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Golden Globes 2017 awards given

Damien Chazelle’s daring, magical musical “La La Land” swept its way through the Golden Globes on Sunday night, winning all seven of its nominated categories: best picture comedy/musical, lead actor honors for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and awards for director, screenplay, song and score.
●    In doing so, it broke the record shared by two 1970s movies: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Midnight Express,” both of which won six Globes, including one category — acting debut — that no longer exists.
●    Now, naysayers could grouse and note that “La La Land” was off by its lonesome in the comedy/musical categories, separated from the other two awards season front-runners, 
●    With Oscar ballots out now with voters, the Globes ceremony offered plenty of evidence — beyond the record-breaking number of trophies — that “La La Land,” a film sporting two romantic, struggling artists at its core, has become the movie of the moment in a way that usually translates into academy gold.
 

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Record 5 Indian Americans take oath as US Congress members

A record five Indian-Americans took oath as members of the US Congress.
●    52-year-old Kamala Harris was sworn in on Tuesday as the Senator from California by outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden. 
●    Harris, decided against seeking re-election. 
●    Four Indian Americans were sworn in as its members, including Congressman Ami Bera.
●    In the process he equalled the record of Dalip Singh Saundh, who exactly 60-years ago became the first Indian American to be elected as a member of the US Congress. 
●    Joining Bera were young and dynamic Ro Khanna representing the Silicon Valley. 
●    Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who won the election from Illinois took the oath on Gita.
●    Ms Gabbard, the first ever Hindu to be elected to the US Congress took the oath for third consecutive term. 
●    Pramila Jayapal is also the first Indian American woman in the US House of Representatives. Her 78-year-old mother, who especially came in from India, watched the proceedings from the gallery.
 

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UNSC endorses Syria Ceasefire by Russia and Turkey

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday welcomed a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war, but rebel groups threatened to abandon the two-day-old truce if violations persisted.
●    A resolution welcoming the ceasefire, the third truce this year seeking to end nearly six years of war, was adopted unanimously by the 15-member Council, meeting in New York.
●    The deal, brokered by Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides, reduced violence, but firefights, airstrikes and shelling went on in some areas.
●    A twin suicide bombing killed at least two people in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous in an area under government control and in President Bashar al-Assad's coastal heartland shortly after midnight on Sunday, state media and monitors reported.
●    The attack killed at least two security officers and wounded several other people when two suicide bombers blew themselves up after being stopped, Syrian state media reported, in the first targeting of the area for several months.
 

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U.S. calls Pakistan student group wing of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba

The United States on Wednesday announced it was adding the student wing of the Pakistan-based militant organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, to its list of "foreign terrorist organizations."Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or Army of the Pure, is an anti-Indian militant group with historical ties to Pakistan's top spy agencies. 
●    It has been accused of orchestrating numerous attacks, including a 2008 assault in Mumbai that killed 166 people, six of them Americans.
●    The State Department announced that it amended the designation of LeT as a "foreign terrorist organization" to include what it called the group's student wing.
●    "Since the original designation occurred, LeT has repeatedly changed its name and created front organizations in an effort to avoid sanctions," the State Department said, adding that the student group aided senior LeT leaders in recruiting and other activities.
●    The State Department action subjected the student group to sanctions, including a ban on Americans providing or attempting to provide it with material support.
●    The Treasury Department said it was adding Muhammad Sarwar and Shahid Mahmood to the U.S. list of "specially designated global terrorists," freezing any U.S. property or other assets they hold and banning Americans from doing business with them. 
●    Both are involved in fund-raising activities, it said.
●    Sarwar, the department said, is the LeT leader in Lahore and Mahmood is a senior LeT leader in Karachi and has routinely traveled outside Pakistan on the group's behalf.
 

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Colombia approves amnesty for thousands of FARC rebels

Colombia’s Congress passed a law on Wednesday offering amnesty to thousands of demobilizing Marxist guerrilla fighters accused of minor crimes in the country’s decades-long civil war.
●    The move is a key part of a revised peace deal between the government and the FARC rebels. 
●    It sailed through Congress after the right-wing opposition abstained from voting.
●    It means that the path is clear to guarantee the demobilization and disarmament of FARC members in the first half of next year,” said Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo. 
●    It’s no more and no less than the end of a 52-year conflict with the FARC. 
●    The FARC’s abandonment of arms is now in the hands of the United Nations so that the entire process of implementing the accords can begin.
●    Those found guilty of war crimes will not be eligible for the amnesty.
●    After four years of talks, the government and FARC agreed on a revised peace deal late November after the last one was rejected in a referendum. 

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Pakistan Opens New Nuclear Plant Built With China's Help

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has inaugurated a nuclear power facility built with the assistance of China.
●    The plant at Chashma, in Pakistan's Punjab province, adds 340 megawatts to the national grid. Beijing has already constructed two other nuclear reactors, with a combined capacity of more than 600 megawatts.
●    The three power plants at Chashma are known as C-1, C-2 and C-3 respectively. They are are part of broader plans to overcome long-running crippling power shortages in Pakistan.
●    Pakistan built its first nuclear power plant of 137 megawatts at Karachi in 1972 and it is still in operation, though at a much reduced capacity.
●    China is the only country helping Pakistan build nuclear power plants because Western nations have put a moratorium on the supply of these facilities citing Islamabad’s nuclear weapons program.
●    Under a multi-billion dollar cooperation agreement, Beijing is also helping Pakistan construct a network of roads, rails, communication and power projects to boostties between the two traditionally close allies.

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China operationalised world's longest bullet train line


China in the last week of December 2016 commenced operations of Shanghai-Kunming line, one of the world's longest high-speed railways.
●    The link joins the prosperous eastern coast to the less-developed southwestern part of the country.
●    The launch of the Shanghai-Kunming line signifies that China’s high-speed rail grid has taken shape and connects almost all provinces on the Chinese mainland.
●    The line is a part of the China Railway High-speed’s system of high-speed rail corridors, beginning in Shanghai and ending in Kunming.
●    The Shanghai-Kunming line is 2252 km in length.
●    The line is also the longest east-west high-speed railway in China.
●    It passes through five provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou and Yunnan.
●    It cuts travel time from Shanghai to Kunming from 34 hours to 11 hours.
 

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Beipanjiang Bridge, 'world's highest bridge' standing 1850ft above a gorge opens

Beipanjiang Bridge, the world’s highest bridge that connects the province of Guizhou and Yunnan in the remote mountainous part of China was opened to traffic on 29 December 2016. 
●    The bridge spans 1850 feet (564 meters) above a gorge over the Beipan River.
●    Build at an expense of about USD 146.7 million dollars Beipanjiang Bridge will help in reducing the road travel time between Xuianwei to Liupanshui from five hours to two.
●    As per reports, the bridge surpassed the 1837-foot-tall Sidu River Bridge for its world record title.
●    The bridge that hangs above the Beipan River was developed in three years.
●    The 1341-meter long bridge is a four-lane roadway.
●    The bridge is named after Beipan River over which it was developed.
●    The bridge is a part of 2115 mile Hangrui Highway that will connect Hangzhou to the China-Myanmar border crossing in Ruili.


 

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UAE forms Council for Climate Change and Environment

A new council has been formed to reinforce the United Arab Emirates policies and strategies on climate change, and environmental and sustainable development.
●    The UAE Council for Climate Change and Environment was constituted on Sunday by Minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi.
●    The council will develop plans towards achieving environmental objectives and also represent the UAE in regional and international negotiations related to the scope of work of the ministry.
●    The council will also create partnerships with the private sector and conduct studies and lead scientific research in fields related to the ministry’s work.
●    Commenting on the importance of the decision, Al Zeyoudi, who also chairs the council, said: “The ministry will seek to find innovative solutions for pressing environmental issues that we face without compromising economic development, and yet protect our culture and heritage.”
 

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Russian military plane crashes in Black Sea, 'killing 92'

The plane disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from Sochi at 05:25 (02:25 GMT), heading for Latakia in Syria.
●    Debris and 11 bodies have been found, with no reports of survivors.
●    The Tu-154 was carrying soldiers, reporters and 64 members of the famed Alexandrov military music ensemble who were to perform for Russian troops.
●    More than 100 divers are involved in a round-the-clock search operation at the site of the crash, Russia's defence ministry says.
●    Russia's transport minister says investigators are looking into an "entire spectrum'' of possible reasons the crash occurred, including the possibility of a terror attack.
●    Earlier, a Russian official had downplayed any suggestion of a terror attack.
●    President Vladimir Putin has said Monday will be a day of national mourning.
●    The flight had originated in Moscow and landed at Adler airport in Sochi for refuelling.
 

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