Vigilance Awareness Week, 2020
- The Central Vigilance Commission observes the Vigilance Awareness Week from 27th October to 2nd November, 2020.
- This is observed every year during the week in which the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (31st October) falls.
- This awareness week campaign affirms our commitment to promotion of integrity and probity in public life through citizen participation.
- In 2020, the Vigilance Awareness Week is being observed from 27th October to 2nd November, 2020 with the theme, “सतर्क भारत, समृद्ध भारत – Satark Bharat, Samriddh Bharat (Vigilant India, Prosperous India)”.
- This theme was finalized after putting the suggestive themes on the website and obtaining the opinion of Chief Vigilance Officers on the proposed theme for the year.
Price Monitoring and Resource Unit
- A Price Monitoring and Resource Unit (PMRU) has been set up in Goa under the aegis of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
- This PMRU will function at the State level under the direct supervision of the State Drug Controller for increasing outreach of NPPA.
- PMRUs are societies registered under the Societies Registration Act having its own Memorandum of Association/ Bye laws.
- The Board of Governors of PMRU includes the representatives from Central Government and State Government concerned and other stakeholders.
- NPPA, under its Central Sector Scheme named Consumer Awareness, Publicity and Price Monitoring (CAPPM) has already set up PMRUs in 15 States/ UTs, viz., Kerala, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Nagaland, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra.
- NPPA has plans to set up PMRUs in all the 36 States/ UTs in the country.
- The expenses of PMRUs, both recurring and non-recurring are borne by NPPA under the Scheme.
- Till now NPPA is headquartered at Delhi and with the setting up of PMRUs in States/ UTs, NPPA shall have outreach at State Level as well.
- The PMRUs are expected to strengthen drug security and affordability at regional levels.
- The primary function of PMRUs is to assist NPPA in monitoring of prices of drugs, ensuring availability of drugs and raising consumer awareness.
- They act as collaborating partners of NPPA with information gathering mechanism at the grass-roots level.
- They will render necessary technical assistance to both the NPPA and the respective State Drug Controllers of States/ Union Territories.
Libya Ceasefire Agreement
- Rival parties in Libya announced a historic ceasefire followed by five days of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) talks in Geneva, giving way to the possibility that the long-drawn conflict might be coming to an end.
What is going on in Libya?
- Libya has been embroiled in a tussle for power between rival militias ever since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from power by NATO-backed forces and was killed by rebel militia in October 2011.
- Gaddafi’s death marked the end of an eventful 42-year rule by the former Army officer who took over the reins of power from King Idris in a military coup in 1969.
- In the wake of Gaddafi’s ouster, dozens of militias led by multiple warlords scrambled to occupy the power vacuum.
- As a result, Libya turned into a war zone with different militant leaders claiming control of the North African nation.
- Some of the issues of dispute among the warring factions include control of the oil infrastructure, governance, national finances and the military.
Are other countries involved?
- The UN-backed internationally recognised government called the Government of National Accord (GNA) is led by Fayez al-Sarraj, whose Tripoli-based government is supported by allies Qatar and Turkey.
- Turkey has sent troops to Libya, which includes Syrian rebel fighters who are aligned with Turkey.
- The GNA, whose authority is challenged by the factions controlling the east, took power in 2015 under the UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement.
- The eastern part of Libya is controlled by rebel forces under the Libyan National Army (LNA) that is led by General Khalifa Haftar who are supported by Russian military contractors.
- Between 2014-2019, the LNA has conducted military operations against the Islamic State in the east.
- The spread of the Islamic State has further complicated the situation and is also one reason the US is one of the foreign states that has intervened.
What has been the impact of the civil war in Libya?
- As per the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker, the civil war in Libya has created over 50,000 refugees and asylum seekers, while more than 268,000 people have been displaced.
So what is the new ceasefire agreement about?
- As per this new agreement facilitated by the UN, all foreign mercenaries and armed forces will have to withdraw within the next 90 days and the parties also agreed that any violations in the ceasefire will be dealt by a joint military force, which will be under a unified command.
- The ceasefire, however, does not apply to UN-designated terrorist groups.
- The 5+5 have also agreed to open the land and air routes that connect the regions and cities of Libya.
- Significantly, Libya has Africa’s largest oil and gas reserves and with regards to oil production, the different parties have agreed that the commanders of the petroleum facilities from the east and west will work directly with a representative who will be appointed by the National Oil Corporation (NOC).
- This representative will be tasked with recommending a plan for restructuring the Petroleum Facilities Guards in order to ensure that the flow of oil continues.
- This is a significant development since control of the oil infrastructure is one the elements of competition between the GNA and LNA.
Malaysia’s King Rejects Pm Proposal To Declare Emergency
- Malaysia’s king on Sunday rejected a proposal by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to declare a state of emergency to fight a new outbreak of the coronavirus .
- The plan by Muhyiddin, which involves suspending Parliament, has sparked national outrage, with critics slamming the move as an undemocratic means for him to hang on to power amid challenges to his leadership.
- Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said the government has handled the pandemic well and believes that Mr. Muhyiddin is capable of implementing measures to cope with the crisis.
- But the monarch called for a halt to all politicking” that could disrupt the government’s stability.
- The king can declare a state of emergency that allows the country to be governed through ordinances that cannot be challenged in court.
- PM faces a key test early next month when his government is due to seek approval for its 2021 budget in Parliament.
- If he is unable to pass the bill, pressure will build for him to resign or call new elections. A state of emergency could allow him to delay that vote and consolidate support.
- The last time emergency laws were invoked nationally was in 1969 during deadly racial riots.
2+2 Ministerial Dialogue
- The 2+2 Dialogue will be held on October 27. The Indian side at the talks will be represented by External Affairs and Defence Minister.
- A host of crucial bilateral, regional and global issues including China’s efforts to expand influence in the Indo-Pacific region as well as its aggressive behaviour in eastern Ladakh is likely to figure in the talks.
- In the last few months, the U.S. has been ramping up attack on China over a range of contentious issues including the border row with India, its military assertiveness in the South China Sea and the way Beijing handled the anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
- It is expected that the two sides may finalise the long-pending BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement to further boost bilateral defence ties.
- The BECA will provide for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.
- In June 2016, the U.S. had designated India a “Major Defence Partner” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.
- The two countries inked the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies as well as provides for deeper cooperation.
- The two countries signed another pact called COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for sale of high end technology from the U.S. to India.
- The first edition of the 2+2 dialogue was held in Delhi in September 2018 after the mechanism was approved by Mr. Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump.
- The second edition of the dialogue took place in Washington in December 2019.
- The new framework of the Ministerial dialogue was initiated in order to provide a forward-looking vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries.
China may not recognise British-issued Hong Kong passports
- China’s foreign ministry may decide not to recognise British-issued passports for Hong Kong residents in retaliation for London’s moves to open a path to citizenship for those holding the documents.
- Ministry said that Britain had violated its promises and played up the issue of the British National (Overseas) passports.
- Britain said in May that it would allow holders of such passports extended stays and the possibility of citizenship, prompting thousands of Hong Kongers to rush to renew or apply for them as Beijing steps up restriction on political expression.
- Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997 and the sides have increasingly feuded over civil rights in the territory.
- Britain accuses China of failing to live up to its pledges to maintain freedoms in the special administrative region, while Beijing says London is interfering in its internal affairs.
- Differences have sharpened since China in June imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong in response to months of anti-government protests last year.
- London suspended its extradition treaty with the territory and has offered political asylum to persons targeted under the new legislation.
- More than 3,00,000 of Hong Kong’s 7 million residents hold BNO passports, according to the U.K., more than double the number four years earlier.
- Those who qualify can apply for visas enabling them and their immediate family members to live and work in the U.K. and eventually apply for citizenship.
Singapore temporarily halts use of two flu vaccines
- Singapore has temporarily halted the use of two influenza vaccines as a precaution after some people who received them in South Korea died, becoming among the first countries to publicly announce a halt of the vaccines’ usage.
- But South Korea found no direct link between the deaths and the shots.
- No deaths associated with influenza vaccination have been reported in Singapore to date, but the decision to halt the use of SKYCellflu Quadrivalent and VaxigripTetra was precautionary.
- SKYCellflu Quadrivalent is manufactured by South Korea’s SK Bioscience and locally distributed by AJ Biologics, while VaxigripTetra is manufactured by Sanofi and locally distributed by Sanofi Aventis.
- Two other influenza vaccines that have been brought into Singapore for the Northern Hemisphere 2020/21 influenza season may continue to be used.
Tropical Storm Zeta
- Newly formed Tropical Storm Zeta strengthened in the western Caribbean and will probably become a hurricane before hitting Mexico’s resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula and the U.S. Gulf Coast in coming days.
- In a historic hurricane season, Zeta is the earliest ever named 27th Atlantic storm.
- This year’s season has seen so many storms that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names. Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic season has gone.
- There was also a Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists went back and found they missed one, which then became a “unnamed named storm”.
- Recently, Hurricane Epsilon was moving quickly through the northern portion of the Atlantic. Forecasters said it would become a post-tropical cyclone.
- Large ocean swells generated by Epsilon could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along US east coast and Atlantic Canada in the next couple of days.
- Zeta had maximum sustained winds of 40mph and it was expected to intensify into a hurricane by Tuesday.
- When a storm gets stuck, it can unload dangerous downpours which cause flooding when a storm is over or near land.
- That happened in 2017 over Houston, Texas with Harvey, when more than 60 inch of rain fell, and in 2019 over the Bahamas with Dorian, a category 5 hurricane, the worst-case scenario for a stationary storm.
- The western Caribbean is “where storms can cook” and rapidly intensify because of the deep, warm waters, like Wilma in 2005.
Japan Sets 2050 Deadline For Carbon Neutrality
- Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set a 2050 deadline for the world’s third-largest economy to become carbon neutral.
- Japan had previously only aimed to achieve carbon neutrality some time in the latter half of the century, a goal criticised by climate activists as vague and unambitious.
- Japan would also push the use of renewable energy and nuclear power, stressing that safety would be a priority — a key point in a country that suffered the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
- Japan, which is a signatory to the Paris agreement, was the sixth-biggest contributor to global greenhouse emissions in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency.
- Tokyo has been struggling to cut carbon emissions after shutting down its nuclear reactors following the 2011 meltdown in Fukushima sparked by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
- Reliance on fossil fuels like coal increased in Japan after the Fukushima disaster, as public anger over the accident pushed all of the country’s nuclear reactors offline temporarily.
- The novel coronavirus is known to attack primarily the lungs, but how the attack unfolds is still a subject of research.
- Now, two studies have thrown light on these processes by using the same approach.
- Scientists have developed lung models in the lab, infected these with SARS-CoV-2, and watched the battle between the lung cells and the virus.
- In both studies, scientists observed how the virus damages the alveoli in the lungs.
- Alveoli are balloon-like air sacs that take up the oxygen we breathe and release the carbon dioxide we exhale.
- Damage to alveoli causes pneumonia and acute respiratory distress — the leading cause of death in Covid-19.
- Both teams developed the model using “mini-lungs” — or lung organoids. The organoids were grown from the stem cells that repair the deepest portions of the lungs where SARS-CoV-2 attacks. These are called AT2 cells.
- They grew self-organising, alveolar-like 3D structures that mimic the behaviour of key lung tissue.
- When the 3D models were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus began to replicate rapidly.
- In six hours, cells began to produce interferons—proteins that act as warning signals to neighbouring cells. After 48 hours, the cells started fighting back.
- And after 60 hours from infection, some of the alveolar cells began to disintegrate, leading to cell death and damage to the tissue.
- In the other study, led by Duke University cell biologist Purushothama Rao Tata, the team got a single lung cell to multiply into thousands of copies and create a structure that resembles breathing tissues of the human lung.
- Once infected with the virus, the model showed an inflammatory response.
- The team also witnessed the cytokine storm — the hyper reaction of immune molecules the lungs launch to fight the infection.
Work From Home Could Increase Pollution
- As per a new report released by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), some areas in the UK could experience greater levels of air pollution due to large numbers of people working from home due to the pandemic this winter season.
- As per the report, during the course of winter, air pollution, specifically emissions of nitrogen oxides are set to increase in the UK as a result of people spending more time working from their homes and using gas boilers for heating purposes.
- These additional nitrogen oxide emissions will be roughly equivalent to canceling out two years’ of gains incurred as a result of traffic pollution measures.
What’s the reason for this?
- Gas combustion in buildings from cookers and boilers is a major source of local air pollution and accounts for roughly 21 per cent of nitrogen oxides emissions across the Greater London area for instance.
- As a result of this increased energy use, ECIU analysis suggests that urban air quality will worsen, with nitrogen oxide emissions increasing by approximately 12 per cent in some UK towns and cities.
Have similar trends been predicted for India?
- The information in the ECIU report is meant for areas in the UK only.
- However, as per the State of Global Air report 2020, which is published by the US based Health Effects Institute, India’s population has the third highest exposure to PM 2.5, one of the most harmful pollutants for human health.
- These pollutants, which are one-thirteenth the width of a strand of hair are capable of entering the bloodstream or embedding themselves into the lungs and can cause illnesses such as stroke, lung cancer and heart disease.
- In winters air pollution rises in Delhi and the Indo-Gangetic plains.
- This is because of several factors including weather and local conditions, changes in wind speed and vehicular emissions.
World Polio Day
- October 24 is observed as World Polio Day every year in order to call on countries to stay vigilant in their fight against the disease.
- As per the WHO, since 1980, the cases of wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99.9 per cent as a result of vaccination efforts made around the world.
- World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop the vaccine against the disease.
- In the last three decades, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), led by national governments and the WHO, has been monitoring the disease situation globally.
What is polio?
- Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly disease that affects the nervous system… Because the virus lives in the faeces (poop) of an infected person, people infected with the disease can spread it to others when they do not wash their hands well after defecating (pooping).
- People can also be infected if they drink water or eat food contaminated with infected feces.
- Most people with polio do not feel sick. Some people have only minor symptoms, such as fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the arms and legs.
- In rare cases, polio infection causes permanent loss of muscle function (paralysis).
- Polio can be fatal if the muscles used for breathing are paralyzed or if there is an infection of the brain.
- The virus multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
- Once that happens, the patient is crippled for life because there is no treatment for the affliction. Polio infection, however, can be easily prevented by a vaccine.
- There are three variants of the poliovirus, numbered 1 to 3.
- For a country to be declared polio-free, the wild transmission of all three kinds has to be stopped.
- For eradication, cases of both wild and vaccine-derived polio infection have to be reduced to zero.
Which are the countries where the disease has seen recent outbreaks?
- In 2019, polio outbreaks were recorded in the Philippines, Malaysia, Ghana, Myanmar, China, Cameroon, Indonesia and Iran, which were mostly vaccine-derived (a rare strain of the virus genetically mutated from the strain in the vaccine).
- According to the WHO, if the oral vaccine-virus is excreted and allowed to circulate in an un- or under-immunised population for at least 12 months, it can mutate to cause infections.
- As per the CDC, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two countries that are the last stronghold of the wild poliovirus. In Pakistan, the number of reported wild poliovirus cases has increased in 2020.
- On August 25, the African Region was certified as wild poliovirus free.
What is India’s situation with regard to the disease?
- India was declared polio-free in January 2014, after three years of zero cases, an achievement widely believed to have been spurred by the successful pulse polio campaign in which all children were administered polio drops.
- The last case due to wild poliovirus in the country was detected on January 13, 2011.
Thousands of seals found dead in Namibia
- An estimated 7,000 Cape fur seals have been discovered dead at a breeding colony in central Namibia.
- Fur seals normally give birth between mid-November and mid-December.
- Between 5,000 and 7,000 female seals had miscarried young with more still being found.
- The cause of the mass die off is yet to be established but scientists suspect anything from pollutants or bacterial infection to malnutrition.
- Some of the dead females found were “thin-looking, emaciated, with very little fat reserves
- In 1994 some 10,000 seals died and 15,000 foetuses were aborted in a mass die off that was linked to starvation suspected to have resulted from a shortage of fish as well as from a bacterial infection at another breeding colony, the Cape Cross, some 116 kilometres north of the central tourist town Swakopmund.
Mexico’s Khadi Oaxaca
- In his Mann ki Baat address on Sunday (October 25), Prime Minister asked people to go vocal for local while shopping during the festival season, and particularly extolled the virtues of khadi – the handwoven cloth popularised by Mahatma Gandhi.
- Modi made a reference to the region of Oaxaca (pronounced O-aa-ha-ka) in Mexico, where he said khadi was being manufactured, and narrated an anecdote about how khadi reached the Latin American country after a local resident became influenced by a film on Mahatma Gandhi.
What is Mexico’s Khadi Oaxaca?
- Khadi Oaxaca is a farm-to-garment collective which comprises around 400 families, which live and work on traditional farms and homesteads in the Oaxaca region of southern Mexico.
- It has been founded by Mark “Marcos” Brown, an American living in Mexico, and his wife, Kalindi Attar.
- Before starting the project, Brown lived in India for 12 years, and was strongly influenced by Gandhi.
- For two years (1986-88), he lived in Gujarat’s Sabarmati Ashram, where he learned about khadi.
Himalayan Brown Bear
- A recent study on the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) has predicted a significant reduction in suitable habitat and biological corridors of the species in the climate change scenario,
- prompting scientists to suggest an adaptive spatial planning of protected area network in the western Himalayas for conserving the species.
- The Himalayan brown bear is one of the largest carnivores in the highlands of Himalayas.
- It occupies the higher reaches of the Himalayas in remote, mountainous areas of Pakistan and India, in small and isolated populations, and is extremely rare in many of its ranges.
- The study carried out in the western Himalayas predicted a massive decline of about 73% of the bear’s habitat by the year 2050.
- These losses in habitat will also result in loss of habitat from 13 protected areas (PAs), and eight of them will become completely uninhabitable by the year 2050, followed by loss of connectivity in the majority of PAs.
- There is a need to adopt “preemptive spatial planning of PAs in the Himalayan region for the long-term viability of the species.
Covid-19 To Infect More Cells
- Some immune responses prompt a non-functional variant of the human protein while fighting the novel coronavirus.
- It is used by the virus to easily penetrate host cells and infect. The study was carried out to find the body’s natural defenses against Covid-19.
- Study analysed the genetic information of the ACE2 receptor, to which the SARS-CoV-2 virus must bind in order to enter and infect human cells.
- In the study, scientists intended to identify a new variant or isoform of ACE2 called MIRb-ACE2 that the SARS-CoV-2 virus cannot bind to.
- This variant of genetic information is the result of retroelements in our DNA that can jump around the genome and affect gene expression.
- It seems to be widespread in mammals, so it must have entered the human genome a long time ago.
- The researchers tested the effects of the exposure of cells to interferons, proteins released by virus infected cells that signal immune system.
- They found that interferons specifically increase the response and production of MIRb-ACE2, while ACE2 is not affected.
- The researchers believe that interferon-based treatments for the novel virus could inadvertently help the virus by causing an increase in coronavirus cell receptors in the body.
- Coronavirus cannot bind to MIRb-ACE2, which is also very unstable.
- The non-functional MIRb-ACE2 isoform was likely responsible for results from previous studies that indicated that interferons could upregulate ACE2 because there was no difference between these two isoforms.