to recognize community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
  • Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited is a 1,700-member cooperative, managed and run entirely by indigenous people from the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu and its work in the past eight years has improved livelihood across 147 villages by processing and marketing a diverse range of forest produce and crops.

Bangladesh Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus to get Olympic Laurel

  • Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus will receive the Olympic Laurel at the Tokyo Games, the second time the trophy will be awarded, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said.
  • Yunus, whose pioneering micro-lender has been hailed for cutting poverty across the globe, will be honoured for "his extensive work in sport for development", the IOC said in a statement.
  • The 81-year-old economist-turned-globe-trotting celebrity speaker won the Nobel in 2006. He will be given the award at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony on July 23.
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Haryana to introduce 'One Block, One Product' scheme

  • To encourage and promote small industries in the rural areas, the Haryana government will soon introduce the 'One Block, One Product' scheme, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala said.
  • Under the scheme, the state government plans to connect every block of the state with some industrial vision and the government is working expeditiously on this scheme, he added.
  • The Deputy Chief Minister informed that in the last one year, Haryana's 'One District, One Product' Scheme which is being implemented under MSME, has come up as a model across the country.
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Former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan Traces India's Economic History in his Book

  • Former RBI governor Bimal Jalan's new book 'The India Story' focuses on India's economic history and aims to provide lessons for the future of India's political economy.
  • Published by Rupa, the book will be released on 21 July on 'SoftCover', ThePrint's online venue to launch select non-fiction books.
  • Referencing the post-2014 political moment and BJP-led majority government, Jalan introduces the concept of putting in place long-standing political and economic reforms nationwide.
  • With that in mind, he traces India's economic policies from 1991 to 2019 to offer insights on learning from the past, before moving 'Beyond the Metrics of Economy' to talk about the role of governance in implementing these policies.
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Ashadhi Ekadashi

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people of the country on the occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi. The day marks the culmination of a pilgrimage called 'wari' that devotees undertake from across Maharashtra on foot to reach Pandharpur in Solapur district, which houses a famous temple dedicated to Lord Vitthal and Goddess Rukmini.
  • The Prime Minister prayed to Lord Vitthal to bless the people with abundance.
  • "On the auspicious occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi, my greetings to everyone. On this special day, we pray to Lord Vitthal to bless us with abundance of happiness and good health. The Varkari movement represents the finest of our traditions and emphasises on harmony and equality," PM Modi said in his tweet.
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