9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 15, 2019

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Lipstick seeds’ grown by tribals in A.P. a big hit

  1. Annatto is a tree commonly called as lipstick tree. Its botanical name is Bixa orellana and it grows in tropical regions. The seeds of this plant are covered with a bright orange to red pulpy layer, from which a commercial colour material is extracted.
  2. The exclusion of many artificial colours in the western market from the list of permitted additives has further increased its value. The plant is an evergreen shrub and is indigenous to Central and tropical South America. The tree has been introduced in Andhra Pradesh by some entrepreneurs and is thriving well as a plantation crop.
  3. The seeds have a huge demand across the world as they are natural colour agents and are considered to be non-carcinogenic. The seeds also have healing properties. The Annatto seed which is used as lipstick is cultivated in the backyard of Adivasi habitations in Rampachodavaram, Chaparai and Maredumilli in Andhra Pradesh.
  4. Besides lipstick, the plant’s seed extract is used as a natural colouring agent in cheese, food preparations across the world. However, these rare seeds have no fixed price as there is no organised trade in the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh.
  5. Further, the seeds command much higher value in the international market. According to sources, about 250 tonnes of Annatto is exported from India every year and it is mainly grown and marketed in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Odisha and Karnataka.


Seychelles president’s underwater speech: Protect our oceans

  1. In a first-ever live speech from an underwater submersible, Seychelles president has made a global plea to protect the oceans.
  2. The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa. Small island nations like the Seychelles are among the most vulnerable to the rise in sea levels caused by climate change.
  3. The broadcast was part of an expedition by Nekton Mission. The mission seeks to explore deep sections of the waters surrounding the Seychelles.
  4. The data will be used to help the Seychelles expand its policy of protecting 30% of its national waters by 2020. The initiative is particularly important for Seychelles’ blue economy- the sustainable use of ocean to achieve economic growth.


Oil consuming bacteria found at sea bottom

  1. Scientists have discovered a unique oil eating bacteria in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth’s oceans. The Mariana Trench is located in the Western Pacific Ocean. It reaches a depth of approximately 11,000 metres.
  2. The expedition to Mariana Trench was organised and led by marine explorer and noted film director James Cameron. He had built a specialised submersible to collect samples in the trench. The new study has been published in the journal Microbiome.
  3. A new group of hydrocarbon degrading bacteria were identified from the samples collected from Mariana Trench. The scientists have come to the conclusion that these bacteria essentially eat compounds similar to those in oil and then use it for fuel.
  4. Previously similar kinds of bacteria have y been found and had been even used to help deal with oil spills, such as that from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. However, the latest study has revealed that the Mariana Trench is home to the greatest concentration of these bacteria anywhere in the world.


World’s largest plane makes first test flight

  1. The world’s largest airplane called Roc, has made its first test flight over the Mojave Desert, California, USA. The plane has the world’s largest wingspan but does not have longest nose-to-tail length.
  2. The plane has been developed by aerospace venture Stratolaunch which was set up by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011.
  3. The plane has a dual fuselage design. Its wingspan is greater than the length of an American football field.
  4. The plane is designed to act as a flying launch pad for satellites and put payloads in orbit. It is supposed to provide a more flexible way to deploy satellites than vertical take-off rockets.


121 killed in Libya clashes: WHO

  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that ongoing clashes between rival militias for control of Tripoli, Libya’s capital, have killed at least 121 people.
  2. On April 5th, Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched a major military offensive in Tripoli as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was in the city to discuss the ongoing Libyan crisis. Tripoli is the base of the UN-backed, internationally recognised government Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.
  3. After the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, there has been a power vacuum and instability, with no authority in full control of Libya. Since then the country has been divided into competing political and military factions based in Tripoli and the east Libya.
  4. There has been widespread concerns about the ongoing conflict in Libya as a) it threatens to disrupt oil supplies, b) increase migration to Europe and c) reduce the chances of a possible election to end rivalries between parallel administrations in east and Tripoli.


‘India short of 6 lakh doctors, 2 million nurses: U.S. study

  1. A report by the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), USA, has highlighted various factors contributing to antibiotic-treatable deaths. The study was based on stakeholder interviews in Uganda, India, and Germany, and literature reviews to identify key access barriers to antibiotics in low-, middle-, and high-income countries.
  2. The study has highlighted that the mortality burden from treatable bacterial infections in low and middle income countries remains higher than deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections.
  3. The findings of the study show that there are factors in low& middle income countries that delay or prevent market entry of newly discovered antibiotics. These include a) regulatory hurdles and b) substandard health facilities. For example, out of 21 new antibiotics entering markets between 1999 and 2014, less than 5 were registered in most countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  4. In case of India, the study has noted that the country has a shortage of an estimated 6 lakh doctors and 2 million nurses. The lack of health practioners and staff who are properly trained in administering antibiotics is preventing patients from accessing these medicines in India.
  5. The study has further added that even when antibiotics are available, patients are often unable to afford them. The report notes that government spending in health sector in India remains low and 65% of health expenditure is out-of-pocket which drives millions to poverty each year.


Opposition parties to approach SC again to demand verification of 50% votes by VVPATs

  1. Recently, the opposition parties had held a meeting to discuss the issue of EVM malfunctioning that cropped up during the 1stphase of Lok Sabha elections. They have further decided to approach the Supreme Court again to demand that at least 50% of paper trails be verified with EVMs.
  2. Recently, the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency or Assembly consistency, from one at present.
  3. The court had observed that the move would ensure greater degree of accuracy and increase satisfaction in the election process of not just the political parties but of the entire electorate.
  4. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It helps to detect any possible election fraud or malfunction of EVMs.


In a show of intent, external affairs ministry sets up Indo-Pacific wing

  1. India has set up an Indo-Pacific division in the foreign office. The new division is intended to give a coherent architecture to the Indo Pacific policy, which was articulated by the prime minister at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018.
  2. The division will integrate the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Asean region and the Quad to the Indo-Pacific table. The US also recently renamed its Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command as it seeks to give significance to its Indo-Pacific policy.
  3. India is also planning to put greater energy to the IORA because the heart of its Indo-Pacific policy is rooted in the Indian Ocean. This will integrate the blue economy part of the Indian policy with the security part which is a trilateral security mechanism between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
  4. The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean. The Association comprises 21 member states and 9 dialogue partners. The Coordinating Secretariat of IORA is located at Ebene, Mauritius.
  5. The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) is an intergovernmental security forum held annually by an independent think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. The Shangri-La Dialogue has evolved into a key strategic gathering of the Asia-Pacific region. It is attended by defense ministers, permanent heads of ministries and military chiefs of Asia-Pacific states.


C-295 plane deal in final stages

  1. India’s Ministry of Defence(MoD) has concluded negotiations to acquire 62 Airbus C295 medium transport aircraft(MTA). However, the deal needs clearance from the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) as there is a change from earlier parameters.
  2. India is looking to buy 62 Airbus Defence and Space C295 medium transport aircraft (MTA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) from the Tata Advanced Systems Limited(TASL).
  3. The firm is a joint venture (JV) between the Tata Group and the European aerospace giant Airbus. They will deliver 56 C295s for the IAF to replace the ageing fleet of Avro 748M transports and six for the ICG.
  4. The Airbus C295 is a new generation tactical airlifter in the light and medium segment. It conducts multi-role operations under all weather conditions and can operate day and night in combat missions.
  5. Defence Acquisition Council(DAC) was constituted in 2001 to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces in prescribed time frame by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources. DAC is headed by Union Defence Ministry.
  6. DAC has been providing policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, including imported equipment and those produced indigenously or under a foreign licence.


FATF asks Pakistan to track all gold purchases

  1. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has asked Pakistan to implement a new set of constraints in its crackdown against terror financing. It includes documenting and regulating all gold markets.
  2. The FATF has asked Pakistan to collect data of all gold markets in the country and to restrict the sale and purchase of gold items using cash, instead payment should be made with a debit or credit card.
  3. Further, Pakistan has to submit a third report on the measures being taken by the government in compliance with the recommendations of the FATF and its regional affiliate, the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) till April 15. The compliance report would be taken up by the FATF review group in its meeting scheduled to be held in May.
  4. In June 2018, the Paris-based FATF had placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries. Pakistan was put on the grey list after its domestic laws were considered weak to tackle the challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing.
  5. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
  6. The objectives of the FATF are to (a) set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures (b) for combating money laundering (c)terrorist financing and (d) other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.


Pakistan releases another 100 Indian fishermen

  1. Pakistan has released another 100 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture amidst tensions between the two countries after the Pulwama terror attack. The fishermen released were part of the second batch of 360 Indian prisoners Pakistan had announced to set free in four phases this month.
  2. Pakistan and India frequently arrest fishermen as there is no clear demarcation of the maritime border in the Arabian Sea. Further, these
    fishermen do not have boats equipped with the technology to know their precise location.
  3. Owing to lengthy and slow bureaucratic and legal procedures, the fishermen usually remain in jail for several months and sometimes years.
  4. According to experts, Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners must be revived, as it is stalled at present as Pakistan needs to nominate four retired judges for the committee, which hasn’t met since October 2013.
  5. The Indo-Pak Joint Judicial Committee is composed of eight retired judges – four each from India and Pakistan. They are charged with investigating the situation of civilians imprisoned in the jails of the other nation and to obtain and facilitate their release, especially that of fishermen imprisoned for straying across territorial waters.


Canada removes Khalistani extremism from terror report

  1. The Canadian government has removed a reference to Sikh extremism from its “2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canadian terrorism”.
  2. Earlier, the 2018 report had identified Sikh extremism and the movement for an independent homeland of Khalistan in Punjab as one of five key terror threats facing Canada. This was the first time that the report had included Sikh extremism as the top five threats in Canada.
  3. Now the section pertaining to incidents of terror by members of the Sikh community has now been renamed as Extremists who Support Violent means to Establish an Independent State Within India.
  4. However, the move was criticised by the India government, which has accused the Canadian government of going soft on pro-Khalistan groups in Canada.
  5. The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement, which seeks to create a separate country called Khalistan in the Punjab region to serve as a homeland for Sikhs. The territorial definition of the proposed country Khalistan consists of both the Punjab, India along with Punjab, Pakistan and includes parts of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan.
  6. In December 2018, Government of India had declared the Khalistan Liberation Force(KLF) a banned organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.
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