9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 27, 2019

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Crypto currency is Ponzi scheme

  1. Investor Education and Protection Fund(IEPF) Authority has said that Crypto currency is a ponzi scheme and should be banned in India to protect the interests of investors.
  2. IEPF has also said that crypto currencies are based on blockchain technology and there are concerns about its viability in the long-term due to risk to investors, especially considering the huge variations in the prices.
  3. In 2018, Government had formed a panel under Finance Secretary to draft regulations for cryptocurrencies. Further, the government is also coming up with a mobile app to safeguard the interests of small investors who might end up losing money by investing in fraudulent schemes.
  4. Crypto currency is a digital currency. It allows transacting parties to remain anonymous while confirming that the transaction is valid one. It is not owned or controlled by any institution including both government institutions and private institutions. Various cryptocurrencies used globally are Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple.
  5. A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud where clients are promised a large profit at little to no risk. Companies that engage in a Ponzi scheme focus all of their energy into attracting new clients to make investments.
  6. Ponzi schemes rely on a constant flow of new investments to continue to provide returns to older investors. When this flow runs out, the scheme falls apart. There is no actual effective revenue generation.


Share of tech patents on the rise in IP filings

  1. According to a report by industry body Nasscom, India origin companies has filed over 4,600 patents in the US between 2015-2018.The majority of the patents were from the technology domain.
  2. A patent is a form of intellectual property. A patent gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, selling and importing an invention for a limited period of time usually twenty years. The patent rights are granted in exchange for an enabling public disclosure of the invention.
  3. The report says that Indian start-ups have filed patents mostly in the emerging technology areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, vehicle technology and Internet of Things (IoT).
  4. The report has also said that India can further strengthen its potential as an innovation hub through more investments in research and strategic collaborations.
  5. Artificial Intelligence is a way of making a computer, a computer-controlled robot or software perform human-like tasks. It refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making.
  6. The Internet of Things(IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.


IRDAI forms panel to review microinsurance framework

  1. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has set up a committee under IRDAI Executive Director Suresh Mathur to review the regulatory framework on microinsurance.
  2. Microinsurance refers to products offering coverage to low-income households or to individuals who have little savings and is tailored specifically for lower valued assets and compensation for illness, injury or death.
  3. The committee has been formed in the backdrop of a low demand of microinsurance products despite their inherent benefits. The committee will comprise of officials from the IRDAI, insurance companies and NGOs.
  4. The committee will review the regulatory framework on microinsurance in the country and abroad. It will recommend measures that should be taken to increase the demand for microinsurance products.
  5. The IRDAI is an autonomous, statutory body created by IRDA Act,1999.It was created based on the recommendations of the Malhotra Committee. It’s headquarters is in Hyderabad.
  6. The functions of IRDA includes (a)regulating the insurance industry and protects the customers (b)promotion of competition to enhance customer satisfaction and (c)lowering premiums for ensuring the financial security of the insurance sector.


Qatar exit visa system to end this year:U.N

  1. According to the UN’s International Labour Organization, Qatar will abolish its controversial exit visa system for all foreign workers by the end of 2019. Qatar has introduced a series of labor reforms since its selection to host the 2022 football World Cup.
  2. In September 2018, Qatar had approved legislation to scrap the kafala or sponsorship system. The legislation went into force for 5% of company’s workforce reportedly those in the most senior positions.
  3. The kafala system is a system used to monitor migrant laborers working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in countries such as Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  4. The Kafala system requires foreign workers to have an in-country sponsor usually their employer who is responsible for their visa and legal status. The migrant worker cannot enter the country, transfer employment nor leave the country for any reason without first obtaining explicit written permission usually from his employer.
  5. This practice has been criticised by human rights organizations for creating easy opportunities for the exploitation of workers as many employers take away passports and abuse their workers with little chance of legal repercussions.


Fire on INS Vikramaditya claims officer’s life

  1. An Indian Navy officer has died while trying to combat fire onboard INS Vikramaditya when the ship was entering the harbour in Karwar in Karnataka.
  2. The fire was brought under control by the ship’s crew in a swift action preventing any serious damage affecting the ship’s combat capability. Further, a board of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate what caused the fire.
  3. INS Vikramaditya is an aircraft carrier in the Indian Navy fleet. It was commissioned into the Indian Navy In November 2013 from Russia. Its home base in India is at INS Kadamba in Karwar, Karnataka.
  4. INS Vikramaditya was formerly known as Admiral Gorshkov and was commissioned in 1987.The aircraft carrier served with the Soviet Navy and later with the Russian Navy before being decommissioned in 1996.
  5. The aircraft carrier is a tall and is 284mts long. It has a displacement of 40,000 tons and is the biggest and heaviest in the Indian Navy fleet. It has a total of 22 decks and can accommodate 1600 persons. The warship can also carry planes such as MiG-29K, Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters.


NASA: Universe expanding faster than expected

  1. A new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters has reported that the universe is expanding faster than expected. According to scientists, this would require new physics to better understand the cosmos.
  2. New measurements from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has confirmed that the Universe is expanding about 9% faster than expected based on its trajectory seen shortly after the Big Bang. The astronomers had used Hubble to observe 70 pulsating stars called Cepheid variables in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
  3. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is world’s first space-based optical telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It still remains operational. It has been named after astronomer Edwin Hubble.
  4. It is one of NASA’s Great Observatories. NASA’s series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes. The telescopes other than Hubble include the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope


Now, PepsiCo offers to settle case against Gujarat potato farmers

  1. PepsiCo has offered to settle its lawsuit against the farmers who had grown the patented potato variety used in its Lays chips without the company’s permission.
  2. However, PepsiCo’s has offered a settlement on several terms which are (a)the farmers must give an undertaking that they will not use its registered variety and destroy their existing stocks or (b)farmers must enter PepsiCo’s collaborative farming programme where farmers buy seeds from the company and sell the produce back to the company.
  3. Recently, Ahmedabad civil court had barred farmers from growing and selling potatoes till next hearing. PepsiCo had complained to the court that the farmers were illegally growing and selling a potato variety FL-2027.
  4. FL-2027 which is also known as FC-5 is registered as an intellectual property rights(IPR) with the PepsiCo company under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act,2001.
  5. However, farmers groups have cited Section 39 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act,2001 which specifically says that a farmer is allowed to grow and sell any variety of crop or even seed as long as they don’t sell branded seed of registered varieties.
  6. The Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act,2001(PPVFR Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India that was enacted to provide for the establishment of an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders, and to encourage the development and cultivation of new varieties of plants.


Tiwa tribes and Khelchawa festival

  1. Recently, Tiwa tribesmen had taken part in a dance during the Khelchawa festival in Karbi Anglong district of Assam.
  2. Tiwa tribesmen are recognized as a Scheduled tribe within the State of Assam. They are also found in the states of Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. They speak Tibeto Burman language. Further, they are divided into two sub-groups namely Hill Tiwas and Plain Tiwas.
  3. Tiwa tribals celebrate Khelchawa festival in Assam. This festival is celebrated every five years. The festival is held at the close of the harvest season in the month of April. After the harvesting season is over Tiwa community celebrates the festival for a good harvest.
  4. The festival also celebrates the efforts of young boys becoming an adult. Pigs are also sacrificed during the festival as a mark of respect for their local deities collectively known as Lampha Raja.


Supreme Court gives RBI ‘last chance’ to alter disclosure policy

  1. The Supreme Court has directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to disclose information pertaining to its annual inspection report of banks and other material under the Right to Information (RTI) Act unless they are exempted under the law.
  2. The Supreme Court was hearing contempt petitions filed against the RBI for not complying with the 2015 judgment. The 2015 judgment had rejected the RBI’s argument that it could refuse information sought under the RTI on the grounds of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest.
  3. The apex court had said that lower-level economic and financial information like contracts and departmental budgets should not be withheld under the exemption under RTI act. However, the apex court did not go ahead with contempt proceedings against the RBI for not complying with its order but said that it was giving RBI last opportunity to comply with the order.
  4. The petitioners had sought details pertaining to the RBI’s annual inspection reports of ICICI Bank, AXIS Bank, HDFC Bank and State Bank of India. Further, Information relating to the Sahara Group of Companies and Bank of Rajasthan was also sought from the RBI.
  5. The RBI had not provided information in view of the exemption from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) and (b) of the RTI Act. RBI had said that the disclosure was not in the economic interest of the country and would adversely affect the competitive position of a third party


USTR puts India on ‘priority watch list’ on ‘Intellectual Property’ concerns

  1. The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has decided to continue to keep India on its Priority Watch List.
  2. The USTR has identified 11 countries on its Priority Watch List’ which includes India, China, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela among others. USTR has said that these countries will be subjected to increased bilateral engagement with the US to address Intellectual Property(IP) concerns.
  3. USTR in its report has also said that it had kept India under the watch list because of (a) Intellectual property(IP) challenges faced by US companies in India (b)insufficient enforcement actions (c)copyright policies that do not properly incentivise the creation and (d)an outdated and insufficient trade secrets legal framework.
  4. Under Section 301 of the US Trade Act, the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) prepares a list of countries whose Intellectual Property right regime (IPR) has a negative impact on American products.
  5. Among such countries, special attention given to two groups which are (a)Priority watch list countries in which US uses carrot policy to incentivize IPR reforms such as funding, training, capacity building, bilateral exchanges and conferences and (b)Priority foreign countries in which US sticks to the policy to force IPR reforms such as putting trade sanctions, approaching WTO dispute resolution.
  6. Intellectual Property Rights(IPR) provide certain exclusive rights to the inventors or creators of that property in order to enable them to reap commercial benefits from their creative efforts or reputation. There are several types of intellectual property protection such as patent, copyright, trademark among others.


India ranks 80 in Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019

  1. India has been ranked 80th on Global Talent Competitive Index 2019. Switzerland maintains its top position followed by Singapore and the United States.
  2. India has scored well on growing talent which is the only pillar where the country is positioned above the median. However, India’s biggest challenge is to improve its ability to Attract and Retain talent.
  3. The theme of this year report is ‘Entrepreneurial Talent and Global Competitiveness’. It attempts to identify the ways in which companies, countries, and cities can foster entrepreneurial talent which makes up a critical component of competitiveness and innovation.
  4. Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) is based on the research conducted by INSEAD. It is an annual benchmarking report that measures the ability of countries to compete for talent.
  5. The survey measures how countries and cities grow, attract and retain talent. It ranks 125 countries and 114 cities across all groups of income and levels of development. It was launched for the first time in 2013.


World’s first floating nuclear power unit set to start operations in Russia: Rosatom

  1. Russia has successfully tested the world’s first floating nuclear power plant (NPP), Akademik Lomonosov. The nuclear plant is operated by Rosatom, state-run atomic energy corporation in Russia.
  2. Akademik Lomonosov is a non-self-propelled powership. The ship was named after Academician Mikhail Lomonosov. The nuclear power plant is powered by its twin KLT-40S reactor system.
  3. Floating nuclear power plant is basically a mobile, low-capacity reactor unit operable in remote areas isolated from the main power distribution system or in places hard to access by land.
  4. They are designed to maintain both uninterruptible power and plentiful desalinated water supply in remote areas.


World’s 15 hottest cities on Friday were all in India

  1. All 15 cities listed as the world’s warmest on 26thApril by the El Dorado weather website were from central India.
  2. The highest temperature was recorded in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone, where the maximum temperature rose to 46.6 degree Celsius. The second-highest temperature was recorded in Akola, located in Maharashtra’s Vidhabra.
  3. Nine of the 15 hottest cities were located in Maharashtra, 6 of them in the Vidarbha region. This was followed by three towns in Madhya Pradesh, two from Uttar Pradesh and one from Telangana.
  4. The India Meteorological Department has issued a severe heatwave warning for the next five days in districts across Vidarbha region. A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures-more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season.
  5. Heat wave is considered if maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains, 37°C or more for coastal stations and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.


Doctors find key to eye care in the womb

  1. Globally, doctors have started using the placenta for treatment purposes. Among the different treatment purposes, the amniotic membrane of the placenta is used to treat eye diseases such as corneal defects, chemical burns etc. It has also been used for vaginal reconstruction surgery and treatment of non-healing tropical ulcers.
  2. When a child is in the womb, it is attached to the mother through the placenta which delivers oxygen and nutrients to it. It also keeps the mother’s blood separate from the baby’s to protect it against infections. Until recently, placenta was considered useless post-delivery.
  3. Amniotic membrane is the innermost layer of the placenta. It protects the baby from any harm and has natural therapeutic actions which help the baby develop.
  4. The membrane is obtained post-birth from mothers who are willing to donate. Some companies also sell it. It can be stored for a long period of time at -80 degree Celsius. It has healing properties that aid in ocular surface repair


Britain to fund anti-slavery projects

  1. Britain has pledged £4 million to support global anti-slavery projects. Six organizations such as Anti-Slavery International, the United Nations University, and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) will share the aid money from the Modern Slavery Innovation Fund.
  2. The Modern Slavery Innovation Fund was announced in 2016. It seeks to support innovative projects tackling modern slavery across the world. Britain has also passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and spearheaded global efforts to end slavery.
  3. The Act seeks to crack down on traffickers, force businesses to check their supply chains for forced labour, and protect people at risk of being enslaved.
  4. Anti-Slavery International is a charity organisation working to free people from all forms of slavery across the world. United Nations University is a research institution.
  5. The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a coalition of trade unions, firms and charities. It seeks to promote workers’ rights.
  6. The Global Slavery Index 2018 had noted that globally 40.3 million people were in some form of modern slavery on any given day in 2016. North Korea topped the Index with 104.6 per 1,000 prevalence rate and Japan ranked lowest registering a prevalence rate of 03. Per 1,000.
  7. The Global Slavery Index is a global study of modern slavery conditions by country published by the Walk Free Foundation.


One million species risk extinction due to humans: draft U.N. report

  1. According to the leaked Summary for Policy Makers from a draft of forthcoming UN Report, up to 1 million species are at risk of extinction due to human activity. The report is set to be released on May 6th.
  2. The report is being prepared by United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). IPBES is the intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision makers.
  3. The summary has noted that three quarters of land surfaces, 40% of marine environment and 50% of inland waterways across the globe have been severely altered.
  4. It has further stated that many of areas where Nature’s contribution to human well being will most severely compromised are home to indigenous people and world’s poorest communities.
  5. Human activity, such as overconsumption, illegal poaching, deforestation and fossil fuel emissions are major contributing factors for biodiversity loss.
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