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Current Events 28 February 2017

 

NEWS 

28 FEBRUARY 2017 

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-CHINA

India, China seek common ground on Afghanistan

2.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION

Global studies on India’s air quality flawed, says CPCB

3.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-EAST ASIA

‘Act East policy promoting ties with Asia-Pacific region’

4.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Meghalaya’s root bridge nominated for award

5.

GS II: POLITY JUDICIARY

SC agrees to hear bar dance girls’ plea

6.

GS II : POLITY JUDICIARY

Impossible to stop upload of vulgar content: Google

7.

GS II:  BILATERAL INDIA-WORLD BANK

‘India, a lab to learn about what works in development’

8.

GS II : GOVERNANCE POLICIES

Centre to draft policies on ethanol, methanol

9.

GS III : REGULATORY BODIES SEBI

SEBI to tighten algo trading rules

10.

GS III : S&T HEALTH

Organ-on-a-chip mimics the heart

11.

GS III : S&T GENETIC ENGINEERING

Mapping dolphin proteins may benefit human health

12.

GS III : S&T SPACE

Mars may have a complicated mantle

13.

GS III : S&T SPACE

Spacecraft to fly near the Sun next year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-CHINA

India, China seek common ground on Afghanistan

  • Despite differences on a number of issues, including over the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), U.N. designation of Masood Azhar as a terrorist, and the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor, India and China began to look for a “common ground” on Afghanistan during Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s visit to Beijing last week, official sources have told.
  • Officials reportedly even discussed the possibility of “joint development projects” that could be undertaken despite economic rivalries between the two countries in other parts of the subcontinent.
  • The Foreign Secretary’s visit, which saw a restructured “Strategic Dialogue” with Chinese executive Vice- Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Yesui, also witnessed an effort by both sides to “stabilise India-China relations” at a time the world is experiencing a new “volatility,” a senior official said.
  • This indicates a shifting global calculus due to the recent surprise foreign and trade policy moves by the new U.S. administration under Donald Trump.
  • Officials who were privy to the negotiations told that there was still little movement on issues that have been most highlighted in the past year, mainly over Masood Azhar, where China has put a technical hold at the U.N. that will lapse in July, and the NSG, where India’s membership will be taken up again at the plenary session in June.
  • Another possible flashpoint in May 2017 is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s global conference on the “Belt and Road Initiative (B&RI),” where the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan will be highlighted and which Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to attend.
  • On Afghanistan, it is learnt that the Chinese government, which proposed a separate discussion, had expressed its “admiration” for India’s work on developmental projects, including the Salma Dam in Herat.
  • To that end, the strategic dialogue was divided into five different “sub-groups” —  

1.     Afghanistan,

2.     nuclear issues,

3.     United Nations including the 1267 designation committee,

4.     bilateral issues, and

5.     consular and visa matters, or people-to-people ties

 

GS III : ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION

Global studies on India’s air quality flawed, says CPCB

  • The Central Pollution Control Board — an Environment Ministry organisation that sets guidelines for monitoring and controlling pollution — says international studies linking air quality in India to disease and death are flawed because “…the ethologic, personnel immunity (sic) and demography of India are incomparable with international practices.”
  • Bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) used “arbitrary conversion factors [to measure the prevalence of different pollutants]” to rank cities for air quality, the CPCB alleged in an internal newsletter published in November 2016 but not made public.
  • Reacting, last week, to reports that air pollution killed 1.1 million Indians in 2015, Environment Minister Anil Dave told a press conference, “We seem to be far more influenced by things out of India.
  • We have several of our own organisations and experts…and I trust them as much as I do our Army.”
  • While acknowledging that PM2.5 pollution was a problem, no Indian agency has quantified death and disease due to air pollution in India.
  • In its most recent update in 2016, the WHO said that 10 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India, whose air quality standards require that the daily PM 2.5 averages not exceed 60 mg/cubic metre and 40 mg/cubic metre annually.
  • The WHO arrived at its figures by collecting 24-hour and annual average of PM 10 and PM 2.5 of cities from government websites and, when it didn’t have figures for PM 2.5, used a constant number to convert from PM 10 measurements.
  • In some cases PM2.5 was only 8% of PM10 and other cases 86%, according to a 2014 assessment of air quality parameters in Delhi by the CPCB.
  • “The average thus works out to about 47%,” D. Saha of the CPCB and one of the authors of the report told.
  • “But the WHO assessment uses a 75% conversion [and therefore leads to a higher estimate of PM2.5].”
  • Devices that measured PM10 and PM 2.5 employed different methods as the latter — given the size of particles — were extremely prone to fluctuation.
  • Notwithstanding that India didn’t have a certification agency that checked the quality of air pollution monitors, particulate matter levels in a city were also influenced by weather and the model that simulated weather patterns in Europe couldn’t be extrapolated to India, the report said.
  • “Most of the simulation models being used in India have foreign origin…only the catchy outputs are discussed and disseminated to public and ultimately attract media,” it added.

 

 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-CLMV

’Act East policy promoting ties with Asia-Paciic region’

  • India’s “Act East” policy aimed at reviving age-old ties with the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) nations has strengthened trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region and encouraged manufacturers to create value chains with these countries, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman said.
  • India’s trade with the CLMV nations has grown ten times from 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to more than 10 billion U.S. dollars during the last 10 years.
  • Addressing the 4th India- CLMV Business Conclave organised by the Department of Commerce and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ms. Sitharaman said if the Indian manufacturers set up businesses in countries such as Myanmar, they would get benefit under the generalised system of preferences (GSP) for export to the U.S. and European Union.
  • The GSP gives the benefit of zero or less duty for exports from least developed countries to the U.S. and E.U.
  • The Minister invited both governments and business communities of the CLMV countries to actively partner in “Make in India” programme, while affirming that India would participate in the Asia-Pacific region’s manufacturing growth and develop a strong India-CLMV vertical within the ASEAN market.
  • Ms. Sitharaman said the land and sea connectivity with the South-East Asian nations was being enhanced to boost trade, with the work having started on projects such as Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport connecting Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar.
  • The Union Cabinet had last year cleared a proposal to create a Rs. 500-crore project development fund to increase economic presence in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, which can act as gateways for market access to China and E.U.
  • Chhuon Dara, Secretary of State, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia, said an increased regional connectivity, reduction in transaction cost of trade and skill development were imperative if the India- CLMV trade and tourism were to reach their potential.

Act East Policy

 

  • The Objective of 'Act East Policy” is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels thereby providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region including Arunanchal Pradesh with other countries in our neighbourhood.
  • Connectivity projects, cooperation in space, S&T and people-to-people exchanges could become a springboard for regional integration and prosperity. 
  • Some of the major projects include Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project, the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project, Rhi-Tiddim Road Project, Border Haats, etc. 
  • The North East of India has been a priority in our Act East Policy (AEP).
  • India has upgraded its relations to strategic partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Further, apart from ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS), India has also been actively engaged in regional fora such as Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
  • Act East Policy has placed emphasis on India-ASEAN cooperation in our domestic agenda on infrastructure, manufacturing, trade, skills, urban renewal, smart cities, Make in India and other initiatives.
  • The ASEAN-India Agreement on Trade in Service and Investments has entered into force for India and seven ASEAN countries from 1 July 2015.
  • The ASEAN-India Trade Negotiating Committee has been tasked to undertake a review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement.
  • The ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-20 has been adopted in August 2015 which identifies concrete initiatives and areas of cooperation along the three pillars of political-security, economic and socio-cultural.
  • On the Civilizational front, Buddhist and Hindu links could be energized to develop new contacts and connectivity between people.
  • Closer cooperation in combating terrorism, collaborating for peace and stability in the region and promotion of maritime security based on international norms and laws are being pursued. 

 

 

 

 

 

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Meghalaya’s root bridge nominated for award

  • Meghalaya’s root-bridge has been nominated for the prestigious National Innovation Foundation award for grassroots innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge.
  • It is a community-driven innovation by forest dwellers in the southern slopes of the State.
  • The recognition is not for any single community, but for all communities who are engaged in growing living root bridges, they said.
  • Atleast nine villages have been identified that train and utilises the aerial roots of Rubber Trees (Ficus elastica) to make bridges across water bodies.

UPSC Prelims 2015 MCQ

In a particular region in India, the local people train the roots of living trees into robust bridges across the streams. As the time passes, these bridges become stronger. These unique ’living root bridges’ are found in:

(a)      Meghalaya

(b)     Himachal Pradesh

(c)      Jharkhand

(d)     Tamil Nadu

Ans. (a)

 

 

GS II: POLITY JUDICIARY

SC agrees to hear bar dance girls’ plea

  • The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition filed by women working in Maharashtra‘s bars, including dancers and waitresses, against the constitutionality of a 2016 State law containing a rather explicit definition of what is “obscene” in dance.
  • The Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 was passed by the State Assembly to circumvent a 2015 Supreme Court judgment which ordered dance bars to be thrown open again and classified dance as a profession.
  • The Bench has already expressed its suspicion that this law was just a ruse to “circumvent” the court’s order.
  • The bar girls’ union argued that the 2016 law stigmatised their profession and unreasonably interfered with their free choice of expression through dramatic performances.
  • “The act of tipping or giving gifts as a token of appreciation has been customary and an integral part of traditional dance culture,” the petition said.

 

GS II : POLITY JUDICIARY

Impossible to stop upload of vulgar content: Google

  • Trying to prevent a person from uploading objectionable content online before he even does it will be like attempting to prevent murder, unless it is a case of a repeat offender like a serial killer, Google told the Supreme Court.
  • The search engine giant was responding to the court’s repeated query on whether it can set up some mechanism or body to identify and prevent those who upload obscene content featuring women and children.
  • The court is hearing a PIL petition filed by Prajwala, a non-governmental organisation, highlighting the increasing number of instances of sexual assault videos of women and children being uploaded on the internet.

 

GS II:  BILATERAL INDIA-WORLD BANK  

’India, a lab to learn about what works in development’

  • World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva has described India as a “laboratory”, for the world to learn about what works in development and to find new ways to collaborate.
  • Ms. Georgieva, who is in India on her first official visit, said in a statement: “India is our biggest middle income client.
  • Its economic growth influences global growth. Its achievements in health and education contribute to the world achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
  • “I am keen to learn more as India is a laboratory for the world to learn about what works in development and to find new ways to collaborate,” she added.
  • While on a visit to Pakistan in January, Ms. Georgieva said she had “constructive discussions” with that country’s leadership on the Indus Waters Treaty.
  • India, Pakistan and the World Bank are signatories to the Treaty and are in discussions on resolving disagreements the two countries have over India’s construction of two hydroelectric power plants.
  • Maintaining its neutrality as a signatory, the Bank had announced a pause in the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Treaty to allow the two nations to resolve their disagreements amicably.

 

 

GS II : GOVERNANCE

Centre to draft policies on ethanol, methanol

  • The Centre will soon come out with policies on second-generation ethanol as well as methanol, nonconventional fuel resources, which will bring down crude import bill by Rs. 1 lakh crore, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said.
  • This will create an industry worth Rs. 1 lakh crore and provide jobs to about 25 lakh youths, he said.


 

GS II : REGULATORY BODIES -SEBI

SEBI to tighten algo trading rules

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) plans to further tighten the regulations for algorithmic trading to minimise instances of misuse of such systems that can be used to execute complex trading strategies at a very high speed.
  • Algorithmic trading refers to the use of software programmes to execute trading strategies at a much faster pace.
  • SEBI chairman U.K. Sinha said that while India was one of the few countries in the world to regulate algorithmic trading — popularly called algo trading — the market watchdog is looking to further strengthen the norms so that instances of flash crashes that have happened overseas, and also in India a few times, could be minimised.
  • For instance, we have provided for high order to trade ratio penalty system. We are reviewing whether that penalty should be enhanced further.
  • On the National Stock Exchange (NSE), algo trades accounted for close to 16% of all trades. On the BSE, it was 8.56% in January. .
  • Mr. Sinha, who got an extension twice, spent a total of six years at the helm and will now be succeeded by Ajay Tyagi, an officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) who served as Additional Secretary (Investment) in the Department of Economic Affairs.
  • He said that the one regret he has is that not one Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT) or Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) was launched while he was the chairman.
  • “The reason why it has not been launched is not because of SEBI. It has something to do with other regulators because they have to take some decisions about allowing their regulated entities to participate in InvIT and REITs market,” he said.

 

 

GS III : S&T  HEALTH

Organ-on-a-chip mimics the heart

  • Scientists have created a three-dimensional (3D) organ-on-a-chip, the I-Wire Heart-on-a-Chip, that can mimic the heart’s amazing biomechanical properties and could help in studying cardiac diseases, drug screening and development of drugs, and, in the future, in personalised medicine by identifying the cells taken from patients that can be used to patch damaged hearts effectively.
  • The device faithfully reproduces the response of cardiac cells to two different drugs that affect heart function in humans, initial experiments have demonstrated.
  • The unique aspect of the new device, which represents about two millionths of a human heart, is that it controls the mechanical force applied to cardiac cells. This allows the researchers to reproduce the mechanical conditions of the living heart, which is continually stretching and contracting, in addition to its electrical and biochemical environment.
  • The I-Wire device consists of a thin thread of human cardiac cells 0.014 inches thick stretched between two perpendicular wire anchors.
  • The amount of tension on the fibre can be varied by moving the anchors in and out, and the tension is measured with a flexible probe that pushes against the side.
  • The fibre is supported by wires and a frame in an optically clear well that is filled with liquid medium like that which surrounds cardiac cells in the body.
  • The apparatus is mounted on the stage of a powerful optical microscope that records the fibre’s physical changes. The microscope also acts as a spectroscope that can provide information about the chemical changes taking place in the fibre.


 

GS III : S&T GENETIC ENGINEERING

Mapping dolphin proteins may benefit human health

  • Mapping all the proteins found in the dolphin genome could pave the way for finding a new way to treat some common diseases that affect humans, say researchers.
  • Dolphins and humans are very similar creatures. As mammals, we share a number of proteins and our bodies function in many similar ways.
  • A genome is the complete set of genetic material present in an organism.
  • Although a detailed map of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) genome was first compiled in 2008, recent technological breakthroughs enabled the creation of a new, more exhaustive map of all of the proteins produced by the dolphins’ DNA.
  • Studies have recently revealed a protein, known as vanin-1, may help the marine mammals protect their kidneys.
  • Humans produce vanin-1, but in much smaller amounts.
  • Researchers would like to gather more information on whether or not elevating levels of vanin-1 may offer protection to kidneys.
  • Vanin-1 is just one example of how genomic information about this mammalian cousin might prove useful.

 

GS III : S&T SPACE

Mars may have a complicated mantle

  • Scientists have found that the unusual chemistry of lava flows around the volcanic province Elysium in Mars is consistent with primary magmatic processes.
  • Elysium is a giant volcanic complex on Mars, the second largest behind Olympus Mons. It rises to twice the height of Earth’s Mount Everest, or about 16 kilometres.
  • Elysium is unique among martian volcanoes. It is isolated in the northern lowlands of the planet, whereas most other volcanic complexes on Mars cluster in the ancient southern highlands.
  • Elysium also has patches of lava flows that are remarkably young for a planet often considered geologically silent.
  • There are some patches of lava flows on Elysium that are estimated to be three to four million years old, so three orders of magnitude younger. In geologic timescales, three million years ago is like yesterday.
  • Researchers sought to uncover why some of Elysium’s lava flows are so geochemically unusual, or why they have such low levels of thorium and potassium.
  • Perhaps the mantle has changed over time, meaning that more recent volcanic eruption flows differ chemically from older ones.
  • Understanding the evolutionary history of Mars’ mantle could help researchers gain a better understanding of what kinds of valuable ores and other materials could be found in the crust, as well as whether volcanic hazards could unexpectedly threaten human missions to Mars in the near future.
  • Mars’ mantle likely has a very different history than Earth’s mantle because the plate tectonics on Earth are absent on Mars as far as researchers know.

 

 

GS III : S&T SPACE

Spacecraft to fly near the Sun next year

  • NASA plans to send its first robotic spacecraft to the Sun, Solar Probe Plus, next year.
  • The spacecraft is slated to get within six million kilometres of the blazing star to probe its atmosphere.
  • The Sun which is about 149 million kilometres from the Earth.
  • First, the mission will hopefully unveil why the surface of the Sun, called the photosphere, is not as hot as its atmosphere, called the corona.
  • According to NASA, the surface temperature of the Sun is about 5,500 degrees Celsius.  However, the atmosphere above it is a sizzling two million degrees Celsius.
  • The scientists also want to know how solar wind gets its speed. The Sun blows a stream of charged particles in all directions at a million miles an hour. But we do not understand how that gets accelerated.

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