9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 19, 2019

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Out of a drawer comes a vicious ancient beast

  1. A new species of giant meat-eating mammal has been identified from fossil fragments found in a drawer of Nairobi National Museum, Kenya. The gigantic carnivore has been dubbed as Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, meaning “big African Lion” in Swahili. The findings of the research has been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
  2. According to scientists, the creature is one of the biggest ever meat-eating mammals. The creature has been categorized as part of an extinct group of mammals called
  3. The animal lived around 22 million years ago in the eastern African ecosystems. According to scientist, the creature would have weighed up to 1,500 kg and could have preyed upon the elephant-like creatures that lived there at the time. Scientists further added that Simbakubwa is not closely related to big cats or any other mammalian carnivore alive today.
  4. The identification of the creature highlights the significance of museum collections for understanding evolutionary history.

HIV used to fix ‘bubble boy’ disease

  1. US scientists have used HIV to make a gene therapy that cured eight infants of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), or “bubble boy” disease. Results of the research have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  2. The gene therapy involved collecting the babies’ bone marrow and correcting the genetic defect in their DNA soon after their birth. The “correct” gene which was inserted into was an altered version of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
  3. SCID is caused by a genetic flaw that keeps the bone marrow from making effective versions of blood cells that comprise the immune system. It affects 1 in 2, 00,000 new-borns, mostly males. A bone marrow transplant from a genetically matched sibling can cure SCID, but most people lack a suitable donor and the process is also risky.
  4. The nickname “bubble boy disease”comes from a famous case in the 1970s where a Texas boy with SCID lived for 12 years in a protective plastic bubble to isolate him from germs.

Right to travel abroad is a basic human right: SC

  1. In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court has held that the right to travel abroad is a genuine and basic human right like marriage and family.
  2. The judgement comes in the backdrop an appeal filed by an IPS officer who was refused permission to take a private trip abroad to visit relatives. The officer has a departmental enquiry pending against him.
  3. The Supreme Court has observed that the officer has a fundamental right to travel and that right cannot be infringed on the ground that vigilance clearance has not been given. The court has observed that the right to travel abroad is an important basic human right because it nourishes independent and self-determining creative character of the individual.

‘Naidu violated code by holding review meetings’

  1. A complained has been made to Chief Electoral Officer of Andhra Pradesh stating that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has violated the Model Code of Conductby holding official review meetings. Chief Minister had conducted a meeting to review the progress on the Polavaram project.
  2. Provision 19.5 of the Model Code of Conduct for Elections prohibits officials from attending any meeting called by the ministers (including Chief Minister) or political functionaries.
  3. Model code of Conduct (MCC) are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections. The MCC comes into force immediately on the announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.

In a first, voting takes place at Institute of Mental Health

  1. For the first time ever in India, voting has taken place at an institution for mentally ill. The voting took place in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in Ayanavaram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Before the voting, a massive exercise was conducted in which patients were screened to ascertain their decision-making capacity.
  2. Article 326 of the Indian Constitutionwhich deals with adult suffrage, states that a person is disqualified for registration in an electoral roll if s/he is of unsound mind and stand so declared by a competent court
  3. Section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950deals with ‘Disqualification for Registration in electoral roll’. Under Section 16 (b) a person may be disqualified as a voter if the person, ‘is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court’.
  4. The main argument behind disallowing persons with “unsound mind” from voting is the need to maintain the integrity of the electoral process which requires a certain level of informed choice by individuals. It is presumed that persons with “unsound mind” lack the capacity to make informed choice and, hence, should not be allowed to participate in the electoral process.
  5. However, the term ‘unsound mind’ has not been defined anywhere in any Indian law or in the constitution. Further, it is important to note that mental illness does not necessarily mean unsound mind. The first ever voting in a mental illness institute in India is a proactive step towards ending stigma and discrimination against people suffering from mental health issues.

Genome sequencing to map population diversity

  1. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has planned to roll out a major mission to sequence the genes of a 1,000 rural youth across India. The project aims at educating a generation of students on the significance of genomics.
  2. The project is an adjunct to an Indian government-led programme which is still in the works. In 2018, at the 1st Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (STIAC) meeting, it was decided that India would a major mission to sequence the genes of a large group of Indians. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Department of Biotechnology would be closely associated with the project.
  3. In this context it is worth mentioning that the Genome Asia 100K Initiative based in Singapore plans to sequence 100,000 Asian genomes, including some from South Asia. A group of Indian scientists and companies are involved with the project.
  4. Genome sequencingmeans determining the order of the four chemical building blocks – called “bases” – that make up the DNA molecule. Genome sequencing helps to understand how genes work together to direct the growth, development and maintenance of an organism. It helps to determine unique genetic traits, susceptibility and resilience to diseases.

Cross-LoC trade suspended after ‘misuse by arms, drugs smugglers’

  1. The Ministry of Home Affairs, GoI has decided to suspend all cross-LoC trade with Pakistan. This is because the routes were allegedly being used as a conduit by elements in Pakistan to push weapons, narcotics and counterfeit currency into India.
  2. The decision has been taken based on a probe by National Investigation Agency (NIA). The probe had suggested that the routes are being misused by banned terrorist organizations.
  3. Further, after the withdrawal of Most Favoured Nation status from Pakistan the duties had increased. There have been concerns that LoC trade was likely to be misused to a much larger extent to evade high duties.
  4. The Line of Control (LoC) is 740km long India-Pakistan border which runs from parts of Jammu to parts of Leh. Cross-LoC trade was started in 2008 by setting up two Trade Facilitation Centres located at Uri’s Salamabad in Baramulla, and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch. The trade took place four days a week. It was based on barter system and zero duty basis.
  5. The India-Pakistan border is divided into three parts: a) International Border (IB), which stretches for approximately 2,400 km from Gujarat to the north banks of Chenab in Akhnoor in Jammu, b) the Line of Control (LoC), and, c) Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), divides the current position of Indian and Pakistani troops in the Siachen region.

After J&J case, govt. treads carefully

  1. The Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) has recommended amendment to Rule 26 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules,1945, which deals with conditions under import licences.
  2. The proposed amendment makes it mandatory for import license holders to maintain control samples of imported drugs. In case of drugs bearing an expiry date on the label, the reference samples shall be maintained for a period of three months beyond the date of expiry or potency.
  3. Further, In the case of drugs where no date of expiry or potency is specified on the label, the reference samples shall be maintained for a period of three years from the date of manufacture.
  4. This move comes after the Government had found Johnson & Johnson guilty of supplying faulty hip implants in India and had ordered the company to pay over ₹74 lakh to a Mumbai-based patient as compensation.
  5. DTAB is highest statutory decision-making body on technical matters related to drugs in the country. It was constituted as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940. It is part of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

HAL resumes tests of jet trainer

  1. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has carried out a successful flight test of a modified version of the intermediate jet trainer (IJT). It will be the revival of the indigenous aircraft programme abandoned three years ago due to technical problems.
  2. The IJT which is also known as Hindustan Jet Trainer 36(HJT-36) Sitara is a subsonic intermediate jet trainer aircraft developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. The HJT-36 will replace the HAL HJT-16 Kiran as the Stage-2 trainer for the two forces.
  3. However, the flight testing of the IJT HJT 36, meant to train IAF pilots in the second stage of their training programme, was put on hold after the aircraft encountered problems in spin test flights in the year 2016.
  4. HAL had taken the help of UK based BAE Systems in 2014 for helping in re-designing the aircraft tail which could meet stall specifications of the IAF.
  5. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is an Indian state-owned aerospace and defence company headquartered in Bangalore, India. It is governed under the management of the Indian Ministry of Defence.

Zinc deficiency rising in Indians

  1. A recent research has found out that rising carbon dioxide levels can accelerate zinc deficiency in crops which can lead to deficiency in human consumption.
  2. The study states that inadequate zinc intake has been rising in India for decades which has led to millions of people becoming newly deficient in Zinc.
  3. The highest rate of inadequate zinc intake was concentrated mainly in the southern and north-eastern States with rice-dominated diets like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya.
  4. Zinc is found in a range of foodstuffs including liver, eggs, nuts, cereals and seafood. The absence of zinc is associated with a number of conditions including, short stature, anemia, impaired healing of wounds, poor gonadal function and impaired cognitive and motor function.
  5. The most important effect of zinc deficiency is its impact on young children, who are more susceptible to contracting malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia when suffering from zinc deficiency. The presence of zinc plays a critical role in human immune systems.

World Heritage Day 2019: All you need to know about the history, significance and this year’s theme

  1. Recently, World Heritage Day has been celebrated on April 18th, 2019. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1982 had decided to celebrate April 18 as the International Day for Monuments and Sites or World Heritage Day.
  2. The objective of World Heritage Day is to raise awareness about monuments and other sites which form a part of our history and culture.
  3. The theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘Rural Landscapes’, which is related to the theme of the 2019 ICOMOS Scientific Symposium on Rural heritage that will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco in October.
  4. ICOMOS defines rural landscape as terrestrial and aquatic areas co-produced by human-nature interaction used for the production of food and other renewable natural resources.
  5. Rural landscape has been a site of both tangible and intangible heritage and has also helped in maintaining a balance between the environment and human activities.
  6. ICOMOS is a professional association that works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world. It was founded in 1965 in Warsaw as a result of the Venice Charter of 1964 and offers advice to UNESCO on World Heritage Sites. It is headquartered in Paris, France.
  7. Further, ICOMOS is also a partner and founding member of the Blue Shield, which works to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by wars and natural disasters.
  8. A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance and is legally protected by international treaties.

Officials allow some persons to cast ‘tendered’ votes in T.N.

  1. The presiding officer has allowed a first-time voter in Tamil Nadu to cast a tendered vote when she was told someone had voted against her name.
  2. The power given to a voter to bypass identity theft and exercise your right to vote is called the tendered Vote.
  3. According to the Conduct of Elections Rules,1961, a voter is allowed to cast a ‘tendered vote’ when someone else representing to be a particular voter has already cast that vote.
  4. The presiding officer may allow the actual voter to vote, if the person is able to prove his or her identity. They would be provided a ballot paper to mark symbol and it would be placed in a cover specially kept for that purpose.
  5. Further, tendered votes are considered only in cases where the victory margin is narrow and are not usually counted in case of victory by huge margins.

Plea in SC on voting rights of undertrials and convicts

  1. A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the law which bars undertrials and convicts from voting.
  2. Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act,1951 says that no person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in lawful custody of the police. This provision exempts a person held under preventive detention and a person out on bail.
  3. The petitioner points out that the section uses ‘confined’ as the yardstick which has created several anomalies. The petition highlights how this section sees both an undertrial and a convicted person equally.
  4. The undertrial guilt is yet to be proved in a court. A person is innocent until proven guilty by law. Despite this, it denies an undertrial the right to vote but allows a detainee the same. However, a person out on bail is allowed to cast his vote.
  5. The petitioner has argued that the provision violates (a)Article 326 of the Constitution which says that the right to vote is a Constitutional right (b)Right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution as it was discriminatory.

IT dept. proposes new norms for taxing MNCs

  1. The Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT) appointed committee has proposed a change in the methodology for taxing multinational companies(MNCs), including digital firms having permanent establishment in India.
  2. Earlier, CBDT had set up a committee to bring greater clarity and predictability for taxing MNCs having permanent establishment in India.
  3. The MNC having a fixed place of business in India is considered as having a Permanent Establishment(PE) in India and is taxed as per domestic laws.
  4. The committee has said that the sales, employees (manpower and wages) and assets in India of multinational companies(MNCs) should be taken into account for determining domestic tax liability. In case of digital companies, the weightage will also be given to an additional fourth criteria also which is of ‘user’ base.
  5. The Committee has also proposed that MNCs that are incurring global losses or a global profit margin of less than 2% and have operations in India will be deemed to have made a profit of 2% of Indian revenue or turnover and should be taxed accordingly.

Nepal launches its first satellite from the USA

  1. Nepal has successfully launched its first satellite, Nepali Sat-1 into space from the US.
  2. NepaliSat-1 is a low orbit satellite which will be in the 400-km distance from the Earth’s surface. It will be stationed at the International Space Station for a month and then it will be sent to orbit the earth.
  3. The satellite will take photographs on a regular basis to gather geographical information of the country.
  4. NAST (Nepal Academy of Science and Technology) initiated the launch of the country’s own satellite under the BIRDS project of the Japanese Kyushu Institute of Technology.
  5. The BIRDS project has been designed in association with the United Nations and aims at helping countries launch their first satellite.

Saudi Arabia to host G20 summit in 2020

  1. Saudi Arabia will host the Group of 20(G20) summit in 2020 in Riyadh. This will be the first time the G20 is being held in the Arab region. Further, Japan will host the 2019 G20 summit in Osaka.
  2. The 2020 G20 summit’s agenda will include financial, economic and social issues such as energy, environment, climate, digital economy, trade, agriculture, healthcare, education and labour.
  3. G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies formed in 1999.The group accounts for 85% of world GDP and two-thirds of the population. They have no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.
  4. The members of the G20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU). The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
  5. The objectives of the G20 are:(a) Policy coordination between its members in order to achieve global economic stability, sustainable growth (b) To promote financial regulations that reduce risks and prevent future financial crises and (c)To create a new international financial architecture.
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