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♦ India announces $1.4 billion aid to Maldives
- India on Monday declared an aid of $1.4 billion to the Maldives. The financial package that was prepared over the last month was formally announced at a joint press conference held by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Mr. Modi said both sides were connected by mutual faith in democracy and development. “Cooperation between our countries is necessary for maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region and we are willing to take our bilateral relationship to its fullest extent.”
- India would be there to support the Maldives in its human-oriented development plans. New Delhi would also support Male in improving connectivity links between the two nations.
- In response, President Solih said his government would walk the path of cooperation and development. His discussion with India covered a wide swath of issues such as health, education, and defence, he noted.
- India hads agreed to a prime-ministerial visit to Male next year, he said.
- Upon arrival, Mr. Solih had thanked India and described it as the “closest friend” of his country.
- On Monday, both sides signed four agreements.
♦ Madras High Court bans online sales of medicines
- The Madras High Court on Monday banned online sale of medicines by e-pharmacies till the Centre notifies the final rules bringing e-pharmacies into the ambit of regulation.
- The court also directed the union government to notify the proposed Drugs and Cosmetics Amendment Rules, 2018 in the Gazette before end of January next year. The Amendment, once formalised and announced, will enable licencing of online drug selling platforms.
- “As the draft rules are framed by the Central Government, after deliberations including the stakeholders, till the aforesaid rules are notified, the on-line traders are bound not to proceed with their on-line business in drugs and cosmetics,” justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana of the Madras Hoigh Court wrote in her order delivered on Monday, while disposing of the writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association.
- The court directed online players to apply for licences as described in the rules to be put out by the Centre, within two months of the date of the notification, according to a copy of the order, seen by ET.
- In the order, justice Sathyanarayana had clarified that the judgment takes effect from December 20 by 10: 30 a.m. A senior counsellor who was part of the proceedings on Monday told ET that the e-pharmacies are likely to contest Monday’s order before a Division Bench of the Madras High Court.
♦ EY to advise on merger of 3 PSU general insurers
- Management consultancy firm EY has been shortlisted to advise on the proposed merger of three public sector general insurers as announced in this year’s budget.
- The government has proposed to merge three public sector general insurance companies — National Insurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company and United India Insurance Company.
- Based on the bid floated in June, the firms zeroed in on EY as the consultant to advise on the consolidation process, sources said.
- As on March 31, 2017, the three companies together had more than 200 insurance products with a total premium of Rs 41,461 crore and a market share of around 35 per cent.
- Their combined net worth is Rs 9,243 crore with total employee strength of around 44,000 spread over 6,000 offices.
♦ Miss Universe 2018 is Miss Philippines Catriona Gray
- The Philippines’ Catriona Gray was named Miss Universe 2018 on Monday, besting contestants from 93 other countries and delighting her home nation.
- Gray wore a sparkling red dress she said was inspired by a volcano in the Philippines as she was handed the crown to the delight of a roaring crowd in Bangkok that generally favored Southeast Asian contestants.The 24-year-old singer and model said she wore red because “when I was 13 my mom said she had a dream that I would win Miss Universe in a red dress.” She said her mom cried when they saw each other after she won the competition, the 67th Miss Universe pageant.
- Gray edged out first runner-up Tamaryn Green of South Africa and third-place Sthefany Gutierrez of Venezuela. She succeeds Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.
- “My heart is filled with so much gratitude,” Gray said. “There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure.”
- Gray’s father is Australian, and she was born and grew up in Cairns, Australia. She studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
♦ Tripura govt announces plans to facelift Ujjayanta Palace
- Ujjayanta Palace, the erstwhile royal abode of Tripura’s Manikya kings which now house the Tripura state museum, will get digital galleries as part of the special initiative to offer tourists an artistic and attractive experience.
- Speaking to reporters in front of the Ujjayanta Palace in Agartala this afternoon, Minister for Higher Education Ratan Lal Nath said his government would soon install digital galleries in the museum and that Projectors would be used to give the visitors a realistic artistic experience.
- “We feel this initiative will help in attracting tourists in larger number to visit the museum. It will help in the growth of the tourism industry in the state”, Nath said.
- The government is also contemplating to start an eco-friendly battery operated vehicle to transport tourists, especially for the aged and children from the palace entrance to its majestic structure, which is nearly half of a kilometre in distance. “We shall arrange high security for the museum and restart light and sound system at the palace to attract more tourists”, Nath informed.
♦ Cyclone Phethai makes landfall in East Godavari district
- Cyclone Phethai hit the coast near Katrenikona in the Konaseema region of East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh at 1 p.m. on Monday. Cyclone Phethai barrelled through coastal Andhra Pradesh, triggering heavy rains, uprooting trees and electric poles, and claiming one life, officials said.
- Power supply was snapped and communication network was partially damaged. The South Central Railway cancelled and rescheduled several trains, while air traffic to and from the port city of Visakhapatnam was hit by turbulent weather conditions.
- Educational institutions were closed in coastal districts as a precautionary measure.
♦ J-K: Ladakh gets first ever university
- The Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region on Monday got the first ever university as State Administrative Council led by Governor Satya Pal Malik approved the Jammu and Kashmir University of Ladakh Bill, 2018. Pointing out that it will be a cluster university, an official release issued here said that it will get Rs 65 crore from Government of India from next academic session as initial grant. The university will fulfill a long standing demand of the people of Ladakh, it added.
- The already functioning three degree colleges of Kargil district will be affiliated to the Cluster University of Ladakh with Degree College Leh constituting the lead college, it said. All the new colleges to be set up in future in Ladakh region are envisaged to be constituents of or affiliated with the Cluster University of Ladakh. There are five Degree Colleges functioning in Ladakh region, one each at Leh and Nobra in Leh district and one each at Kargil, Zanskar and Drass in Kargil district. All the five colleges are presently affiliated with the University of Kashmir.
- Ladakh region with a population of 2.75 lakh as per 2011 census has a student population of 40 per cent. As per the rough estimates, around 90 per cent of students from Ladakh have enrolled in different Universities across the country for studies and the remaining 10 per cent study in Ladakh.
♦ French govt. honours producer Ashok Amritraj
- Producer Ashok Amritraj was honoured on Friday with the French Knight of the National Order of Merit.
- Mr. Amritraj has been the producer of Hollywood films such as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance with Nicholas Cage and 99 Homes starring Andrew Garfield. The former CEO of National Geographic Films and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador was lauded for his contribution to the world of cinema and Indo-French film industry.
- French Minister of Europe and Foreign Minister, Mr. Jean-Yes Le Drian who presided over the occasion, said, “What is extremely precious in our eyes is your commitment to bringing together the Indian and French film industries.”
♠Vocabulary (The Hindu)♣
- NAP (NOUN): short sleep
Synonyms: catnap, doze
Antonyms: unconsciousness, death
Example: The moment I took a nap someone knocked at the door.
- PANTHEIST (NOUN):a person who doesn’t believe in orthodox religion
Synonyms: agnostic, freethinker
Antonyms: believer, pious
Example: Manish is a pantheist person.
- DEFAULT (NOUN): failure
Synonyms: delinquency, dereliction
Antonyms: perfection, strength
Example: We have been able to track the default and will crackdown on the defaulters soon.
- REGULATION (NOUN):management
Synonyms: moderation, supervision
Antonyms: deregulation, mismanagement
Example: We need proper regulations in place to get the best out of the team.
- RESHUFFLE (VERB):reorganize
Synonyms: reorient, rejuvenate
Antonyms: damage, raze
Example: We are going to reshuffle the top management of the company.
- ESCALATE (VERB):increase
Synonyms: magnify, broaden
Antonyms: shrink, weaken
Example: She mixed some wrong chemical which initially escalated the reaction.
- STIR (NOUN):agitation
Synonyms: whirlwind, commotion
Antonyms: peace, harmony
Example: Their walkout from the assembly caused quite a stir.
- FERMENT (NOUN):commotion
Synonyms: tumult, turbulence
Antonyms: tranquillity, stillness
Example: They were distracted by a ferment across the street.
Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s decision to stay away from the December 9 Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh is the latest reminder of the growing disunity among the Gulf countries. Qatar, blockaded by three GCC countries, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, and their non-GCC allies, has said it will not discuss a compromise unless the blockade is lifted. The Saudi-led bloc imposed it in June 2017, accusing Qatar of funding terrorism. But as Riyadh came under increasing global pressure after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul, it has shown signs of reconciliation. In October, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to have ordered the Khashoggi hit, surprised observers by praising the Qatari economy. The personal invitation to the GCC meet from King Salman bin Abdulaziz to the Qatari Emir followed the Crown Prince’s remarks. But Qatar, a tiny kingdom but the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, remains defiant. Doha has announced its decision to quit OPEC, the first Arab nation to do so since the cartel was formed in 1960. Though Qatar said the decision was not political, clearly its exit from OPEC was a snub to Saudi Arabia, its de facto leader.
The blockade has triggered tensions among other GCC countries as well. Saudi Arabia is upset that Oman and Kuwait did not join the embargo. Kuwait was trying to mediate between the rivals camps, which hasn’t gone down well with Riyadh. Last September, the Crown Prince started a two-day tour of Kuwait. But ties were reportedly so tense that he left the country within a few hours. Oman continues to be independent of Saudi influence by keeping ties open with both Qatar and Iran. The blockade has made Qatar only more independent in its foreign policy decisions. It has stepped up assistance for Hamas in Gaza, accelerated a plan to allow Turkey to set up a military camp in the country and resisted calls to cut ties with Iran. The decision to quit OPEC and the Emir’s absence at the GCC meet (a state minister was sent to represent the country) point to an increasingly confident Qatar. But the intra-Gulf quarrels have dampened hopes for the integration of the region. The bloc, which once talked about a common Gulf currency and robust connectivity projects, is now a ghost of its old self. After the summit, the GCC issued a customary statement, emphasising regional stability and economic challenges. Even as the summit was on, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa criticised the Emir’s decision to skip the meet, while Doha slammed the communiqué for its failure to address the blockade. That is the state of affairs in the GCC.
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