SCO International Exhibition on Shared Buddhist Heritage
Why in News?
- Vice President of India & Chair of the SCO Council of Heads of Government in 2020, launched the first ever SCO Online Exhibition on Shared Buddhist Heritage, during the 19th Meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government (SCO CHG).
- Developed and curated by National Museum, New Delhi, in active collaboration with SCO member countries.
- The exhibition deploys state of the art technologies like 3D scanning, webGL platform, virtual space utilization, innovative curation and narration methodology etc.
- Buddhist philosophy and art of Central Asia connects Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries to each other.
- National Museum (New Delhi), Indian Museum (Kolkata), National Museum of Kazakhstan, Dun Huang Academy (China), National Historical Museum of the Kyrgyz Republic, Museums of Pakistan, State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow (Russia), National Museum and National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan and renowned archaeological sites of Uzbekistan.
What’s in it?
- The visitors can explore the Indian Buddhist treasures from the Gandhara and Mathura Schools, Nalanda, Amaravati, Sarnath etc. in a 3D virtual format. The
- Pakistan hall depicts the life of Gautama Buddha and Buddhist Art through a collection of impressive Gandhara art objects from Karachi, Lahore, Taxlia, Islamabad, SWAT and Peshawar museums.
- Over 100 objects from State Oriental Art Museum, Moscow, depict the Buddhist Buriyat Art of Russia through icons, ritual objects, monastery traditions etc.
- The Dunhuang Academy of China contributed a rich digital collection on Buddhist Art from Dunhunag that include ingenious architecture, resplendent murals, decorative designs, costumes etc.
- The prime attraction of Tajikistan hall is the 13 meter long reclining – ‘Buddha in Nirvana’ from Ajina-Tepa.
- The Prime Minister of India, in his Maan Ki Baat session on 29.11.2020, has lauded National Museum, New Delhi for its innovative efforts of using technology in cultural sector.
PM Modi and his Government’s special relationship with Sikhs
Why in News?
- Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shri Prakash Javadekar released a booklet ‘PM Modi and his Government’s special relationship with Sikhs’.
- The book was release in three languages Hindi, Punjabi and English.
- During the celebration of 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Other Important Decisions
- It was decided to establish a Chair on Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings in a University in United Kingdom and Canada and talks are underway to establish it in Canada.
- The decision on no taxation on Langars, FCRA Registration to Sri Harmandir Sahib, allowing global Sangat participation, revision of ‘Blacklist’ as per demand of Sikh community et al.
- Union Government’s commitment to teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji on Sustainable Development and women empowerment and the teachings of Guru Maharaj have been incorporated in the agenda of the Government.
- The booklet produced by Bureau of Outreach Communication under Ministry of I&B.
U.P. Religious Conversion Ordinance Challenges Supreme Court Verdicts
What is it?
- The Uttar Pradesh ordinance criminalising religious conversion via marriage breaks away from a series of Supreme Court judgments, which hold that faith, the State and courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
What SC Says
- The choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual’s “personhood and identity”. of the father”.
- Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
- Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.
- Any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a “chilling effect” on freedoms.
- Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable. “The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith”.
- Constitution will remain strong only if we accept the plurality and diversity of our culture”. Relatives disgruntled by the inter-religious marriage of a loved one could opt to “cut off social relations” rather than resort to violence or harassment.
- If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage.
- In the Soni Gerry case, the court warned judges from playing “super-guardians”, succumbing to “any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism.
World AIDS Day: December 1
- Theme: ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic: resilience and impact.’
How to Achieve this by 2030
- To ensure life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) reaches all those who are infected and that all persons living with HIV know their status.
- The aim is to ensure that those on ART are viral suppressed so that infection is negligible. The aim is to make U=U or undetectable = Untransmittable a reality.
- The target date to ensure that 90% of the PLHIV are reached by 2020 has been delayed.
- To ensure that 90% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) know their status, 90% of them are on life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and 90% of those on ART are virally suppressed, before the end of 2020.
- By 2030, it aimed to make accessible ART to every PLHIV, which in turn reduces the viral load in their blood to undetectable levels.
- This would result in making negligible their risk of transmitting the HIV.
- India had 2.35 million people living with HIV. Of this 1.345 million were receiving ART.
- There were 69,220 new HIV infections and 58,960 AIDS related deaths reported in India in 2019.
2020 global target
- To achieve reduction in new HIV infections and AIDS deaths below 500,000 in a year.
- But in 2019, we had 1,700,000 newly infected people with HIV and 690,000 AIDS deaths worldwide.
UNAIDS Report 2020
- Asia Pacific region saw a 12% decline in new HIV infections and a 29% decline in AIDS-related deaths over the last decade. But the maximum decline of 66% in new infections was in India.
- The 2017 National Health Policy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to end AIDS by 2030.
- India adopted the test and treat strategy of the WHO as a national policy to achieve the target of 90:90:90 by 2020.
- HIV causes AIDS when it is left untreated.
- AIDS is a condition which interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections.
- The human body cannot get rid of HIV and there is no effective cure. So, a person who has HIV has it for life.
- HIV is present in the body fluids of someone living with the virus.
- These fluids include blood, breastmilk, vaginal fluids, semen and pre-seminal fluids and rectal fluids.
- A person can get infected with HIV when an infected person’s body fluids enter your blood.
- In body fluids like saliva, urine or sweat, there is not enough HIV to be able to transmit from one person to another.
Covid-19 a mixed blessing for Indian Capitalism?
What is Capitalism?
- Capitalism is an economic system where the market determines prices, production, and economic activities.
- Here, the role of the Government is confined to the maintenance of law and order, and enforcement of contracts.
- The pandemic, this year, has therefore created the following new opportunities and challenges for Indian capitalism.
New Challenges for Indian capitalism:
- Capitalism thrives on consumerism. But, now firms will have to allot a very large marketing budget to revive the demand, especially in the areas of automobile, fashion, hospitality, malls, and multiplexes.
- Capitalism needs State-minimalism. But, on October 1, the Government of Gujarat ordered all private schools to reduce their fees by 25% due to the rising anger among parents, whose income has fallen during the Corona lockdown. Thus, State intervention in price determination may become more frequent, even in the ‘pro-business’ states.
- Corona has caused a large revenue shortfall, forcing tax authorities to send notices for even very small amounts. The harassment of small businessmen may become more frequent in the coming days.
- If we consider startup entrepreneurs as ‘young capitalists’, then those in sectors other than pharmaceuticals, precious metals, passive entertainment, e-learning, fin-tech, and grocery delivery may struggle for survival and growth.
New Opportunities for Indian capitalism:
- Entrepreneurs may be able to purchase public sector enterprises, mining and spectrum rights at a much cheaper price, because the government, being desperate for funds, will engage in disinvestment and auctions like a fire-sale.
- Entrepreneurs may be able to get public land allotted at a very nominal or token price to build new factories, because the governments at Union and State, will be under tremendous public pressure to create jobs quickly.
- It might be possible to hire workers at very low wages, given their desperation for jobs. Although, if wages remain suppressed, demand too will fall taking the economy towards a deflationary spiral.
- It might be possible to negotiate easier loan-restructuring deals with lenders under the pretext of force-majeure.
- American companies will outsource some of the manufacturing to India, particularly for the network goods given the supply chain disruptions in China.
- There might be a temporary opportunity for profiteering in the mask, sanitizer, and essential commodities sector. There is also a permanent opportunity for raising prices of goods and services by adding fancy-marketing tags like ‘safe’, ‘sanitized’, ‘anti-bacterial’, and ‘germs-free’.
- Keeping in mind these scenarios, it might be safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic is a mixed blessing for Indian capitalism. What will, however, help is to align the interest of capitalism with that of welfare; which is the need of the hour.
Hold Fresh Polls Where NOTA Got Most Votes
Why in News?
- An advocate has moved the Supreme Court for a direction that fresh elections should be held in a constituency where NOTA (‘None of the above’ option) garnered the maximum number of votes. Besides, none of the candidates who lost to NOTA should be allowed to contest the fresh polls.
Key Points of the Petition
- Political parties choose candidates without consulting the voters, which was a “truly undemocratic” process.
- In turn, if the electorate has rejected these candidates by voting for NOTA, the parties should be barred from fielding them again in the fresh polls.
- Right to reject and elect new candidate will give power to the people to express their discontent … Right to reject will check corruption, criminalisation, casteism, communalism … parties would be forced to give tickets to honest and patriotic candidates.
- The ‘right to reject’ was first proposed by the Law Commission in 1999.
- It also suggested that the candidates be declared elected only if they have obtained 50%+1 of the valid votes cast.
- Similarly, the Election Commission endorsed ‘Right to Reject’, first in 2001, under James Lyngdoh [the then CEC], and then in 2004 under T.S. Krishnamurthy [the then CEC], in its Proposed Electoral Reforms.
- The ‘Background Paper on Electoral Reforms’, prepared by the Ministry of Law in 2010, had proposed that if certain percentage of the vote was negative, then election result should be nullified and new election held.
FATF Annual Joint Experts Meet
- Participants from various government agencies all over the world and international bodies such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Interpol.
What all Discussed or Shared?
- The FATF attaches great importance to effective information sharing, which is one of the cornerstones of a well-functioning AML/CFT [Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism] framework.
- Ensuring that countries had strong tools to fight money laundering, terrorist financing or the financing of proliferation required an in-depth understanding of the evolving risks and the latest detection, investigation and prosecution techniques.
- Experts exchanged ideas on issues such as financing of ethnically or radically motivated terrorism, their transnational links, environmental crime, illegal arms trafficking and terror financing, and digital transformation.
- The experts presented the international legal framework on preventing access of terrorists to arms and provisions covering illegal arms trafficking.
- Focused on the linkages between illicit arms trafficking and terrorist financing and the need for national risk assessments to address these risks.
- Experiences of using advanced analytics, such as text mining, privacy preserving technology, online analytical processing and social network analysis in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, were also shared.
WHAT IS FATF
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body decision-making body.
- It was established in 1989 during the G7 Summit in Paris to develop policies against money laundering.
- It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in money laundering.
- It has also started dealing with virtual currencies.
- The FATF Secretariat is located in Paris.
What is the objective of FATF?
- FATF sets standards and promotes effective implementation of:
- legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering.
- The FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
How many members are there in FATF?
- As of 2019, FATF consists of thirty-seven member jurisdictions.
Is India a member of the Financial Action Task Force?
- India became an Observer at FATF in 2006. Since then, it had been working towards full-fledged membership.
- On June 25, 2010 India was taken in as the 34th country member of FATF.
FATF on terror financing
- FATF’s role in combating terror financing became prominent after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US.
- In 2001 its mandate expanded to include terrorism financing.
- Financing of terrorism involves providing money or financial support to terrorists.
- As of 2019, FATF has blacklisted North Korea and Iran over terror financing.
- Twelve countries are in the grey list, namely: Bahamas, Botswana, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Pakistan, Panama, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.
What as FATF ‘grey list’ and ‘blacklist’?
FATF has 2 types of lists:
- Black List: Countries knowns as Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs) are put in the blacklist. These countries support terror funding and money laundering activities. The FATF revises the blacklist regularly, adding or deleting entries.
- Grey List: Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list. This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.
Private Rescue Centre
Why in News
- The Gujarat government has handed over a dozen leopards, listed under schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, for their upkeep to the Reliance Industries Limited (RIL)-owned ‘Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom’ based in Jamnagar.
- The first public-private partnership (PPP) between a state government and a private entity in managing the leopard population.
- It will ease the state government from the burden of feeding and incurring others expenses to keep them in cages.
- In the 2016 census, 1,395 leopards were counted.
- As a CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative and to support the state forest department, the RIL has established a rescue centre in Jamnagar district after obtaining all the necessary approvals from the CZA (central zoo authority) and the state forest department.
Iran Passes Bill To Boost Nuclear Activity
Why in News?
- The Iranian parliament has passed a bill, dubbed “The strategic measure for the removal of sanctions,” aimed at revitalizing the country’s nuclear activities in the wake of the assassination of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
The three articles that were discussed include measures that, if adopted, would significantly increase Iran’s nuclear activities.
- The bill envisages increasing the uranium enrichment level to 20 percent or more — such uranium is considered a weapon-grade one.
- At the moment, Iran is enriching uranium at more than 4 percent, while the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) capped the level at 3.67 percent.
- The bill also involves the restoration of the Arak nuclear reactor, which was set to be redesigned for the production of radioisotopes so that it does not produce weapon-grade plutonium under the JCPOA, and the construction of another reactor.
- Another provision of the bill obliges Tehran to abandon voluntary compliance with the Additional Protocol to the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Influenza and Bacterial Infection
Why in News?
- Influenza is caused by a virus, but the most common cause of death in influenza patients is secondary pneumonia caused by bacteria, rather than the influenza virus itself.
- While this is well known, what is largely unknown is why influenza infections lead to an increased risk of bacterial pneumonia.
- Now, researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute have described findings leading to so-called “superinfections”.
- The researchers cite the example of the Spanish flu, which was an influenza pandemic that swept across the world in 1918–20.
- Unlike many other pandemics, the Spanish flu disproportionately hit young healthy adults.
- And one important reason for this was “superinfections” caused by bacteria, in particular pneumococci.
- They are the most common cause of community-acquired pneumonia and a leading global cause of death.
- A prior influenza virus infection is often followed by a pneumococcal infection.
- In the new study, researchers looked at mechanisms behind this increased susceptibility: influenza induces changes in the lower airways that affect the growth of pneumococci in the lungs.
- The researchers used an animal model for their studies.
- They found that different nutrients and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, leak from the blood.
- This creates an environment in the lungs that favours growth of the bacteria.
- The bacteria adapt to the inflammatory environment by increasing the production of an enzyme called HtrA.
- The presence of HtrA weakens the immune system and promotes bacterial growth in the influenza-infected airways.
Zebrafish Gene That Can Promote Heart Regeneration
What is it & Why in News?
- Zebrafish – a tiny freshwater fish barely 2-3 cm long can efficiently regenerate its damaged heart within a short time period.
- Found in South Asia, it is a popular aquarium fish, frequently sold under the trade name Danio.
- Now, scientists at Pune-based Agharkar Research Institute have used this tiny animal model and identified genes that can promote heart regeneration.
- Zebrafish is a small (2-3 cm long) freshwater fish found in the tropical and subtropical regions.
- The fish is native to South Asia’s Indo-Gangetic plains, where they are mostly found in the paddy fields and even in stagnant water and streams.
- This fish’s unique characteristics lie in its transparency during its embryonic stages, allowing observing all organs, including beating heart and blood circulation.
- A zebrafish attracts developmental biologists due to its adequate regeneration capacity of almost all its organs, including the brain, heart, eye, spinal cord.
Gene that promotes heart regeneration identified
- Researchers identify the cellular communication network factor 2a (ccn2a), a gene that can promote heart regeneration by enhancing cardiomyocyte proliferation.
- Ccn2a promotes the innate regenerative response of the adult zebrafish heart and maybe a promising therapeutic target for humans.
- This gene enhances the proliferation of functional contractile heart cells called cardiomyocytes.
- This gene resolves the transient collagenous fibrotic scar resulting in faster regeneration.
Promising therapeutic target for humans?
- Cardiovascular diseases are the number 1 cause of deaths globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year, according to the World Health Organisation.
- Humans cannot regenerate their hearts like skin or liver.
- Humans cannot regenerate their hearts upon myocardial damage and a person who suffered a heart attack cannot functionally heal the damaged heart muscle, resulting in reduced pumping efficiency.
- Till now, there is no treatment available to restore the damaged heart function in humans.
Why in News?
- Twenty years ago, the kiwis that grew wild in Arunachal Pradesh’s Ziro Valley barely caught anyone’s attention.
- But today, the kiwis of the region are the only certified organic fruit of their kind in the country.
The certification, its advantages
- The organic certification was provided by the Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD-NER), a scheme for the northeastern states by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare under the Central government.
- An agricultural practice/product is considered organic when there are no chemical fertilisers or pesticides involved in its cultivation process.
- Such certifications in India can be obtained after strict scientific assessment done by the regulatory body, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
- Kiwis of Ziro Valley — located in Lower Subansiri district — were certified as organic following a standard three-year-process.
- Certification helps producers and handlers, they receive premium prices for the products, and have access to fast-growing, local, regional and international markets.
- Fruit locally called ‘anteri’.
- The kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa Chev.) is a “deciduous fruiting vine native to Yangtze river valley of south and central China.”
- It is also called “China’s miracle fruit” and “Horticulture wonder of New Zealand”.
- “Kiwifruit vine originated in China, but its full economic potential was exploited by the New Zealanders, which accounts for over 70 per cent of world trade”.
- In Arunachal Pradesh, a domesticated variety of kiwi was introduced as a commercial fruit only in 2000.
Committee for Implementation of 2015 Paris Agreement
Why in News?
- Recently, the Government of India has constituted the Apex Committee for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA), through a gazette notification.
Purpose of AIPA
- Ensuring a coordinated response on climate change matters that protects the country’s interests and ensures that India is on track towards meeting its climate change obligations under the Paris Agreement including its submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
- NDCs are the accounts of the voluntary efforts to be made by countries that are a part of the Paris Agreement, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic climate change.
The three quantitative goals in the Indian NDCs are:
- A 33-35 per cent reduction in the gross domestic product emissions intensity by 2030 from 2005 levels.
- A 40 per cent share of non-fossil fuel based electricity by 2030.
- Creating a carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide through afforestation programmes.
- Apart from these, there are five other non-quantitive goals in the Indian NDCs.
- The NDCs are to be implemented in the post-2020 period. India had submitted its NDCs in 2015.
- Now, the AIPA, with its 17 members, has the responsibility of formulating policies and programmes for implementing them.
- The committee will have the secretary, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) as the chairperson and the additional secretary, MoEFCC as the vice chairperson.
- The AIPA also has the responsibility of regularly communicating and reporting the NDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- It will also define the responsibilities of the government ministries that would be crucial in achieving the country’s climate change mitigation and adaptation goals and submit a report every six months.
Sustainable Peatland Management Can Prevent Future Pandemics
Why in News
- Sustainably managing peatlands — peat-swamp forests found around the tropics — can protect humans from future pandemics, according to a new study.
- Peatlands were rich in biodiversity, including many potential vertebrate and invertebrate vectors, or carriers of disease.
- These included numerous vertebrates known to represent a risk of spreading zoonotic disease, such as bats, rodents, pangolins and primates.
- Zoonotic diseases are those that jump from animals to humans.
- These areas also faced high levels of habitat disruption such as wild or human-made fires and wildlife harvesting that were perfect conditions for potential zoonotic emerging infectious diseases (EID).
The study gave examples from around the world.
- The first reported case of Ebola in 1976 was from a peatland area, as was the most recent outbreak in May 2020.
- The cradle of the HIV/AIDS pandemic was believed to be around Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, another area with extensive peatlands.
- Sustainably managing tropical peatlands and their wildlife was important for mitigating the impacts of the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
- The move would also help in reducing the potential for future zoonotic EID emergence and severity.
What is it & Why in News?
- A young Egyptian engineer has invented a remote-control robot that can take patient’s temperature, test for COVID-19 and even reprimand those not wearing a mask.
- With a human-like face and robotic arms, ‘Cira-03’ is capable of drawing blood and performing EKGs and x-rays, then display test results on a screen on its chest.
New Technology to Transform Salt Water on Mars into Oxygen
- There is water on Mars, but much of it is frozen and the rest is teaming with salt – rendering it useless to future astronauts who are set to land on the planet by 2033.
- Now, a team from Washington University in St. Louise has developed a system that transforms the unusable water into fuel and oxygen.
- The system uses electricity to break the salty water down into oxygen and hydrogen, and has shown to operate in a Martian atmosphere at -33 degrees Fahrenheit.
- This brine electrolyzer also produces 25 times more oxygen than NASA’s Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment that launched with the 2020 Mars rover to Mars in July.
- The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) will be producing oxygen only, from the carbon dioxide in the air, and is not designed to make hydrogen.
Why in News?
- A blood test to detect two molecules that act as indicators of a person’s likelihood to get Alzheimer’s disease later in life could be a ‘game-changer’, a new study claims.
What study have found?
- The two molecules – P-tau181, a tau protein, and neurofilament light polypeptide (NfL) – are found in plasma, the light yellow liquid that makes up 55 per cent of our blood.
- Blood tests to detect levels of the two molecules could allow doctors to track the progression of Alzheimer’s disease progression in at-risk populations.
- Around 50 million people around the world live with Alzheimer’s disease – which accounts for between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of dementia cases.
- Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood, it is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells.
- One of the proteins involved is called amyloid, deposits of which form plaques around brain cells.
- The other protein is called tau, deposits of which form tangles within brain cells.
- Although it’s not known exactly what causes this process to begin, scientists now know that it begins many years before symptoms appear.