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Current Events 5 February 2017

 

NEWS

5 FEBRUARY 2017


Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : BILATERAL- INDIA-SRI LANKA

I was forced into a deal with India, Jayewardene told U.S. envoy

2.

GS III :  CORRUPTION

In Nagaland, govt. wings pay ‘extortion money'

3.

GS III:  S&T - HEALTH

AIDS body rubbishes govt. hospital's claim on HIV cure

4.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL USA

U.S. suspends travel ban

5.

GS II :  GOVERNANCE

Govt in talks with BIS to upgrade helmet standards

6.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT

Central Pollution Control Board assessing oil spill

7.

GS II : GOVERNANCE

Panel formed to study Haj policy, subsidy issue

8.

GS II : SOCIAL - HEALTH

‘Litchi disease' report: Lancet makes amends after failing to give ‘credit'

9.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL ASIA

Defiant Iran to carry out missile exercise

10.

GS III : ECONOMY

E-commerce in focus during Azevêdo's visit

11.

GS III : ECONOMY - BUDGET

Lighter purse for arms deals

12.

GS III :  ECONOMY - BUDGET

Rail projects fund red flagged

13.

GS I : CULTURE

12th century sculptures unearthed in Kashmir

14.

GS III : S&T - TRADITIONAL MEDICINES

Tribe offers clues to hidden wonders of medicinal plant

15.

GS III :  S&T  HEALTH

Cancer drug may help re-grow heart tissue

16.

GS III : : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Butterfly find enriches Indian faunal diversity

 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA SRI LANKA

I was forced into a deal with India, Jayewardene told U.S. envoy

  • Sri Lanka was forced into making a deal with India as its own armed forces had twice refused to "take Jaffna", then President J.R. Jayewardene has been quoted as saying in a declassified document, nearly 30 years after the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was deployed in the island nation.
  • Jayewardene told visiting American diplomat Peter Galbraith that he had twice ordered his troops to take Jaffna - "burn the place to the ground" - and they had talked him out of it on grounds of unacceptably high casualties.
  • A little over 1,200 Indian soldiers died in IPKF operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) in northern and eastern Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990.
  • In May 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who had signed the July 1987 peace deal with Jayewardene, was assassinated by the LTTE.
  • In response to significant promises of devolution of powers to the Tamil minority and recognition of Tamil as an official language, India agreed to provide military assistance - the IPKF - to ensure peace according to the 1987 Gandhi-Jayewardene accord.

 

 

 

 

GS III :  CORRUPTION

In Nagaland, govt. wings pay ‘extortion money'

  • A probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has revealed that at least 12 government departments in Nagaland regularly paid "extortion money" to members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland- Khaplang (NSCN-K), a banned terrorist organisation that was allegedly behind the 2015 ambush in Manipur in which 18 soldiers were killed.
  • The NIA's investigation has found that the government departments paid extortion money to two other outfits: the NSCN-Isak- Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the Naga National Council (NNC).
  • The Government of India has signed a framework agreement in 2015 with the NSCN-IM to find a solution to the decades-old Naga issue.
  • The records in our possession are 2012 onwards, but the racket has been going on for decades.

 

 

GS II:  SOCIAL - HEALTH

AIDS body rubbishes govt. hospital's claim on HIV cure

  • A government- run homeopathy hospital in Hyderabad has been treating over 10,664 HIV positive patients with a homeopathy pill as an experimental treatment.
  • The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) will be initiating legal and administrative action against the doctors for misleading HIV patients by claiming to have cured eight persons, who according to the doctors have a HIV negative status after being treated with homeopathy pills.
  • While investigators of the experimental treatment call it a clinical trial, it has not been registered with the Clinical Trial Registry of India.
  • Across the world there is no evidence of a cure for HIV.



GS II : INTERNATIONAL USA

U.S. suspends travel ban

  • U.S. State Department suspended President Donald Trump's controversial ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, following a court ruling that blocked its enforcement.



GS II : GOVERNANCE

Govt in talks with BIS to upgrade helmet standard

  • With two wheelers outnumbering any other type of vehicle on Indian roads and accounting for the highest number of road accident deaths, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is in talks with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for upgrading the quality standards of helmets.
  • "In 2014, about 34% of all road accident deaths were of riders/passengers on two-wheelers, while bicyclists accounted for 3% and pedestrians 9%.
  • "Apart from the helmet, the government has also made provisions in the new Amended Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) to increase validity of renewing of driving license for persons above 50 years for 10 years from present five years, and for commercial drivers to five years from present three years. Similarly for fitness certificate so less people visit the transport offices," said Mr. Damle.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

  • TheBureau of Indian Standards(BIS) is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis ofMinistry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution,Government of India.
  • It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
  • The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
  • The organisation was formerly theIndian Standards Institution(ISI), set up under the Resolution of the then Department of Industries and Supplies No. 1 Std.(4)/45, dated 3 September 1946.
  • The ISI was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.



GS III : ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION

Central Pollution Control Board assessing oil spill

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is analysing samples from the oil spill resulting from a collision between two ships of the coast of Tamil Nadu.
  • The Ministry of Defence is in charge of the oil spill management plan and is being coordinated by the Coast Guard.
  • Assessment of any long term environmental damage is being done by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (Chennai) and the Environment Ministry.
  • Preliminary assessments said several species of fish and turtle are believed to have been killed because of the spill.
  • The Hyderabad-based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services has estimated that about 20 tonnes of oil may have leaked when the vessels, M.T. BW Maple and M.T. Dawn Kanchipuram, collided on January 28 outside the Kamarajar Port.
  • About 43 kms of the Tamil Nadu coastline may have been affected, the agency added.
  • The M.T. Dawn Kanchipuram, was carrying 32,813 tonnes of oil as cargo, though in a statement, Kamarajar Port authorities said it was engine oil and not cargo oil, that had leaked.
  • About 2,000 persons are involved in the clean up operations and 54 tonnes of sludge (mixture of oil, water, ocean material etc) was removed till February 2, according to the Press Information Bureau.
  • "Over 90% of the work has been completed and most of the residual work is expected to be over in a couple of days," it said.
  • Oilzapper, a cocktail of different bacteria that feed on oil is a technology, for which the patent is held by a joint ONGC TERI Biotech Ltd, was used during the last major oil spill near Mumbai in 2010.
  • There are also bacteria present in the sea too that feed on the oil, breaking it down. But this natural process can take months.
  • In the case of an oil spill in the sea, you have to barricade the area with booms, which are like floating tyre tubes. This arrests the spread of oil due to water currents.
  • The first option is always physical recovery, once the oil is contained to use a vacuum sucker to remove the oil.
  • Only after efforts have been made to physically remove the oil do you resort to chemical dispersants. Most dispersants are man-made chemicals and some are toxic.
  • There are now regulations across the world that require using environmentally-friendly dispersants.
  • Oil floats on water because of high surface tension, dispersants work by reducing the surface tension between oil and water. So oil would dilute and spread or it will fall to the ocean floor.

 

GS II : SOCIAL MINORITIES

Panel formed to study Haj policy, subsidy issue

  • The Union government has formed a six-member committee to study the ways to improve India's Haj policy and look into the issue of subsidy to the pilgrimage in light of a 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing it by 2022.
  • The Supreme Court had asked the government to invest the amount - averaging over Rs 650 crore a year for last five years - in education and other measures for social development of the minority community.
  • The Quran's verse 97 in Surah 3, Al-e-Imran mandates that Muslims should undertake Haj only if they could afford it.
  • The apex court had also objected to the jumbo-size Prime Minister's Goodwill Delegation that visits Saudi Arabia every year at the government's expense.

 

 

GS III : S&T - HEALTH

‘Litchi disease' report: Lancet makes amends after failing to give ‘credit'

  • Dr. Jacob John raising ethics issues about the way the authors of the Lancet Global Health paper had failed to properly acknowledge his team's work on the Muzaffarpur mystery disease, the journal has got in touch with Dr. Mukul Das, one of the authors of the Current Science papers, for more details.
  • Dr. John, Dr. Das and others had published two papers in 2014 (May and August) and another one in December 2015 in Current Science wherein they report clinical similarity between ackee poisoning in Jamaicans and the Muzaffarpur illness.
  • At a time when the Lancet authors were looking for a viral cause, Dr. John's team had correctly zeroed in on methylene cyclo propyl glycine (MCPG) toxin in litchi as the likely reason for illness and reported the findings.
  • The team found consumption of litchi and skipping the evening meal as likely reasons for children exhibiting dangerously low blood glucose level and acute encephalopathy early in the morning leading to death in many cases.
  • Encephalopathy is a disease in which the functioning of the brain is affected by some agent or condition (such as viral infection or toxins in the blood).
  • Earlier this condition in Bihar was suspected to be Japanese encephalitis.
  • The team also found the presence of MCPG toxin in litchi through chemical analysis and recommended infusing 10% dextrose within four hours of disease onset to save lives.
  • While the January 30 paper in the Lancet Global Health has acknowledged and cited all three papers, it does not give due credit to the work done by Dr. John's team.
  • "They quote our study but don't honestly say what we have found. They have borrowed all important information connected with the illness from us," Dr. John had told.
  • Lancet has got in touch and sought clarification on this issue.

 

GS II : INTERNATIONAL ASIA

Defiant Iran to carry out missile exercise

  • Iran deployed missiles for a Revolutionary Guards exercise on 4 February 2017 in a show of defiance, a day after the United States imposed sanctions over a ballistic missile test launch a weekend ago.
  • Relations between Washington and Tehran have deteriorated sharply since Donald Trump took office and promising a tough line on what he sees as Iranian belligerency towards U.S. interests and allies.
  • The new sanctions are a response to Iran's test launch of a medium-range ballistic missile on 29 January 2017 as well as its support for Yemeni rebels who attacked a Saudi frigate, officials said.


GS III : ECONOMY

E-commerce in focus during Azevêdo's visit

  • Talks on the proposed global rules on e-commerce are likely to take centre stage during the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevêdo's two-day visit to India starting February 8, officials said.

India's opposition:

  • India has been opposing attempts, mainly by the rich nations, to incorporate what it calls, ‘new issues' such as e-commerce and investment in the ongoing Doha Round talks of the WTO on the grounds that it would lead to the ‘dilution' of the ‘development agenda' (that is to improve the trading prospects of developing countries) of the negotiations.
  • While it is not against informal and non-binding discussions on issues like ecommerce, New Delhi has said these topics cannot be made part of the formal agenda of WTO negotiations without consensus among all the WTO member nations.
  • During the recent stakeholder discussions on ecommerce, several Indian companies had expressed reservations regarding a global, regional or bilateral pact on e-commerce fearing it would favour multinational firms, official sources told.
  • India's e-commerce policy is not yet evolved for it to take a stand regarding a global e-commerce pact, they said, adding that there were differences between ministries on issues such as ‘data localisation.'
  • Data localization refers to storing user data in a datacenter on the Internet that is physically situated in the same country where the data originated. People who fear losing private data to hackers favour data localization.
  • The sources said inter-ministerial discussions were also being held regarding policies on cyber-security and hacking, fake goods and piracy, net-neutrality as well as on safeguards to protect consumer data and ensure privacy.

Proposals on e-commerce:

  • The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the B20 (business associations from G20 members or the 20 major economies) had in September 2016 proposed that "WTO members (should) give active consideration to launching new talks on a holistic package of trade disciplines, rules and assistance to boost MSME (micro, small & medium enterprises) e-commerce with an overriding objective to promote inclusive growth."
  • The ICC-B20 report also said: "It is proposed that such a WTO package could be built around three pillars:

(i)             enhancing connectivity and capacity building for e-commerce;

(ii)            enabling MSMEs to get goods sold online to consumers more eiciently ("Trade Facilitation 2.0"); and

(iii)          digital rules to support online growth and build consumer trust."

  • In its policy recommendations to G20 leaders at the 2016 G20 Hangzhou (China) summit, ICC had said: "Recognising the importance of e-commerce for the world economy, WTO Members agreed in 1998 to a standstill whereby no customs duties are imposed on e-commerce transmissions.
  • "This standstill should be made permanent to build confidence in the growth of e-commerce and the millions of companies worldwide that provide goods and services through e-commerce transactions."


 


GS III : ECONOMY - BUDGET

Lighter purse for arms deals

  • A close reading of the Budget numbers show that capital allocation for the purchase of new weapons and platforms for 2017-18 is lower than that in the present year.
  • In the coming financial year, India is also likely to conclude some of the biggest "Make-in-India" deals in defence sector.

 

GS III :  ECONOMY - BUDGET

Rail projects fund red flagged

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley termed the merger of the Rail Budget with the Union Budget "a historic step" even as he stressed that the "functional autonomy of the Railways will continue."
  • While his Budget 2017-18 speech took on board most of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu's proposals, some critical ideas that would have otherwise figured in Mr. Prabhu's own Budget didn't make it past North Block, such as the formation of a holding company for all public sector rail firms, a rail regulator and a fund for financing rail projects.
  • Mr. Prabhu had suggested 30 points to be incorporated in Mr. Jaitley's Union Budget speech during discussions with the Finance Ministry.
  • While the Railway Minister had proposed Mr. Jaitley to announce a new holding company named Rail Holdco for its stakes in 13 public sector Railways-related enterprises, Mr. Jaitley only referred to the listing of three railway PSUs on the stock markets - IRCTC, Indian Railway Finance Corporation and IRCON.
  • All other announcements related to the Railways made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were based on Mr. Prabhu's proposals, including the move to set up a rail safety fund named ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh' with a corpus of ?1 lakh crore over a period of five years.
  • The Union Budget announcement to redevelop 25 railway stations, set up solar power at 7,000 stations, provide lifts and escalators at 500 stations, provide end-to- end integrated transport solutions for various commodities, form a single window for coach-related complaints, increase the throughput by 10% were all proposed by the Railway Minister.

 

 

GS I : CULTURE

12th century sculptures unearthed in Kashmir

  • Several ancient sculptures were unearthed from an archaeological site in Bijbehara area from Semthan village of south Kashmir's Anantnag district, an official spokesman said.
  • The treasure trove included three fragmented sculptures of Lord Vishnu (without face, legs and arms) which date back to the 12th century C.E.
  • Two fragmented sculptures, dressed for battle and riding elephants, have also been recovered from the site.
  • The artefacts belong to the Kashmir school of sculpture.



GS III : S&T - TRADITIONAL MEDICINES

Tribe offers clues to hidden wonders of medicinal plant

  • A medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka could offer scientists the key to new herbal formulations and modern drugs for the treatment of cancer, wounds and burns.
  • Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) here have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus used by the Cholanaickan tribe, one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala, to treat inflammations and wounds.
  • The researchers have filed for a patent on a novel herbal drug formulation possessing wound-healing, burn-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects.
  • The scientists came to know of the miracle plant in 1988 during a biological survey deep inside the Nilambur forests in Kerala.
  • Systematic documentation of traditional knowledge helped scientists take up the research work later.
  • Animal trials have proved that the leaves of N.calycinus possess wound-healing properties comparable to the standard drug Povidone/ Iodine in the early phase of inflammation.
  • The anti-inflammatory activity of the leaves was found comparable to the drug diclofenac sodium.
  • The presence of high Vitamin E content and potent cyto-protective activity in cell lines in the plant species have also enhanced the prospects of developing an anti-cancer drug.

             


GS III :  S&T - HEALTH

Cancer drug may help re-grow heart tissue

  • Researchers are developing an anti-cancer agent which also promotes regeneration of damaged heart muscle - an unexpected finding that may help prevent congestive heart failure in the future.
  • Many parts of the body, such as blood cells and the lining of the gut, continuously renew throughout life. Others, such as the heart, do not.
  • Because of the heart's inability to repair itself, damage caused by a heart attack causes permanent scarring that frequently results in serious weakening of the heart, known as heart failure.

The research:

  • For years, Lawrence Lum, associate professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in the U.S. worked on a cancer drug that targets Wnt signalling molecules.
  • Essential to the production of Wnt proteins in humans is the porcupine (Porcn) enzyme, so-named because fruit fly embryos lacking this gene resemble a porcupine.
  • In testing the porcupine inhibitor researchers developed, they were surprised. "We saw many predictable adverse effects - in bone and hair, for example - but one surprise was that the number of dividing cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) was slightly increased," said Mr. Lum.
  • "In addition to the intense interest in porcupine inhibitors as anticancer agents, this research shows that such agents could be useful in regenerative medicine," Mr. Lum added.

Lab experiments:

  • Based on their initial results, the researchers induced heart attacks in mice and then treated them with a porcupine inhibitor.
  • Their hearts' ability to pump blood improved by nearly two-fold compared to untreated animals.
  • "Our lab has been studying heart repair for several years, and it was striking to see that administration of a Wnt inhibitor significantly improved heart function following a heart attack in mice," said a researcher involved.
  • Importantly, in addition to the improved pumping ability of hearts in the mice, the researchers noticed a reduction in fibrosis, or scarring in the hearts.



GS III : : ENVIRONMENT- BIODIVERSITY

Butterfly find enriches Indian faunal diversity

  • Marking an important addition to India's rich wildlife, researchers have described Limenitis rileyi, a butterfly spotted in Arunachal Pradesh three decades ago as the first record of the species in the country.
  • It was only after taking expeditions to Arunachal Pradesh with another naturalist Sanjay Sondhi a few years ago, that Mr. Roy approached the British Natural History Museum to identify the butterfly that he had found in 1987.
  • He found that it was the first record of Limentis rileyi in India.
  • Over the past few years the forest of Arunachal Pradesh, sharing borders with Myanmar, China and Bhutan, have been the site for identifying new species of butterflies or first records in India.
  • In 2013, Mr. Roy identified a new species of butterfly, Callerebia dibangensis, named after Dibang valley from where he collected the specimens.
  • The Dibang wildlife sanctuary is a remote area, very difficult to access but rich in biodiversity.
  • Over the past few years, at least two additions to Indian butterflies: the Tibetan brimstone and the Ludlow Bhutan glory has been done.
  • The Tibetan brimstone, a sub-species seen just once before in history, that too in China-occupied Tibet by British naturalist Frank Ludlow in 1938, was located in 2013 at Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The Ludlow Bhutan glory, which was thought to be exclusive to Bhutan, was found at Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in 2012.

 

 

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