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December 29, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Pakistan to restore Kabul embassy services today
• The Pakistan embassy in Kabul is set to restore its full consular services on December 29, 2019 (today) after a gap of nearly two months.
• The embassy made this announcement over Twitter saying: `@PakEmbKabul is happy to announce that it would be resuming its full consular services with effect from Sunday, 29 December, 2019`.
• The embassy had suspended the services on Nov 4, citing concerns about safety and security of its staff. The decision was taken after harassment of some Pakistani diplomats in the Afghan capital where embassy vehicles were hit by motorcycles.
2. PU awards highest 243 PhD degrees at convocation
• As many as 243 PhD, 101 MS/MPhil, 63 Master`s and 74 undergraduate degrees were awarded to the students at the 129th convocation of the Punjab University on December 28, 2019.
• Officials say this is the highest number of PhD degrees the PU has awarded in one year.
• Eighty-four medals were distributed among the undergraduate students, 98 among master`s students and 127 among MPhil/MS students.
• Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, European Union Parliament`s Vice President Fabio Massimo Castaldo, whom the PU awarded Honorary PhD degree in the subject of law during convocation, PU Vice Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmad and other senior functionaries besides deans, faculty members and students and their parents were present.
3. Google honours singer Iqbal Bano
• Google honoured acclaimed singer Iqbal Bano with her very own Google Doodle on what would have been her 81st birthday. The illustration, designed by Karachi-based guest artist Samya Arif, celebrates the singer famous for her rendition of ghazal, nazm and various classical forms, as well as music for film and patriotic songs.
• She passed away in 2009 in Lahore.
• Iqbal Bano was born in 1938 in Delhi and studied with Ustad Chand Khan, a master of classical Indian vocals. She began singing on All India Radio while she was still in her teens. She moved to Pakistan in 1952and sang on Radio Pakistan, provided vocals as a playback singer for popular movies and attracted large crowds to her live concerts.
• In 1974, she was awarded the Pride of Performance Award.
4. Population of houbara bustard in Punjab declining: report
• The population of houbara bustard has declined in Punjab over the three-year period from 2017 to 2019, suggesting that hunting of the bird in the province is not sustainable, says a report recently approved by the Houbara Bustard Commission.
• Appointed by the chief justice of the Lahore High Court in 2017, the commission was tasked with conducting field surveys to assess whether the hunting of houbara bustard was sustainable.
• To estimate the bird`s population at three sites and across Punjab, data was collected as per standard protocols and analysed using standard principles of statistics.
5. UN condemns human rights abuses against Rohingya
• The UN General Assembly approved a resolution on December 28, 2019 strongly condemning human rights abuses against Myanmar`s Rohingya Muslims and other minorities, including arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and deaths in detention.
• The 193-member world body voted 134-9 with 28 abstentions in favour of the resolution which also calls on Myanmar`s government to take urgent measures to combat incitement of hatred against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.
• General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion.
• Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be `Bengalis` from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
6. US mass killings hit new high in 2019, most were shootings
• THE first one occurred 19 days into the new year when a man used an ax to kill four family members including his infant daughter. Five months later, 12 people were killed in a workplace shooting in Virginia. Twenty-two more died at a Walmart in El Paso in August.
• A database compiled by this news agency, USA Today and Northeastern University shows that there were more mass killings in 2019 than any year dating back to at least the 1970s, punctuated by a chilling succession of deadly rampages during the summer.
• In all, there were 41 mass killings, defined as when four or more people are killed excluding the perpetrator. Of those, 33 were mass shootings. More than 210 people were killed.
7. Navy SEAL cleared by Trump called `freaking evil` by comrades
• A Navy SEAL platoon leader controversially pardoned of war crimes by US President Donald Trump was described as `toxic` and `freaking evil` by veterans who served with him in Iraq, The New York Times reported on December 28, 2019.
• Video testimony provided to war crimes investigators and published by the newspaper showed former members of Eddie Gallagher`s elite commando unit accusing him of shooting at a 12-year-old and discussing the accusations that Gallagher targeted civilians.
• `The guy is freaking evil,` special operator first class Craig Miller, one of the most experienced members of Alpha Platoon`s SEA L Team 7, told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
8. NASA`s trip to Mars begins in California `clean room`
• NASA`s Mars 2020 rover will head off for the Red Planet next year. But like Voyager, Galileo and Cassini before it, the mission`s epic journey began in a `clean room` in California.
• One of two ultra-sterile labs used for spacecraft assembly at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, the eggshell-white room was briefly and exceptionally opened to journalists on December 28, 2019.
• `We need to keep the hardware as pristine and as safe as possible until we get to Mars,` said David Gruel, operations manager for Mars 2020.
• The Mars rover will collect samples on the planet in the search for traces of microbial life potentially dating back billions of years.
9. UAE denies developing popular Mideast app as spy tool
• The United Arab Emirates on December 28, 2019 denied reports that a popular mobile application developed in the country was used for government spying. Apple and Google removed the ToTok app from their marketplaces last week following a report claiming it allowed the UAE government to track users` conversations, movements and other details.
• But the country`s Tele-communications Regulatory Authority said in a statement that UAE laws `prohibit any kind of data breach and unlawful interception`.
10. Comanche wins 75th Sydney to Hobart race, InfoTrack second
• Comanche won the 75th edition of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on December 28, 2019 by claiming line honors for the third time.
• The Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant-skippered super maxi made the most of strong overnight winds to cross the River Derwent finish line just after 7:30am local time.
• Comanche earlier broke away from a five-strong pack of super maxis down Tasmania`s east coast having taken a wider route across Bass Strait on Friday.
• She stalled at one stageon a windless River Derwent before crossing the line in a time of 1 day, 18 hours, 30 minutes and 24 seconds.
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