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Macron, Ardern host Paris summit against online extremism
- French President and New Zealand’s Prime Minister has launched a new initiative called “Christchurch Call”. This initiative is aimed at curbing extremism online. India has also signed this initiative.
- This initiative comes in the backdrop of attack on mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand where gunman had killed people while live-streaming the massacre on Facebook.
- The initiative asks signatory nations and tech companies to adopt measures to ban objectionable material online and create a framework for media to report on atrocities without amplifying them.
- This initiative consists of a non-binding set of agreements. It is believed to be the first document of its type signed by both private companies and major governments.
- However, the initiative does not contain any definition of violent extremist content and enforcement or regulatory measures. It would be up to each individual country and company to decide how it would honour its voluntary commitments.
- The initiative has also asked tech companies to enforce their terms of service as well as re-evaluate their algorithms that direct users to extremist content and commit to redirecting people looking for extremist material.
RBI envisions fourfold growth in digital transactions by 2021
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released its document on ‘Payment and Settlement Systems in India: Vision 2019–2021’.
- The document with its core theme of ‘Empowering Exceptional E-payment Experience’ envisages to achieve a highly digital and cash-lite society through the goal posts of competition, cost effectiveness, convenience and confidence(4Cs).
- This document expects the number of digital transactions to increase more than four times from 20.69 billion in December 2018 to 87.07 billion in December 2021.
- Further, the RBI also expects accelerated growth in individual retail electronic payment systems both in terms of number of transactions and increased availability.
- The document also talks about creating customer awareness, setting up a 24X7 helpline and self-regulatory organisation for system operators and service providers. The ‘no-compromise’ approach towards safety and security of payment systems remains a hallmark of the vision.
- The approach of the RBI will continue to be of minimal intervention in the pricing of charges to customers for digital payments. Interestingly, no specific target has been considered for reducing cash in circulation.
Project ‘SPARROW-CBIC’ for online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) in SPARROW
- Government of India has launched Project Sparrow for online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Reports (APARs) for over 46,000 Group B & C officers of Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs(CBIC).
- SPARROW stands for Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window (SPARROW).It is a project for online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) for Officers of CBIC.
- The Directorate General of Human Resource Management (DGHRM), the HR arm of CBIC is the implementing agency for this project.
- SPARROW-CBIC brings a complete change in APAR management of such a large number of Group B & C officers of CBIC which would in turn lead to better HR Management.It is an important milestone in the journey towards digitisation and paperless working.
- Earlier, online writing of APARs in SPARROW for IRS(C&CE) Officers had already been implemented. Now, online writing of APARs in SPARROW has been launched for Group B & C officers of CBIC.
- In Performance Appraisal, assessment of performance of employees is undertaken periodically for determining their output and their abilities. Performance appraisal is carried out to serve many purposes such as promotion , compensation, training and so on.
Centre seeks to replace EIA rules, activists rise in protest
- Central Government has released a draft rules which seeks to make changes in environment approvals. The draft rules significantly dilutes the process through which projects are granted environmental clearances.
- The existing Environment impact assessment(EIA) rules,2006 governs green clearance for all varieties of tasks such as mining, infrastructure, thermal, hydro, irrigation and industries – across the country.
- The draft rules gives local bodies such as municipalities, urban development authorities and district panchayats the authority to grant building permission for building or construction projects with a built-up area of more than 20,000 sq metres and less than 50,000 sq metres.
- The draft also offers for clearance to diverse tasks such as twin carriageway tasks in border areas, growth of existing highways and growth of existing industrial tasks without an additional acquisition of land without environment appraisal.
- The draft rules also says that expansion of projects up to 50% of the existing capacity in various sectors will be exempted from any kind of public consultation. This covers modernization of irrigation projects, roads and highways where no further acquisition of land is involved.
- However, environmental activists have protested against the draft. They said the draft should have addressed issues such as (a)miserable quality of EIA reports (b)compromised public hearings (c)rapid appraisal processes and (d)unhappy compliance monitoring.
- EIA is a process which studies all aspects of the environment and seeks to anticipate the impact (positive and/or negative) of a proposed project or development on the environment. EIA is mandatory under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.
NASA’s Artemis to put first woman on Moon
- NASA has planned to send first woman to moon in 2024 in its ambitious plan named Artemis.
- NASA’s new manned mission to the moon will be named as Artemis. The Artemis program began when US President had signed Space Policy Directive in 2017 directing NASA to send astronauts to the moon.
- ARTEMIS stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun.
- Artemis is named after the Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister of the god Apollo.The Apollo program famously put the first men on the lunar surface in the 1960 and 70s.
- The Artemis mission is designed to not only return to the Moon. It also includes establishing of lunar outpost, investigating the Moon’s resources and how they might be exploited and using it a base to explore Mars and further into deep space.
- However, NASA is nowhere near completion in developing crew capsules and rockets for this mission. Additionally, they also need to complete the vast amounts of scientific hardware that need to be transported to the lunar surface.
Arunachal has 35 pc of India’s graphite deposits, says GSI
- The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has said that 35 % of India’s Graphite deposits is found in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The GSI presented the data during its annual interactive meeting with the Department of Geology and Mining and Government of Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar.
- The only non-metal element that is a good conductor of electricity, graphite is known as a dry lubricant for its greasy feel. Graphite has many industrial uses particularly for products that need very high heat.
- India is currently importing Graphite from other countries. Thus, the GSI has said that survey and drilling activities should be moved towards the India-China international Border.
- Development of road towards the international border will be a boon for exploration of the mineral. China has also been undertaking huge mining activities across the border in Tibet.
- GSI was set up in 1851 primarily to find coal deposits for the Railways. It is headquartered at Kolkata. It is an attached office to the Ministry of Mines.
- The main functions of GSI relate to creation and updation of national geoscientific information and mineral resource assessment.
- These objectives are achieved through ground, air-borne and marine surveys, mineral prospecting and investigations, multi-disciplinary geoscientific, geo-technical, geo-environmental and natural hazards studies, and carrying out fundamental research.
National Training Workshop of Master Trainers for 7th Economic Census
- During the run up to the upcoming 7th Edition of Economic Census, a National Training Workshop of the enumerators was organized by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) in New Delhi.
- MoSPI has partnered with Common Service Centres, CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) as the implementing agency for 7th Economic Census.
- Economic Census is a complete count of all entrepreneurial units located within the geographical boundaries of India
- It involves economic activities of either agricultural (excluding crop production and plantation) or non-agricultural sector of the Economy engaged in production or distribution of goods or services not for the sole purpose of own consumption.
- The economic census provides detailed information on operational and other characteristics such as number of establishments, number of persons employed, source of finance, type of ownership among others.
- This information is used for micro level/ decentralized planning and to assess the contribution of various sectors of the economy in the gross domestic product (GDP).
ICGS Vigraha sails into sunset
- Indian Coast Guard Ship Vigraha which has been the frontline offshore patrol vessel of the Indian Coast Guard has been decommissioned from service on May 15,2019.
- ICGS Vigraha was the seventh offshore patrol vessel built by Mazagon Dock Limited which was commissioned in 1990.The ship was later based at Visakhapatnam and has been instrumental in protecting the east coast in general and Andhra Pradesh coast in particular.
- During the 29 years of service, the ship had participated in major Coast Guard operations involving search and rescue, anti-poaching, pollution response, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, repatriation and joint exercises with other services.
- The Indian Coast Guard was established in 1978 by the Coast Guard Act,1978 of as an independent armed force of India. The organization is headed by the Director General Indian Coast Guard (DGICG).
- The Indian Coast Guard is a multi-mission organization entrusted with superintendence and policing of India’s maritime areas including the Exclusive Economic Zone
Agencies take shape for special operations,space,cyber war
- India has set up the tri-service divisions. It will consist of special operations, cyber and space. These were set up with an aim to add strategic heft to India’s operational ability in conventional war and anti-terror operations,
- The proposal for setting up the tri service division was mooted by the Naresh Chandra committee in 2012.
- The divisions will work under the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) responsible for synergising the functioning of the three forces and headed by a Lt General-rank officer.
- The divisions will have the capability to carry out crippling attacks against critical enemy targets miles away. It will have about 3,000 commandos drawn from the Special Forces of the Army, Marine Commando unit (MARCOS) of the Navy and Garud of the Air Force.
- At present, all the three services have their special forces but work separately. With a combined force, the best of commandos can be trained together where they can share their expertise
Xi Jinping rejects ‘clash of civilisations’ theory
- Addressing the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, Chinese President has rejected the clash of civilisations theory.
- This statement came after US officials had described the rivalry between China and the US as a fight with a different civilisation and a different ideology.
- The Clash of Civilizations is a hypothesis that people’s cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. It was proposed by American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington who argued that future wars would be fought not between countries but between cultures.
- Further, Chinese President also reiterated the idea of a community of shared destiny arguing that Asian countries should open and connect their policies, infrastructure, trade, investment and people.
- Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations(CDAC) was held on 15 May 2019 in Beijing, China. The dialogue was organized to promote intercultural dialogue in view of building an Asian Community of Shared Future which focussed on cultural diversity, exchanges and mutual learning of Asian civilization.
Exports growth slides to four-month low in April
- According to data released by the commerce and Industry ministry, India’s trade deficit has widened to a five month high in April 2019 due to higher crude oil imports.
- India’s export growth has also slowed down to a four month low in April,2019 at 0.64% due to slowdown in labour-intensive sectors such as leather products, gems and jewellery, and engineering goods.
- Experts have said that global trade scenario could worsen further on the back of rising trade tensions between the US and China putting more pressure on Indian exports in the months to come.
- Further, the International monetary fund(IMF) had also cut its global growth forecast for 2019 to 3.3%,the lowest since the 2008 financial crisis. It blamed the (a)trade tensions between the US and China (b)loss of momentum in Europe and (c)uncertainty surrounding Brexit for slowdown.
- Earlier, the World Trade Organization (WTO) had also projected trade growth to slow down from 3.9% in 2018 to 3.7% in 2019.It had said that these estimates could be revised downward if trade conditions continue to deteriorate.
- A trade deficit is an economic measure of international trade in which a country’s imports exceed its exports. A trade deficit represents an outflow of domestic currency to foreign markets.
National Institute of Nutrition stands by its report on no onion, garlic in its meals
- The National Institute of Nutrition(NIN) has said that it stands by its report of nutritional adequacy of the midday meals supplied by Akshaya Patra Foundation(APF) to the government schools in Karnataka.
- Recently, section of civil society has written a letter to the NIN to withdraw its report endorsing the APF refusal to follow a directive given by the Karnataka government to include onions and garlic in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme.
- NIN in its response has said that while bio-availability of nutrients definitely increases with the addition of vegetables every vegetable cannot be looked into isolation. Bioavailability is the proportion of a nutrient the human body is able to absorb and use.
- The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) is an Indian Public health, Nutrition and Translational research center located in Hyderabad. The institute is one of the oldest research centers in India and the largest center under the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR).
- Mid-Day Meal Scheme is a centrally-sponsored Scheme that provides children studying in Classes I-VIII of government and government aided schools with cooked mid day meal.
- The key objectives of the MDMS is to a) improve the nutritional status of children and b) improve enrolment, attendance and retention rates in schools and EGS/AIE centres(Alternative and Innovative Education Centers).
Alabama passes toughest abortion Bill in U.S.
- The Alabama, state of U.S.A. has passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States.
- The bill has placed a near-total ban on the termination of pregnancy even in cases of rape and incest and could punish doctors who perform the procedure with life imprisonment.
- Under the bill, performing an abortion is a crime that could land doctors who perform such surgeries in prison for 10 to 99 years. Abortions would only be legal if the life of the mother is in danger or if the foetus has a fatal condition.
- The American Civil Liberties Union has said that they will challenge the bill in the Supreme Court. The recent addition of the conservative judge to the Supreme Court has encouraged pro-life campaigners to push for anti-abortion legislation.
- Pro-life activists hopes that the abortion bans at the state level will eventually lead to an overturning of Roe v Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling that protects a woman’s right to seek abortion in the constitution.
This dinosaur had bat like wings
- Researchers have discovered the fossil of a new “bat–winged” dinosaur in Liaoning province, northeast China. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
- It has been dubbed as dubbed Ambopteryx longibrachium. The dinosaur lived around 163 million years ago during the Jurassic period. According to scientists, it had creature had membranous wings like a bat, rather than feathery wing like a bird.
- According to the study, the discovery shows that dinosaurs took a few turns on their evolutionary journey into birds. Flying dinosaurs usually had their feathered wings attached to long palm bones as opposed to membranous wings attached to arm bones. Eventually feathered, palm bone-attached wings won out, which gave rise to the modern-day bird.
- The recently discovered fossil is only the second to show a dinosaur with bat-like wings. The first bat-winged dinosaur, Yi qi, was discovered in 2015. Both the Yiqi and Ambopteryx belong to a small family of dinosaurs called scansoriopterygids.
Global Drug Survey: Indians lead world in seeking help to reduce drugs intake
- The Global Drug Survey (GDS) 2019 has reported that Indians lead the world seeking help to reduce their alcohol intake. This is the first time the survey has polled respondents from India.
- According to the survey, alcohol, tobacco and cannabis were the most common stimulants used by Indians. 51% of the respondents wanted to ‘drink less’ in the following year and 41% ‘wanted help to do so’- highest among all countries. Also, 51% of those surveyed said they wanted to use ‘less cannabis’ in the following year; more than any other nationality and also above the global average of 31%.
- Further, 6% of the female Indians surveyed reported seeking ‘emergency medical treatment’ in the last 12 months. The global female average was about 13%. However, none of the males in India reported seeking medical treatment, compared to the global average of 12%.
- Global Drug Survey is an independent research company based in London. It carries out an anonymised, online survey that uses a detailed questionnaire to assess trends in drug use and self-reported harms among regular drug users and early adopters of new trends.
Source of Malappuram fever still elusive
- The Health Department in Malappuram district, Kerala, is striving to identify the origin of a fever outbreak in different parts of Malappuram district that claimed five lives between March and May second week
- Over 60 people had symptoms of encephalitis or inflammation of the brain, and around 20 had symptoms of meningitis or inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are three layers of protective tissue called the dura mater, arachnoid mater, and pia mater that surround the neuraxis.
- According to sources, the symptoms of some patients were structurally similar to that of Japanese Encephalitis. However, it is yet to be confirmed whether the infection was caused by a virus or a bacteria, or the combined effect of both of them.
- Japanese encephalitis (JE) is an infection of the brain caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). It is a mosquito-borne flavivirus, and belongs to the same genus as dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses.
- In March, A boy from Malappuram district, was diagnosed with West Nile fever- a zoonotic disease caused by West Nile Virus. According to world Health Organization (WHO) West Nile virus transmits to humans through bites from infected Culex mosquitoes.
China blocks Wikipedia in all languages
- Internet censorship researchers have found that China has blocked Wikipedia. China had previously banned the Chinese language version of the site as well as the pages for sensitive search terms such as Dalai Lama and the Tiananmen massacre. Wikipedia is a free community-edited encyclopaedia
- Wikipedia has a growing list of websites such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn that cannot be accessed in China.
- In 2017, the Wikipedia was blocked in Turkey and it has been blocked intermittently in Venezuela earlier in 2019.
- China has long been enforcing mechanisms to deter criticism and spread propaganda. Reporters without Border’s 2019 World Press Freedom index ranks China at 177 on a list of 180 countries analysed.
TRA unveils AI tool to improve tea quality
- Tea Research Association (TRA) has introduced artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology to improve quality. The technology has been developed through a collaboration between TRA and Agnext, a start-up which was incubated by IIT Kharagpur.
- A machine, called TRA Agnext Qualitea Profiler (QTP) has been developed through this technology. The machine would help determine the fine leaf count automatically without human intervention. TRAAgnext QTP will have a machine version which is likely to cost around ₹2 lakh and a mobile app version for quality leaf profiling.
- Fine leaf count (FLC) determines the presence of the two (or three) leaves and a bud in a batch, which ensures in enhancing quality. The machine would help improve accuracy and reduce time in FLC.
- The Tea Board has said that the initiative has not been made mandatory to adopt for every garden or bought leaf factory.
- The Tea Board of India is a state agency of the Government of India established to promote the cultivation, processing and domestic trade as well as export of tea from India. It was established by the enactment of the Tea Act in 1953 with its headquarters in Kolkata.
- The Tea Research Association, popularly known as TRA Tocklai looks after the research nad development needs of the India tea industry. It is located at a site near the River Tocklai in Jorhat, Assam.