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Trump ‘pro-life’ except in cases of rape and incest
  1. The US President Donald Trump has declared himself “strongly pro-life”. The statement comes in the backdrop of the state of Alabama in USA passing legislation which bans abortion even in cases of rape and incest (except in cases where there is a serious health risk to the mother).
  2. The Bill does not make the woman criminally liable for the abortion. However, it carries imprisonment up to 99 years for the doctor performing it.
  3. There has been widespread criticism about the bill on the grounds that it curbs liberty and autonomy of women. The bill has fuelled the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. Pro-choice” emphasizes the right of women to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. On the other hand, “Pro-life” emphasizes the right of the embryo or fetus to gestate to term and be born.
  4. In India, the right to abortion is governed by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Under the Act, pregnancy can be medically terminated only by a “registered medical practitioner” at a medical facility (government-owned or private) registered as a medical termination of pregnancy center.
  5. As per the Act, the grounds for abortion are limited to a) Where continuance of pregnancy would cause risk to the life of the pregnant woman or cause grave injury to her physical or mental health and b) Where there exists a substantial risk that if the child is born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
Brief on SIMBEX-19
  1. The Indian Navy and the Republic of Singapore Navy has began a major bilateral naval exercise in the South China Sea.The exercise is called as SIMBEX 19.The bilateral naval drill will be conducted till May 22,2019.
  2. Indian ships INS Kolkata and INS Shakti took part in the bilateral naval along with long range maritime patrol aircraft Poseidon-8I (P8I).
  3. The Singapore side is represented by RSN ships Steadfast and Valiant, maritime patrol aircraft Fokker-50 (F-50) and F-16 fighter aircraft.
  4. The exercise includes a live-fire sea phase exercise which will encompass a range of maritime combat drills, including (a)firing on aerial/surface targets (b)advanced aerial tracking (c)coordinated targeting exercises and (d)tactical exercises on surface/air scenarios.
  5. SIMBEX 19 would also conclude the two-month long deployment of INS ships Kolkata and Shakti to South and East China seas aimed at extending the bridges of friendship through enhanced cultural, economic and maritime interactions with countries of east and southeast Asia.
  6. INS Kolkata is an indigenously built stealth guided missile destroyer equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors to address threats in all dimensions of naval warfare.INS Shakti is a fleet support ship.
  7. INS Shakti is one of the largest tankers displacing over 27,000 tonnes and capable of carrying 15,000 tonnes of liquid cargo and over 500 tonnes of solid cargo including victuals and ammunition.
EVM, postal ballot counting can be done simultaneously, says ECI
  1. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued directions to the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of all the States and Union Territories that the Electronic Voting Machines(EVM) and postal ballot counting can be done simultaneously.
  2. The EC said that once the EVM counting is completed,the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail(VVPAT) slips counting can start as per the prescribed procedure.
  3. The ECI has said that with the introduction of Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) and casting of postal ballot by election duty staff at the facilitation centre, the number of postal ballot papers for counting has gone up considerably.
  4. Electronically transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) is developed by Election Commission of India with the help of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) for the use of the Service Voters.
  5. This system enables the entitled service voters to cast their vote using an electronically received postal ballot from anywhere outside their constituency. The voters who make such a choice will be entitled for Postal Ballot delivered through Electronic Media for a particular election.
  6. Service voters are those who have service qualification.They include (a)member of Armed Forces of the Union of India (b)members of Armed Police forces of the States serving outside that state (c)a person employed under the Government of India,serving outside India and (d) member of a force to which provision of the Army Act 1950 have been made applicable
  7. Further,the EC has also said that when the margin of victory is less than the number of postal ballot papers rejected as invalid at the time of counting, all the rejected postal ballot papers will be mandatorily re-verified by the Returning Officer before declaration of result.
CDSCO issues alert on pacemakers
  1. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation(CDSCO) has issued an alert to healthcare providers, heart patients and medical device distributors on measures they have to take to prevent safety issues with three models of Medtronic’s pacemakers.
  2. This alert was issued after US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) in its safety communication had alerted healthcare providers and patients about the batteries in certain Medtronic implantable pacemakers.
  3. US FDA had said that the pacemakers or cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemakers(CRT-Ps) which can drain faster than expected without any warning could lead to devices losing power quickly and triggering a medical emergency.
  4. Pacemakers are battery-powered devices that provide pacing for slow heart rhythms and heart failure.If a capacitor which is one  of the electronic components of these devices is cracked it may lose functionality and create an electrical short which can cause rapid battery depletion.
  5. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is the national regulatory body for Indian pharmaceuticals and medical device It functions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.CDSCO comes under Directorate General of Health Services,Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  6. CDSCO is responsible for (a)approval of New Drugs (b)Conduct of Clinical Trials, (c)laying down the standards for Drugs (d)control over the quality of imported Drugs in the country and (e)coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organizations by providing expert advice with a view to bring about the uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
HC: United Nations not a State under Article 12
  1. The Delhi High Court has ruled that United Nations(UN) is not a State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India and is not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
  2. The judgment was passed on a petition concerning the immunity enjoyed by the UN under the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947.
  3. The petitioner was a former UN employee who was found guilty of misconduct and was sentenced to 97 months of imprisonment.After serving his sentence,the petitioner was deported to India.
  4. The petitioner then filed a plea before the High Court.The petitioner claimed that due process was not followed in his case.
  5. In November 2018,he had also written a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs seeking a grant of permission to initiate legal action against the UN under section 86 of Civil Procedure Code,1908.The provision provides that a foreign State may be sued in any Court with the consent of the Central government.
  6. The Ministry had replied that the consent of the Government of India is not required to initiate a legal suit against UN as it is not a foreign state and is only an Internal Organization.However,it said that the UN and its officials enjoy immunity under the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act,1947.
  7. According to Article 12 of the Constitution of India, the term ‘State’ denotes the union and state governments, the Parliament and state legislatures and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Indian government.
  8. Article 226 empowers the high courts to issue writs to a person or authority,including the government.The writs which can be issued are (a)habeas corpus (b)mandamus (c)prohibition (d)quo warranto and (e)certiorari.
Pakistan may get NSA for talks with India
  1. Pakistan government is actively considering to appoint a National Security Advisor(NSA).
  2. The appointment of the NSA is meant for reviving the backchannel diplomacy with India to sort out some of the pressing issues between the two countries.
  3. In the past,the two countries have often used backchannel through the NSAs to prepare ground for any talks.
  4. In 2015, Pakistan’s NSA and Indian NSA were instrumental in breaking the ice.The two had held meetings leading to the agreement between the foreign ministers of both countries for the resumption of the composite dialogue.
  5. However,the relation between the two neighbours has hit an all-time low after the Pulwama attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist outfit.
  6. The attack was then followed by India carrying out cross-border air strikes on Pakistan based hideouts and launch pads of JeM in response to which Pakistan made a failed air strike attempt on Indian military installations.
  7. The National Security Adviser (NSA) in India is the senior official on the National Security Council(NSC) of India and the chief adviser to the Prime Minister of India on national and international security policy.
Don’t want war, but prepared to respond: Saudi
  1. Saudi Arabia has said that the country will do its best to avoid war in the Middle East region but stands ready to respond with full force and determination against Iran’s threats.
  2. This statement came after Saudi Arabia had accused Iran of ordering drone strikes on two oil pumping stations in the Saudi kingdom which was claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group.
  3. Earlier,four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.However,Iran has denied involvement in either operation.
  4. The concerns about a possible conflict in the Gulf region has come up since the US had deployed carrier strike warships and B-52 bombers off the coast of Fujairah port in the UAE.
  5. The US had said that the deployment was in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S. forces and interests.
Odisha’s plan to restore coastal green cover
  1. The Odisha government has directed the Forest Department to implement the ‘Five-year action plan on revival of coastal shelter belt and afforestation programme’ on a mission mode. The five year plan seeks to restore the green cover lost due to Cyclone Fani in the coastal region.
  2. Under the programme, the state government would undertake the afforestation programme on 8,000 hectares over a five-year period. The initiative will be a collaborated effort of the forest department, different educational institutions, industrial and private organizations.
  3. Under an urban tree plantation programme, five lakh saplings would be planted in five years. Further, the government has also decided to plant fruit-bearing plants in 12,000 hectares which would help revive the livelihood of many cyclone-affected people.
  4. Different varieties of cyclone-resistant trees such as Neem, Karanja, Baula, Jamu, Korila, Chatian, Khaira, Arjun, Mahyoni, Ashok, and Dimiri etc. will be planted.
  5. Nearly 22 lakh trees have been destroyed causing a damage of ₹537 crore when Cyclone Fani had hit the state of Odisha.
Coming soon, an all-seeing radar imaging satellite
  1. PSLV-C46 which is the 48th mission of PSLV, will launch RISAT-2B from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota on 22nd May 2019.
  2. PSLV-C46 is the 14th flight of PSLV in ‘core-alone’ configuration i.e. without the use of solid strap-on motors. Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is an expendable medium-lift launch vehicle designed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into sun-synchronous orbits.
  3. RISAT-2B is a Radar imaging earth observation satellite. It will be placed into an orbit of 555 km at an inclination of 37 degree. The satellite possesses day and night as well as all-weather monitoring capability, thus helping in providing India with real-time information. The all-weather seeing feature is especially significant for security forces and disaster relief agencies.
  4. RISAT-2B is a part of the RISAT or Radar Imaging Satellite series of Indian radar imaging reconnaissance satellites built by ISRO. In 2012, ISRO launched India’s first indigenous all-weather radar imaging satellite, known as RISAT-1.
  5. Before RISAT-1’s launch, India depended on images from a Canadian satellite as existing domestic remote sensing spacecraft cannot take pictures of the earth during cloud cover.
U.K. law secures rights of Sikhs to carry kirpans
  1. The U.K. government has passed an amendment under the Offensive Weapons Bill.The amendment will allow Sikhs to own a longer ‘kirpan’(dagger) and use it during religious and cultural functions.
  2. The Offensive Weapons Act covers new offences around possession of certain offensive weapons in public and enforces new restrictions on the online sales of bladed articles and corrosive products in an attempt to crackdown on rising knife and acid-related attacks in the country.
  3. The bill had been amended to ensure that it would not impact the right of the British Sikh community to possess and supply kirpans or religious swords.
  4. Large kirpans with blades over 50 cm are used by the Sikh community during religious ceremonies in gurdwaras as well as for ceremonies involving the traditional Sikh Gatka martial art.
State witnesses surge in measles cases
  1. Amidst the current global resurgence in measles, there has also been a rise in measles cases in Kerala. The state which reports around 600 plus cases of measles every year, has already reported as many cases in the first four months of 2019.
  2. Over 50% measles cases has been reported in the 19-40 year age group. Further, there are also cases in the less than nine months age group.
  3. According to health authorities, the older age group is getting affected due to a change in epidemiology. When universal routine immunisation in childhood improves and the virus is still in circulation, the disease naturally affects the older age group who may be unimmunised or whose vaccine-derived immunity has begun to fade way.
  4. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. It can be entirely prevented with a two-dose vaccine.
  5. According to WHO’s preliminary global data on measles, there has been a 300% rise in measles cases worldwide during the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.
  6. Eleven member states of World Health Organization South-East Asia Region (WHO SEAR) have committed to eliminate measles by 2020 at the 66th session of the WHO regional committee. India is a part of WHO SEAR.
Evidence of water found on Ultima Thule: NASA
  1. NASA has published results from the first sets of data gathered during the New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby of Ultima Thule. The results have been published in the journal Science.
  2. Ultima Thule is a Kuiper Belt object and the farthest object ever explored. The object is officially named 2014 MU69.
  3. It is contact binary that is single object with two lobes attached gently. NASA dubbed the larger lobe as Ultima and three times smaller lobe as Thule.
  4. NASA has found evidence for a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface.
  5. Further, a range of surface features have been found; such as such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits. The largest depression is a 8-kilometer-wide feature the team has nicknamed Maryland crater
  6. In colour, Ultima Thule has a reddish hue which is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface.
  7. According to scientists, the lobes likely once orbited each other until some process brought them together. The alignment of the axes of Ultima and Thule indicates that before the merger the two lobes must have become tidally locked, meaning that the same sides always faced each other as they orbited around the same point.
  8. The Kuiper belt occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun. It consists of icy objects, which are remnants from the formation of the solar system. Pluto is also a part of the Kuiper Belt.
  9. The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006. It is the first mission to explore the Kuiper belt.