9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 23, 2019


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New synthetic peptide may help treat Alzheimer’s

  1. Researchers at the University of Washington, USA have developed synthetic peptides that could target and reduce toxic protein aggregates, which are supposed to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease. It is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour.
  3. It is caused by the aggregation of the toxic protein. Neurons in the human brain make a protein called amyloid beta. Such proteins on their own, called monomers of amyloid beta, perform important tasks for neurons.
  4. However, in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid beta monomers abandoned their jobs and get joined together. First, they form oligomers which are small clusters of up to a dozen proteins. After that longer strands are formed and finally large deposits called plaques are formed.
  5. Previously scientists had believed that plaques led to the cognitive impairments, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. However, new studies have shown that the smaller aggregates of amyloid beta are the toxic elements of this disease.
  6. The latest University of Washington research has reported that the synthetic peptides, which are designed to fold into a structure known as an alpha sheet, can block amyloid beta aggregation at the early and most toxic stage when oligomers form. Thus, the new research is a significant breakthrough and may help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

CJI violated procedure by hearing own case, say Supreme Court lawyers

  1. The Supreme Court Bar Association(SCBA) has called for a committee to be setup consists of Supreme Court judges to investigate and inquire into allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India by a former staffer at his office.
  2. They have also criticised the way the Chief Justice of India conducted judicial proceedings in the matter in violation of procedure established by law as well as principles of natural justice. They have said that according to the Supreme Court’s procedures, an in-house committee should have been set up to inquire into the incident.
  3. Earlier, Chief Justice of India had convened an urgent suo motu (of its own accord) hearing into the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him by a former staffer. He had set up a three member bench headed by himself that comprised two other judges.
  4. During the hearing, CJI rejected the charges levelled against him. However, at the end of the hearing, the CJI withdrew himself from the matter and a judicial order was passed by the other two judges.

IMA threatens agitation over bridge course proposal

  1. Niti Aayog has proposed a Bridge Course between BDS and MBBS in an attempt to address the acute shortfall of doctors in the country. The successful completion of the course would allow dentists to practice primary health care.
  2. The NITI Aayog proposal is based on the fact that the dental courses in the country follow the same training and curriculum as the MBBS courses for the first three years. This proposal looks to empower dentists in the country to cater to primary health care.
  3. However, Indian Medical Association(IMA) has opposed the NITI Aayog proposal. It has said that there is no global precedent of utilizing dentists for general medicine as both are two separate streams having different skill sets.
  4. IMA has also said that MBBS graduates are not being absorbed into postgraduate courses and there was also no creation of new posts and new primary health care centres. Further, Government has also failed to provide employment to young medical graduates.
  5. According to Union health ministry, there is less than one doctor for every 1000 population in India. Therefore, it does not meet the World Health organisation(WHO) standards. As per WHO, the doctor population ratio should be 1:1000.
  6. Further, more than 65% of health professionals are available in urban part of India for 31% of population whereas in rural areas 33% of health professionals are available for 70% of the population.
  7. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is a national voluntary organisation of Doctors of Modern Scientific System of Medicine in India. It looks after the interest of doctors as well as the well being of the community at large. It was established in 1928 as the All India Medical Association renamed as Indian Medical Association in 1930.It is a society registered under The Societies Act of India.

U.S. ends waiver for India on Iran oil

  1. United States has announced that all buyers of Iranian oil will have to end their imports by May 2,2019 or face sanctions. The US has announced this to put maximum economic pressure on Iran and through sanctions it eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports and thereby choke its main source of revenue.
  2. Earlier ,the US had granted exemptions to (a)China (b)India (c)Italy (d)Greece (e)Japan (f)South Korea (g)Taiwan and (h)Turkey from sanctions on Iran. The exemptions were meant to last six months.
  3. These countries were granted sanctions to give them time to find alternate energy sources but also to prevent a shock to global oil markets from the sudden removal of Iranian crude.
  4. The US decision to end waivers may hurt India’s interests as it will have to look for alternative sources of oil. Further, the US sanctions on Venezuela are already restrictive for India. Also, if the total supplies from these two big oil exporters is kept out of the market, it will lead to increase in overall crude oil prices.
  5. India is the world’s third-largest consumer of oil with 85% of its crude oil and 34% of its natural gas requirements being fulfilled by imports. In 2016,Iran stood third among India’s biggest oil suppliers after Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

50% local sourcing likely for companies to book EV ride under FAME-II

  1. An inter-ministerial steering committee led by Niti Aayog chief executive officer has decided that only companies that meet the 50% localisation threshold will be eligible for the incentives that will be available under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME-II) scheme.
  2. FAME is part of the government’s two-pronged strategy to place India as a key driver in the global mobility revolution. The strategy is (a)boost domestic manufacturing by insisting on minimum of 50% local content in e-vehicles and (b)create massive size and scale for electric vehicles in the country to make the investments made in the sector viable.
  3. The FAME II is an expanded version of FAME I, launched in 2015 which aimed to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and Manufacturing ecosystem. The FAME scheme is part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP).It aims to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in the country.
  4. The main objectives of the scheme are a) encourage faster adoption of Electric and hybrid vehicle by way of offering upfront Incentive on purchase of Electric vehicles and b) establish necessary charging Infrastructure for electric vehicles.
  5. The FAME II scheme will put emphasis on electrification of the public transportation that includes shared transport. Demand Incentives on operational expenditure model for electric buses will be delivered through State or city Transport Corporation.

Top Navy commanders to review security preparedness in maritime domain

  1. The first edition of Naval Commanders Conference of 2019 is scheduled to be held at New Delhi from 23 to 25 April 2019.The Conference assumes greater significance in the backdrop of Pulwama associated events.
  2. The conference is the apex forum within the Service for institutionalised interaction between the Naval Commanders themselves and between Naval Commanders and senior Government Officials. It is a biannual conference which is held twice a year.
  3. The discussions at the conference will take place on (a)functional reorganisation of Indian Navy towards improving operational efficiency (b)optimal manning (c)acquisition of new capabilities (d)harnessing niche technologies like big data analytics and artificial intelligence for solutions in the domains of naval combat and (e)convergence of networks, logistics and administration.
  4. The Chief of the Naval Staff with the Commanders-in-Chief will also review major operational, material logistics, HR, training and administrative activities undertaken during the previous six months and deliberate upon the course to be steered in the ensuing six months.

Fire extinguisher that can be used in space created

  1. The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Toyohashi University of Technology has developed a new concept of fire extinguishing called Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM).
  2. VEM is based on the ‘reverse’ operation of the conventional fire extinguishing procedure. Instead of spraying out extinguishing agents at a fire, the VEM sucks the flames and burning materials into a vacuum chamber, where they can be safely extinguished.
  3. At present, fire extinguishers used in spacecraft or space stations in the US, Japan, Europe and Russia are mainly CO2-spraying gas extinguishers. However, there are many drawbacks.
  4. Firstly, these extinguisher pose significant risk because of the limited volume inside the cabin and the increase of CO2 concentration. It thus necessitates wearing an O2 mask before the device’s extinguisher process is executed, which causes a delay of action and allow the fire to grow.
  5. On the other hand, VEM is claimed to be suitable for highly enclosed environments such as space vehicles and submarines. This is because it would help prevent or suppress spreading the harmful combustion products such as fume, particulate matters, and toxic gas component across the entire enclosed cabin. Further it also speeds up response times by eliminating the need to put on oxygen masks.

Key malaria vaccine set for field trial

  1. A large-scale trial of the world’s most advanced experimental malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, to give partial protection to children has begun in Malawi, Africa. In the upcoming week, the vaccine would be rolled out in Kenya and Ghana.
  2. Mosquirix has been developed by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. It was approved for the pilot programme in 2015.
  3. The field trial aims to immunise 1, 20,000 children aged 2 years and under to assess the effectiveness of the pilot vaccine and whether the delivery process is feasible.
  4. Malaria is disease caused by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. According to WHO’s World Malaria Report 2018, more than 200 million people were affected by malaria in 2017. Africa has the highest malaria burden.

Earth Day: saving the planet may cost $100 billion per year

  1. Scientists have proposed a time-bound, science-based policy, titled “A Global Deal for Nature (GDN)”, to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth. The study has been published in the journal Science Advances.
  2. The policy’s mission is to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth—for the price tag of $100 billion a year.
  3. The first major goal of GDN is to protect biodiversity by conserving at least 30% of the Earth’s surface under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity by 2030. However, as much more of Earth’s natural ecosystems need to be preserved or restored in order to avert impacts of global warming, GDN calls to protect another 20% of the Earth as Climate Stabilization Areas (CSAs).
  4. Secondly, GDN aims to mitigate climate change by conserving the Earth’s natural carbon storehouses.
  5. Thirdly, it seeks to reduce major threats such as meeting 2050 world food demand by directing cropland expansion to degraded lands and reducing food waste; or reduce use of plastics or ecologically damaging toxins etc.
  6. Conservation scientists, environmental NGOs have urged governments to adopt the GDN as a companion commitment alongside the Paris Climate Agreement. The Paris agreement (2015), an international agreement seeks to combat climate change and accelerate the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.
  7. The GDN campaign is being driven by One Earth, an initiative of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The foundation seeks to organize support from international institutions, governments, and citizens globally to support ambitious conservation goals. One Earth has launched an online petition drive to build popular support for GDN.

National Register of Citizens is for whole country, says Amit Shah

  1. During electioneering in West Bengal, BJP’s national president has again vowed that BJP would introduce a National Register for Citizens (NRC) across India if the party is voted to power again. He further added that for West Bengal, the Citizenship (amendment) bill would be introduced first and the NRC would follow.
  2. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register which contains the name of all citizens of India residing in Assam. It was prepared in 1951.
  3. Currently, the NRC is being updated in Assam to address the issue of illegal migrants. The update is being carried out under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord, 1985.
  4. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955. The bill seeks to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for Indian citizenship. It also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.
  5. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in January 2019.  However, the bill lapsed as it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha

SC directs Madras HC to decide plea against TikTok ban on April 24

  1. The Supreme Court has asked the Madras High Court to hear and decide on April 24 a plea to lift its prohibition on Tik Tok. The SC has said that if the Madras high court fails to decide on the plea, then its ban order will be lifted.
  2. Tik Tok is an app that allows users to create and share short videos with special effects. The app was launched in 2018 and has around 120 million active users in India. The parent company of Tik Tok is China-based Byte Dance. The Indian operator and marketer of the app is Byte Dance Technology Pvt Ltd.
  3. Earlier in April, The Madras High Court directed the state authorities to prohibit downloading of Tik Tok app. It had also prohibited media from telecasting the videos made using the app. The court’s decision was based on the grounds that that the app was inappropriate for children and exposed them to several dangers.
  4. The HC had taken cognisance of the fact that countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh had banned Tik Tok. It had also asked the Centre whether an Act similar to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of the U.S. could be enacted. The US Act aims at preventing children from becoming victims of cyber and online crimes.
  5. Later, the Madras High Court did not accept the request of the Byte dance Technology Pvt Ltd to suspend the ban imposed. Byte dance had then approached the Supreme Court and had contended that HC order was passed without hearing them.
  6. The company has that the order was a violation of the right to free speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian constitution.
  7. Further, it has been argued that the app is an intermediary as per Section 2(w) of the Information Technology (IT) Act. Thus, it cannot be held liable for actions of third parties on the platform. The company stated that the HC did not pay heed to the protection afforded to intermediaries under the Section 79 of the IT Act.

EC submits detailed report in SC on biopic of PM Modi

  1. The Election Commission has submitted its detailed report to the Supreme Court on the biopic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  2. Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the EC to re-examine its earlier order and take an informed decision on stay on the release of the biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after watching the entire movie.
  3. The EC had deferred the release of the biopic till the elections are over. It had argued that displaying material that promotes a political figure would go against the core principle of the Model Code of Conduct of creating a level-playing field for elections.
  4. Post EC’s decision, the makers of the biopic had filed a plea in the SC against the stay on the release. They had argued that the stay violated their fundamental right to free speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian constitution.
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