India – Sweden Virtual Summit
Why in News?
- Prime Minister of India and Prime Minister of the King-dom of Sweden held a Virtual Summit where they discussed bilateral issues and other regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
- They reaffirmed their strong commitment to work for multilateral-ism, rules-based international order, counter terrorism and peace and se-curity.
- They also acknowledged the growing salience of India’s partnership with the European Union and EU countries.
- Expressed satisfaction at the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and Joint Innovation Partnership agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sweden in 2018.
- Welcomed Sweden’s decision to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
- The leaders also noted the growing member-ship of the India-Sweden joint initiative – the Leadership Group on Indus-try Transition (LeadIT) that was launched during the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 in New York.
Indian Medicines Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited (IMPCL)
Why in News?
- IMPCL, the public sector manufacturing unit of the Ministry of AYUSH has received a shot in the arm in the matter of potential sales volumes, because of the recent tie up with the Government e-Market (GeM) portal for selling its products online.
- IMPCL, the Rs. 100 crore turnover PSU of the Ministry of AYUSH is one of the most trusted manufacturers of Ayush medicines in the country, and is known for the authenticity of its formulations.
- IMPCL is the only CPSE under Ministry of AYUSH and its prices are vetted and finalised by the Ministry of Finance (Department of Expenditure) for their Ayurvedic & Unani Medicines.
- With this decision of GeM, the Ayurvedic and Unani medicines of IMPCL will figure on the GeM portal to hundreds of government sector buyers, at prices finalised by Ministry of Finance, Department of Expenditure.
Committee to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence
Why in News?
- The government set up a 259-member high-level national committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence.
- The members of the panel include former President Pratibha Patil, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, NSA Ajit Doval, 28 chief ministers, artistes like Lata Mangeshkar, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, senior BJP leader LK Advani, almost all Union ministers and several governors.
- Opposition leaders like Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and former Uttar Pradesh chief ministers Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are also part of the committee.
- Earlier, a National Implementation Committee under the chairmanship of Union home minister Amit Shah had been constituted for the independence celebrations.
What it does?
- The committee will provide policy direction and guidelines for formulation of programmes for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence, at the national and international levels.
- The celebrations are proposed to be launched 75 weeks prior to August 15, 2022, on March 12, 2021, which is the 91st anniversary of the historic Salt Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi.
Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet
Why in News?
- The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully carried out a flight demonstration based on Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) technology from Integrated Test Range (ITR) Chandipur off the coast of Odisha.
- Successful demonstration of SFDR technology has provided DRDO with a technological advantage, which will enable it to develop long range air-to-air missiles.
Third stealth frigate
- Separately, the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE), Kolkata, carried out keel laying for the third stealth frigate for the Navy under Project-17A.
- The ₹19,293 crore contract for three stealth frigates under P-17A was the largest ever order to GRSE from the Defence Ministry.
- The keel laying for the first frigate, INS Himgiri, was done on November 10, 2018 and the frigate was launched on December 14, 2020.
Ban on blood donation by gay, transgender persons
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court asked the government to respond to a plea challenging blood donation guidelines which ban transgender persons, members of the gay community and sex workers from donating blood.
- A Bench led by Chief Justice of India issued notice on a petition which said the prohibition affected these communities during the pandemic as their members could not donate or receive blood, a healing element, during the public health crisis.
Guideline on Blood Donor Selection
- The petition said the Guideline on Blood Donor Selection and Blood Donor Referral of 2017, issued by the National Blood Transfusion Council and the National Aids Control Organisation, classifies transgender persons, men having sex with men and female sex workers as a “high-risk category” vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
- Donor blood is tested for infectious diseases, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. Such a ban solely on the basis of their gender identity and sexual orientation is completely arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory.
- It is also unscientific… Permanently excluding these communities from donating blood and categorising them as high-risk only on the basis of their gender-identity and sexual orientation is violative of their right to be treated equally as other blood donors.
Covid antibodies, vaccines may be less effective against variants
Why in News?
- New research indicates that three new, fast-spreading variants of the novel coronavirus (from South Africa, the UK and Brazil) can evade antibodies that work against the original form of the virus that sparked the pandemic.
- With few exceptions, the researchers found more antibody is needed to neutralise the new variants — whether the antibodies were produced in response to vaccination or natural infection, or were purified antibodies intended for use as drugs.
- The virus SARS-CoV-2 uses its spike protein to latch onto and get inside cells. The spike thus became the prime target for drug and vaccine developers.
- the UK variant could be neutralised with similar levels of antibodies as needed to neutralise the original virus, but the other two variants required from 3.5 to 10 times as much antibody.
Why in News?
- A year after announcing Gairsain in Chamoli district as the summer capital of Uttarakhand, Chief Minister declaring the town as a new administrative division of the state, a third commissionerate after Kumaon and Garhwal.
- Gairsain division would be comprised of four hill districts, including Almora and Bageshwar (both in Kumaon) and Rudrapyarag and Chamoli (in Garhwal).
History behind Gairsain
- Last year, Uttarakhand had announced in the Budget Session of the Assembly held in Gairsain that the town will become summer capital of the state.
- Three months later, Governor had given her assent for declaration of Bhararisen (Gairsain) as the summer capital, putting an end to a two-decade-long wait of the hill region.
- Gairsain, a tehsil in Chamoli district, is located nearly 270-km from the existing temporary capital of Dehradun.
- Even when Uttarakhand was carved out as a separate state from Uttar Pradesh on November 9, 2000, statehood activists had contended that Gairsain was best suited to be the capital of the mountainous state since it was between both Kumaon and Garhwal regions.
- But it was Dehradun in the plains that was named the temporary capital.
World’s Largest Neuroscience Prize
- Four scientists who discovered a key mechanism that causes migraines, paving the way for new preventive treatments, have won the largest prize for neuroscience in the world.
- The Lundbeck Foundation in Denmark announced that the British researcher Peter Goadsby, Michael Moskowitz of the US, Lars Edvinsson of Sweden and Jes Olesen of Denmark had won the Brain prize.
- Formally known as the Grete Lundbeck European brain research prize, the annual award recognises highly original and influential advances in any area of brain research. The award ceremony will take place in Copenhagen on 25 October.
- The prize-winning research revolves around unpicking the neural basis of migraine, a crippling neurological condition characterised by episodes of throbbing head pain, as well as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell. It affects about one in seven people globally and is about three times more common in women than men.
- For many years, migraine was thought to be a psychosomatic condition, resulting from people being unable to deal with stress. Although treatments were available, these only helped to relieve the symptoms, rather than addressing the root cause, which was unknown.
China’s five-year plan could push emissions higher
Why in News?
- China has set out an economic blueprint for the next five years that could lead to a strong rise in greenhouse gas emissions if further action is not taken to meet the country’s long-term goals.
- The 14th five-year plan, gave few details on how the world’s biggest emitter would meet its target of reaching net zero emissions by 2060, set out by President Xi Jinping last year, and of ensuring that carbon dioxide output peaks before 2030.
- China will reduce its “emissions intensity” – the amount of CO2 produced per unit of GDP – by 18% over the period 2021 to 2025, but this target is in line with previous trends, and could lead to emissions continuing to increase by 1% a year or more. Non-fossil fuel energy is targeted to make up 20% of China’s energy mix.
- This November, world governments will meet in Glasgow for vital UN climate talks, called Cop26. Under the Paris agreement, countries were supposed to set out in 2020 fresh commitments on cutting or curbing emissions between now and 2030.
- That timetable slipped because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the UN has made it clear it wants new national plans for 2030 – called nationally determined contributions, or NDCs – from all major countries before Cop26.
- The EU, the UK, Japan and about 70 others have set out their NDCs, though some are under pressure to revise them. China and the US, the world’s biggest economies, have yet to submit theirs.
Earth’s Position and Orbit Spurred Ancient Marine Life Extinction
Why in News?
- Ancient rocks from Tennessee revealed the Earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun controlled the timing of oceanic dead zones in a mass extinction of marine life about 370 million years ago.
- The study shows that oxygen depletion in the ocean was not permanent during the mass extinction , rather dead zones occurred in periodic episodes regulated by astronomical forcing.
- Studying ancient dead zones helps us understand how modern dead zones caused by human activities shape the evolution of marine ecosystems over a long period of time.
- Dead zones are low-oxygen waters where most marine life die.
- Today dead zones are known to threaten coastal ecosystem, but they are also thought to be the direct cause of the Late Devonian mass extinction that occurred 370 to 360 million years ago, one of five recorded mass extinctions on Earth.
- The research identified a link between what is called astronomical forcing and the mass extinction of shallow marine life during the period.
- During the period of Earth’s history known as the Late Devonian there were three major landmasses, with present day North America meshed with Greenland and much of Europe.
- It was during this time period that one of the “Big Five” extinction events occurred as massive numbers of marine animals living closer to land, such as trilobites and corals, died in two waves. The reason for these extinctions are still intensely debated.
- Astronomic forcing is the slow impact of the changes in Earth’s rotation, movement, tilt and orbit around the sun over time, causing cyclic variation in the distribution of solar energy reaching the Earth.
- Consequently, cyclic changes in climatic patterns occur on the Earth. The phenomenon occurs periodically in what are known as Milankovitch cycles.
Fine particulate matter from wildfire smoke
- The fine particles in wildfire smoke can be several times more harmful to human respiratory health than particulate matter from other sources such as car exhaust.
- The risks of tiny airborne particles with diameters of up to 2.5 microns, about one-twentieth that of a human hair.
- These particles—termed PM2.5—are the main component of wildfire smoke and can penetrate the human respiratory tract, enter the bloodstream and impair vital organs.
- A 10 microgram-per-cubic meter increase in PM2.5 attributed to sources other than wildfire smoke was estimated to increase respiratory hospital admissions by 1 percent.
- The same increase, when attributed to wildfire smoke, caused between a 1.3 to 10 percent increase in respiratory admissions.
Eating SESAME SEEDS could reduce the risk of Parkinson’s
- Consuming a chemical found in sesame seeds can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s by preventing neuronal damage that decreases dopamine production, study shows.
- Scientists tested the chemical sesaminol on Parkinson’s cells, as well as feeding it to mice over 36 days to find out what impact it had on dopamine levels and neurons in the brain.
- Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder that impairs movement, causes stiffness and can result in a loss of balance, tremors in the hands and slurred speech.
- Study discovered that sesaminol protected against neuronal damage that caused Parkinson’s disease and believe it could be a cure for the condition.
- They found that mice with Parkinson’s that consumed the chemical saw an improvement in dopamine levels, balance and motor function.
- They tested the chemical on living cells and found it handles the oxidative stress which damages cells.
- Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the free radicals – oxygen-containing molecules – and antioxidants in the human body.
- It creates extreme pressure on the cells and causes to components to become unbalanced.
- In Parkinson’s nerve cells in the brain, which control movement, break down and die due to oxidative stress, so reducing the stress can prevent the disease.
- ‘Currently there is no preventive medicine for Parkinson’s disease.
- The impairment of movement due to Parkinson’s disease is the result of damaged neurons producing less dopamine than is naturally needed.
Why in News?
- A massive asteroid named Apophis after the Egyptian god of chaos will safely pass Earth – but experts warn it could still collide with Earth in 2068.
- The 1,115ft (340 metre) wide space rock will be 9.9 million miles (16 million km) from Earth when it makes its closest approach.
- Apophis was discovered on June 19, 2004 by astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and since then it has been tracked as it orbits the sun.
- In 2029 Apophis will come close enough that it will between the Earth and high orbiting satellites – 22,990 miles (37,000 km) – or 10% of the distance to the moon.
- The asteroid is an ‘S-type’ or stony space rock, meaning it is made of silicate materials including a mix of nickel and iron.
- Like all asteroids, Apophis is a remnant from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.
- It originated in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Over millions of years, its orbit was changed primarily by the gravitational influence of large planets like Jupiter so that it now orbits the Sun closer to Earth.
- S-type space rocks contain the raw materials required for life, including water and organic matter – found natively on their surface.