Current Affairs Oct 21

Evidence-based Impact of National Deworming Day in India

  • Soil-Transmitted Helminthiases (STH), also known as parasitic intestinal worm infection, is a significant public health concern mostly in low resource settings.
  • These are known to have detrimental effects on children’s physical growth and well being and can cause anemia and under-nutrition.
  • Regular deworming as advised by the World Health Organization eliminates worm infestation among children and adolescents living in areas with high STH burden, thereby contributing to achieve better nutrition and health.
  • Since its launch in 2015, the National Deworming Day (NDD), a flagship program of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is implemented as a biannual single day programme implemented through the platforms of schools and anganwadis.
  • Albendazole tablet, approved by World Health Organization (WHO), is used for treatment of intestinal worms in children and adolescents as part of Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programmes globally.
  • As per WHO Report on STH published in 2012, in India there were an estimated 64% children in the age group (1-14 years) at risk of STH.
  • The risk was estimated based on the hygiene and sanitation practices and limited STH prevalence data at that point of time.
  • To assess the exact burden of STH in India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare appointed the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as the nodal agency to coordinate and conduct nationwide baseline STH mapping.
  • NCDC completed the baseline STH mapping across the country by the end of 2016.
  • The data showed varied prevalence ranging from 12.5 % in Madhya Pradesh to 85% in Tamil Nadu.
  • Implementation of NDD is led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Education and technical assistance from WHO and the technical partners.





Indigenous Software solution for VTS and VTMS

  • Ministry of Shipping e-launched the development of Indigenous Software solution for Vessel traffic services (VTS) and Vessels Traffic Monitoring Systems (VTMS) in New Delhi.
  • VTS and VTMS is a software which determines vessel positions, position of other traffic or meteorological hazard warnings and extensive management of traffic within a port or waterway.
  • Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) contribute to safety of life at sea, safety and efficiency of navigation and protection of the marine environment, adjacent shore areas, work sites and offshore installations from possible adverse effects of maritime traffic.
  • Vessels Traffic Management Systems (VTMS) are installed in some of the busiest waters in the world, and are making valuable contribution to safer navigation, more efficient traffic flow, and protection of the environment.
  • VTMS is mandatory under IMO Convention SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea).
  • Presently, India has approximately 15 VTS systems operational along the Indian Coast and there is no uniformity of VTS software as each system has its own VTS software.
  • With the indigenous software development in progress the recent positive cooperation with office of Director General of Light and Lighthouses (DGLL) on joint development of the indigenous VTMS software development as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative will strengthen the cooperation in this area.
  • At the same time, it will benefit the port sector, both in India and region.

Indigenous development of VTS software will benefit with respect to:

  • Saving of foreign exchange for various VTSs in India.
  • VTS Software can be provided to Indian trade friendly nations viz. Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bangladesh and Gulf countries.
  • Will also minimize the cost for future upgradations of software.
  • Shall be easier to interconnect with MIS/ERP softwares of ports.
  • Availability of Indian VTS software shall make Indian companies to be competitive commercially in global bids.
  • Implementation of National Maritime Domain Awareness programme of Indian Navy and NCVTS by DGLL – a real time, interactive aids to navigation system for coastal shipping shall become feasible with Indian VTS software at low cost.


DRDO Procurement Manual


  • Defence Minister has approved a new Defence Research & Development Organisation Procurement Manual (PM) 2020
  • to encourage more participation by the industry, including startups and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME),
  • in research and development and to achieve the objective of self reliance in defence.
  • The new DRDO PM-2020 will facilitate the indigenous defence industry by simplifying the processes and ensure their participation in design and development activities.
  • The DRDO PM was last modified in 2016.
  • Bid security declaration option for earnest money deposit, increase of threshold limit for advance payment, placement of order on lowest bidder 2 (L2) in case L1 (lowest bidder) backs out are some of the salient features of the new manual, which will assist the industry in speedy execution of projects.
  • Also exempts bid security and performance security up to ₹10 lakh and does away with the requirement for negotiations for commercial off-the-shelf items or services wherever price discovery is happening through market forces.
  • In addition, performance security for service contracts is linked to the payment cycle, instead of total contract value.



 Feluda Test To Be Commercially Available By Month-end


  • The Feluda test, a coronavirus detection test developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and to be commercialised by Tata Sons, will be commercially available in laboratories this month.

What is the new Feluda Covid-19 test?

  • Feluda, the acronym for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay, uses indigenously developed CRISPR gene-editing technology to identify and target the genetic material of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
  • According to CSIR, the test matches accuracy levels of RT-PCR tests, considered the gold standard in the diagnosis of Covid-19, has a quicker turnaround time and requires less expensive equipment.
  • ‘Feluda’ is also the world’s first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to successfully detect the virus. Other CRISPR tests use CAS12 and CAS13 proteins to detect SARS-CoV2.

What is CRISPR technology?

  • CRISPR, short form for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a gene editing technology and finds its use in correcting genetic defects and treating and preventing the spread of diseases.
  • Its discovery won the Nobel Prize for chemistry this year.
  • The CRISPR technology can detect specific sequences of DNA within a gene and uses an enzyme functioning as molecular scissors to snip it.
  • It also allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
  • Moreover, the technology can also be configured for detection of multiple other pathogens in the future.

How does Feluda Covid-19 test work?

  • The Feluda test is similar to a pregnancy test strip that will just change colour upon detection of the virus and can be used in a simple pathological lab.

What is the cost of Feluda test? How does it compare with other tests?

  • The test, which still requires a nasal swab to be collected and sent to a lab, promises to be quicker than the gold-standard test because it doesn’t need the expensive RT-PCR (Reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction) machine that can set back a lab by at least ₹25 lakh.
  • A smaller, cheaper more portable machine called a thermocycler, which costs around ₹25,000, is employed and once the viral RNA is extracted, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to confirm presence of the virus.
  • The ‘Feluda’ test costs just about Rs 500 while the RT-PCR test now costs anywhere between Rs 1,600 to Rs 2,000. Antibody tests, which can give results in 20-30 minutes, costs between Rs 500 and Rs 600.
  • In theory a saliva sample can be used in a FELUDA-style system but current government regulations don’t permit the use of such tests because there isn’t a standardised process to extract RNA and — the wisdom goes — can lead to many more false negatives.




Govt Suggests disengaging Premier Green Institutions


  • In a proposal to Cabinet Secretary, the Finance Ministry has recommended that the Ministry of Environment Forests (MoEF) and Climate Change “disengage” from five autonomous institutions working under it and merge two others, thus reducing the 16 autonomous organisations under the ministry to nine.
  • Among institutions proposed to be disengaged from MoEF are the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, and Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal.
  • The recommendation is a part of an exercise carried out by the Finance Ministry for rationalisation of autonomous institutions that function under different ministries.


  • It recommended that the Society of Integrated Coastal Management be merged with the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, as both “perform similar roles of promoting coastal management…to avoid duplication of activities and attain economies of scale’’.
  • It recommended merging of Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, which receives Rs 14 crore annually from MoEF, to merge with the ministry. 
  • It also recommended that the Indian Council for Forest and Research Education, GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development and statutory bodies such as Central Pollution Control Board, Central Zoo Authority (CZA), National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), National Biodiversity Authority continue to function under and with the financial support of MoEF.
  • The committee has recommended that MoEF disengage from five autonomous bodies: IIFM, WII, Indian Council of Forest Research and Education, Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute, CPR Environmental Education Centre, and the Centre of Environment Education.




What Causes a Sudden Dip in Temperature


  • Recently, the minimum or the night time temperature recorded in the Delhi was 13.7 degrees Celsius, which is four degrees below normal for this time of the year.
  • This was also the coldest night time temperature recorded in over a decade in the month of October in Delhi, as per data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

What is causing the dip in temperature?

  • There are two main reasons behind the fall in mercury, scientists at the IMD say.
  • One is that the sky over the city during the night has been clear over the past few days — meaning there is no cloud cover.
  • The second reason is that the wind at night becomes calm, its speed dropping to almost zero, which is characteristic of the post-monsoon period in Delhi.
  • These two factors result in higher radiation from the Earth’s surface at night time, which cools the surface and the air close to it.
  • A better way to explain this is that during day time, the Earth’s surface heats up from solar radiation, or energy from the Sun. At night time, the Earth’s surface emits this energy back into space in the form of radiation.
  • If there was cloud cover over Delhi at present, it would absorb radiation emitted by the earth’s surface and re-emit a portion of it to outer space and another portion back towards the Earth, which would increase the temperature of the surface and atmosphere.




India-US Defence Deals


  • India and the US are preparing for the third 2+2 ministerial meeting between External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister and US Secretary of State and Defense Secretary in New Delhi on October 26-27.
  • One of the items on the agenda will be the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) — a pact with deep military implications.
  • In the last two meetings, agreements known as LEMOA and COMCASA were signed.


What is BECA?

  • The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence.
  • Anyone who sails a ship, flies an aircraft, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cellphone relies on geospatial intelligence.
  • Signing BECA will allow India to use the US’s advanced geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
  • It will give access to topographical and aeronautical data and products that will aid navigation and targeting.
  • This could be key for Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation.
  • This flows from the commitment in the joint statement during US President Donald Trump’s visit in February this year, when the two sides had said they looked forward to an “early conclusion” of BECA.

What are the other two agreements about?


  • The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed between India and the US in August 2016.
  • It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases: access supplies, spare parts and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
  • This is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation, since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Again, to put this simply, it is like going to a friend’s garage and workshop to refuel one’s car and getting repairs done.
  • But, by doing this, one is also exposing one’s car and technology to the friend, and that requires trust.
  • In military terms, one’s Naval ships are strategic assets and use of another country’s base would expose one’s military asset to the host.


  • The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement was signed in September 2018, after the first 2+2 dialogue in which then External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister met visiting US Secretary of State and then Secretary of Defence.
  • It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war.
  • To explain in lay terms again, it is like WhatsApp or Telegram for the two militaries, which is safe and real-time communication is possible hassle-free.
  • COMCASA paved the way for transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.

So, what do these three pacts put together mean?

  • While LEMOA means one partner trusts the other enough to expose its valuable assets, COMCASA means one is confident that it can rely on encrypted systems to connect the two militaries, and BECA means it can share highly classified information in real time without fear of being compromised.
  • All this signals the level of trust that has developed between the two countries and their militaries, faced with an increasingly aggressive China.




Government Moves To Ease Ship Registration Rules


  • The government is weighing a plan to ease nationality norms for registration of ships by allowing vessels that are substantially owned by Indian entities and those owned by overseas corporate Indians (OCI) and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) to register under the Indian flag.
  • Ships purchased through bare-boat-charter-cum-demise (BBCD) route will also be permitted to register in India before the end of the charter period.
  • Currently, a BBCD ship is allowed be converted to an Indian flag ship only when the last instalment of the charter hire is paid to the overseas owner.
  • Till then, it flies the flag of the jurisdiction where it is registered.
  • At present, only vessels wholly-owned by Indian entities’ are allowed to be registered under the Indian flag.
  • The easing of ship registration rules will be affected by re-writing the Merchant Shipping Act and forms part of the Maritime India Vision 2030 to help raise Indian shipping tonnage (capacity).
  • India allows 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) into the shipping industry, but foreign fleet owners have so far shied away from setting up shop in India citing unfavourable tax regime and operating conditions.
  • Some of these taxes and operational disadvantages have since been removed, raising hope that this would trigger a renewed interest among fleet owners with lesser risk-taking ability to register ships in India and grab a share of the business including India’s cabotage (domestic coastal).
  • Under the revised rules, state-run firms and government departments are mandated to hire only ships owned by local firms where the transportation contract value is less than ₹200 crore.




Cannabidiol (CBD)


  • Researchers at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia (MCG) have found a way to utilise Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical in the marijuana plant.
  • According to researchers, CBD can be used to reduce the effect of cytokine storms, triggered by overly-activated immune responses. These storms are especially seen in critically-ill Covid-19 patients.
  • CBD can cause an increase in the levels of a natural peptide called apelin, which is known to reduce inflammation and whose levels are dramatically reduced during a cytokine storm.
  • CBD has the ability to improve oxygen levels and reduce inflammation.
  • The compound also helped reduce the physical lung damage in their laboratory model of deadly adult respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS.
  • Blood levels of the peptide dropped close to zero in their ARDS model and increased 20 times with CBD.
  • Apelin is a pervasive peptide made by cells in the heart, lung, brain, fat tissue, and blood. It is an important regulator in bringing down both blood pressure and inflammation.
  • When blood pressure rises, apelin levels shoot up in the right place, like in endothelial cells that line the blood vessels. This further helps bring down the pressure.
  • However, apelin, in the case of ARDS, did not increase in areas of the lungs where it’s needed to improve blood and oxygen flow to compensate. It rather decreased in both the lung tissue itself and the general circulation.
  • The treatment with CBD then normalised the immune response and apelin levels, along with oxygen levels and swelling and scarring in the lung’s characteristic of the deadly ARDS.




Why Agriculture Sectors Share In Rural Employment Is Declining


  • Over the last three-and-a-half decades, there has been a structural shift in the occupational choice among rural workers, particularly rural agricultural workers, with changes in their occupational choices ranging from agriculture to non-agricultural sectors.
  • According to the 38th Round (1983) of the National Sample Survey (NSS) report, around 77 per cent of rural households depend on the agricultural sector to sustain their livelihoods.
  • Over the years, rural households’ dependency on agriculture has declined to 50 per cent as per the latest round of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for 2018-19.
  • In addition, the agriculture sector’s contribution to national GDP has declined from 34 per cent in 1983-84 to 16 per cent in 2018-19.
  • The agricultural sector’s contribution to employment declined from 81 per cent in 1983 to 58 per cent in 2018.
  • Rural non-agricultural employment, which increased from 19 per cent to 42 per cent during the same period.

Gender-wise employment

  • Percentage of male workers engaged in agricultural activities declined from 78 per cent in 1983 to 53 per cent in 2018,
  • while the rate of female agricultural employment fell from 88 per cent to 71 per cent in the same period.
  • On the other hand, workforce participation in rural non-agricultural sectors for male workers increased from 22 per cent in 1983 to 47 per cent in 2018, thus registering an increase of 25 percentage points.
  • Along similar lines, female employment in the rural non-agricultural sector gradually increased from 12 per cent to 29 per cent over the same period.


What are the primary reasons behind the decline in employment share in the rural agricultural sector?

  • Major internal factors such as insufficient public investment for agrarian development, inadequate access to institutional credit, inadequate irrigation facilities, government’s poor agriculture-related marketing policies, half-baked land reform policy, and low return from agriculture are responsible for the fall in agricultural employment.
  • Besides, external factors such as excessive economic liberalisation in the Indian economy and low import tariffs in agricultural products have also played a critical role in the declining share of employment in the rural agriculture sector.

Exogenous shocks

  • Apart from the external and internal factors, exogenous shocks such as frequent droughts, floods and cyclones are also responsible for the falling employment share in the agricultural sector.
  • These natural calamities cause extensive damage to crops, which in turn disincentivises rural workforce to take-up farming.
  • According to a report by the Central Water Commission, on an average India lost around ₹2,785 crore annually due to crop damage related to flooding during the period 1980-2017.
  • Female workers cannot easily shift from agricultural to non-agricultural occupations due to socio-economic and cultural barriers.

Way ahead

  • To mitigate the impact of floods on gender-wise employment in the rural agricultural sector, both the Central and State governments should devise a suitable flood management policy and implement a revamped agricultural policy.
  • For example, the government should invest more in flood control, irrigation, and disaster risk reduction measures.
  • Moreover, increasing public investment for building agricultural infrastructure, revamping agricultural marketing policy, providing compulsory crop insurance, making agricultural input subsidies readily available, and increasing MSPs for major crops are crucial.
  • These measures will encourage rural female workers to engage in agricultural activities and minimise labour shift from agricultural to the rural non-agricultural sector.




Extreme Poverty Figures


  • An estimated one in six children — or 356 million globally — were living in extreme poverty before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and this is set to worsen significantly, according to a new World Bank Group and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) analysis.
  • ‘Global Estimate of Children in Monetary Poverty: An Update’, notes that sub-Saharan Africa, with its limited social safety nets, accounts for two-thirds of children living in households that struggle to survive on an average of $1.90 a day or less per person — the international measure for extreme poverty, while South Asia accounts for nearly a fifth of these children.
  • Although children make up around a third of the global population, around half of the extreme poor are children. Furthermore, they are more than twice as likely to be extremely poor as adults.
  • Extreme poverty deprives hundreds of millions of children of the opportunity to reach their potential, in terms of physical and cognitive development, and threatens their ability to get good jobs in adulthood.
  • Extreme poverty among children has not fallen as much as it has for adults, and a larger share of the global poor were children in 2017, compared with the 2013 figure.
  • Child poverty is more prevalent in fragile and conflict-affected countries, where more than 40% of children live in extremely poor households, compared to nearly 15% of children in other countries.
  • More than 70% of children in extreme poverty live in a household where the head of the house works in the fields or pastures.
  • The ongoing COVID-19 crisis will continue to disproportionately impact children, women and girls, threatening to reverse hard-won gains towards gender equality.
  • World Bank and UNICEF data suggest that most countries have responded to the crisis by expanding social protection programmes, particularly cash transfers, which provide a platform for longer-term investments in human capital.
  • However, many of the responses are short-term and not adequate to respond to the size and expected long-term nature of the recovery
  • It is more important than ever for governments to scale up and adjust their social protection systems and programmes to prepare for future shocks, including
  • innovations for financial sustainability;
  • strengthening legal and institutional frameworks;
  • protecting human capital;
  • expanding child and family benefits for the long term;
  • as well as investing in family-friendly policies, such as paid parental leave and quality child care for all.



Hcng Dispensing Centre For Buses Inaugurated


  • A hydrogen enriched-Compressed Natural Gas (HCNG) plant and dispensing station was inaugurated at the Delhi.
  • Hydrogen enriched-Compressed Natural Gas or HCNG, is predicted to be the first step to a hydrogen economy, and can be used in place of gasoline, diesel fuel/LPG and its combustion produces fewer undesirable gases in comparison to a normal automobile fuel.
  • It reduces the emission of carbon dioxide by 70% and increases the fuel efficiency by upto 3% resulting in overall fuel savings of around 5%. Switch to HCNG fuel requires minimum modifications to the existing buses.


  • CNG is compressed natural gas. With natural gas mainly composed of methane, CNG emits less air pollutants — carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter — than petrol or diesel.
  • H-CNG is a blend of hydrogen and CNG, the ideal hydrogen concentration being 18%.
  • Compared to conventional CNG, use of H-CNG can reduce emission of carbon monoxide up to 70%, besides enabling up to 5% savings in fuel, tests by the Automotive Research Association of India and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) have found.



SANT missile


  • India has successfully test-fired its Stand-off Anti-tank (SANT) missile off the coast of Odisha.
  • The SANT missile is being developed by the DRDO’s research centre, Imarat, in collaboration with the Indian Air Force.
  • An upgrade on India’s Helina missile believed to have a range of 7 to 8 km.
  • The new missile is said to have a range of between 15 and 20 km and comes equipped with a nose-mounted active radar seeker, enabling the launch platform to be located at a safe distance from the target area.

The DRDO’s Nag range

  • The DRDO has successfully developed several anti-tank missiles in its ‘Nag’
  • The range of a Nag missile could lie anywhere between 500m and 20 km depending on its launch type.
  • These weapons have a top speed of approximately 230 meters per second (828 km/hour).
  • The land version of the DRDO’s Nag missile is the Prospina, meant for infantry, and launched via a tracking and launch carrier called NAMICA (Nag Missile Carrier).
  • The system can be mounted on the light infantry vehicle, BMP-2 capable of carrying up to six missiles. Each NAMICA can deploy four missiles in a single minute.
  • The Helina missile is the helicopter-launched version in the Nag range and has an extended range.
  • Its launch system is fitted on to the HAL’s Rudra helicopter via the Rudrasta twin-launcher system. It can also be mounted on the HAL’s Light Combat helicopters.
  • Before the upgrade, the Nag was considered a ‘fire-and forget,’ lock-on-before-launch missile.
  • The American Javelin and the Israeli Spike are believed to be the only two other ‘fire-and-forget’ missiles comparable to the DRDO’s Nag.
  • But Nag is said to have edge over the other two in that its indigenously developed imaging seeker and guidance system make it jam-proof.



Polluted Air Killing Half A Million Babies A Year Across Globe


  • Air pollution last year caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life, with most of the infants being in the developing world.
  • Exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful also for babies in the womb. It can cause a premature birth or low birth weight.
  • Both of these factors are associated with higher infant mortality.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.
  • Babies born with a low birth weight are more susceptible to childhood infections and pneumonia. The lungs of pre-term babies can also not be fully developed.


Nasa Osiris-rex Spacecraft Lands On Asteroid Bennu


  • A Nasa spacecraft has successfully landed on an asteroid, dodging boulders the size of buildings, in order to collect a handful of cosmic rubble for analysis back on Earth.
  • The space agency team behind the Osiris-Rex project said preliminary data showed the sample collection went as planned and that the spacecraft had lifted off the surface of asteroid Bennu.
  • The Osiris-Rex spacecraft sent back confirmation of its brief contact with asteroid Bennu more than 200m miles (322m km) away.
  • If successful, Osiris-Rex will return the samples in 2023.
  • The US mission follows one run by Japan called Hayabusa2, which is due to return to Earth in December bearing samples collected from the 4.5bn-year-old asteroid Ryugu.
  • When it lands in the Australian desert, it will be the first ever sub-surface asteroid sample to return to Earth.
  • On Bennu, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft took four-and-a-half hours to make its way down from its tight orbit to the surface, following commands sent well in advance by ground controllers near Denver.
  • As the asteroid is just 1,670 feet (510 meters) across, Bennu’s gravity was too low for Osiris-Rex to land.
  • As a result, the spacecraft had to reach out with its 11-foot (3.4-meter) robot arm and attempt to grab at least 2 ounces (60 grams) of Bennu.
  • Osiris-Rex, a van-size spacecraft, aimed for a spot equivalent to a few parking spaces on Earth in the middle of the asteroid’s Nightingale Crater.
  • After nearly two years orbiting Bennu, the spacecraft found this location to have the biggest patch of particles small enough to be swallowed up.





‘Rash Selfies’ To Diagnose Lyme Disease


  • Artificial intelligence can be used to evaluate smartphone photos of suspicious rashes and detect Lyme disease.
  • Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick.
  • A painless rash, called Erythema migrans (EM), usually appears a week or so later, followed by more serious symptoms including fever, headache, chills, joint pain and swollen lymph glands.
  • Lyme disease is most effectively treated if caught early. 
  • Untreated, it can cause cognitive impairment, chronic fatigue, heart palpitations and painful swelling that can last from months to years.
  • A team at Johns Hopkins trained computers to scan images of ‘rash selfies’ and differentiate EM from healthy skin, with a success rate of over 90 percent.
  • The AI correctly discerned Erythema migrans from healthy skin 94 percent of the time and had 72 percent accuracy choosing between EM and rashes caused by cellulitis, herpes and other conditions.
  • Blood tests to detect antibodies for Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, are often unreliable.


White-tailed Eagle


  • An eagle driven to extinction in the UK due to illegal killing more than 100 years ago has been spotted flying over the Cornwall coast for the first time.
  • The white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) disappeared from the UK during the early 20th century but has been brought back from the brink.
  • The species is the largest bird of prey in the UK with a wingspan pushing eight feet (2.4 metres) and a body length of up to three feet (90cm).
  • It suffered huge declines in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries and it is still persecuted by gamekeepers because it feeds on birds, rabbits and hares.
  • However, numbers are now growing after the legally-protected birds were bred in captivity on the Isle of Wight and released into the wild last year.
  • Although the species was pushed to extinction in the UK, it is very widely distributed, with strongholds in Russia and Norway.
  • They are now protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.
  • As of 2015, they have been classified as red under the Birds of Conservation Concern list – the most critical rating ahead of amber and green, meaning it’s ‘globally threatened’.




A Model To Estimate Covid-19 Severity And Death


  • Researchers in England have developed a model that can calculate a person’s risk of contracting the coronavirus and getting critically affected by it.
  • They considered several factors, including the person’s age, ethnicity, and existing medical conditions to predict their risk of infection and death due to Covid-19.
  • They also used the collected data to create a risk prediction model — QCovid — that provides a weighted, cumulative calculation of risk using the variables associated with poor Covid-19 outcomes.
  • The factors incorporated in the model include age, sex, ethnicity, level of deprivation, obesity, whether someone lived in residential care or was homeless, and a range of existing medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and cancer.

Assessment outcomes

  • The findings revealed that the model performed well in predicting outcomes. People in the dataset whose calculated risk put them in the top 20 per cent of predicted risk of death accounted for 94 per cent of deaths from Covid-19.