Leaders’ Summit on Climate
Why in News?
- Prime Minister will participate in the Leaders’ Summit on Climate at the invitation of President of U.S.A., being held virtually on 22-23 April 2021.
- Prime Minister will make his remarks in the Leaders’ Session on “Our Collective Sprint to 2030”.
- Nearly 40 other world leaders are participating in the Summit.
- They will represent countries which are members of the Major Economies Forum (India is a member), and those vulnerable to climate change, among others.
- The Leaders will exchange views on climate change, enhancing climate actions, mobilising finance towards climate mitigation and adaptation, nature based solutions, climate security as well as technological innovations for clean energy.
- The Leaders will also deliberate on how the world can align climate action with inclusive and resilient economic development, while respecting national circumstances and sustainable development priorities.
- The Summit is a part of a series of global meetings focusing on climate issues, being held in the run up to COP26 in November 2021.
National Civil Service Day 2021
- The National civil services day is observed on April 21.
- The civil service system is the backbone of the administrative machinery of the country.
- It is the permanent executive branch of the Republic of India. The policies and schemes are made by the government.
- The civil servants are the administrators. The civil servants are responsible for implementing all the government policies and schemes successfully up to the root level.
- On this day, Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration are presented to Districts/Implementing Units for implementation of Priority programme and innovations in different categories.
History of National Civil Service Day
- April 21 is chosen as National Civil Service Day to commemorate the day when first Home Minister of Independent India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel addressed the probationers of Administrative Services Officers in 1947 at Metcalf House, New Delhi. In his speech, Patel referred to the civil servants as the ‘steel frame of India’.
Significance of National Civil Service Day
- Civil Service in our country consists of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and comprehensive list of All India Services and Central Services Group A and Group B.
- The Day is dedicated to all those who are involved in civil service in order to commemorate their exemplary services.
- On this day, they also make plans for coming years.
- The celebration on this day motivate Civil Service officers to work more efficiently for the public.
Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs
Why in News?
- Chairperson, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) inaugurated the fifth session of the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) established under Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC).
- At the present session, the committee will be considering the quality Standards for dried or dehydrated forms of Ginger, Cloves, Saffron and two culinary herbs, Oregano & Basil at step seven, besides Nutmeg and Chilli peppers & Paprika at step four in the Codex procedure of elaboration of food standards.
ABOUT CCSCH & CAC
- To develop and expand worldwide standards for spices and culinary herbs, and to consult with other international organisations in the standards development process CCSCH was formed in 2013 with support of more than a hundred countries with India as the host country and Spices Board India as the Secretariat for organising the sessions of the committee.
- Since its inception, the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs has been successful in developing harmonised global Codex standards for spices and herbs. In its past four sessions, the committee developed and finalized standards for four spices, viz. dried or dehydrated forms of black/white/green pepper, cumin, thyme, and garlic.
- Set up in 1963, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an intergovernmental body established jointly by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), within the framework of the Joint Food Standards Programme to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.
Why in News?
- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bi-partisan commission, has recommended for the second year in the row that the State Department put India on a list (‘Countries of Particular Concern’ or CPCs) for the worst violations of religious freedoms in 2020.
- The USCISRF recommended that the administration impose targeted sanctions on Indian individuals and entities for ‘severe violations of religious freedom’.
- A second recommendation was for the administration to promote inter-faith dialogue and the rights of all communities at bilateral and multilateral forums “such as the ministerial of the Quadrilateral [the Quad].”
- Another recommendation – to the U.S. Congress – was to raise issues in the U.S. – India bilateral space, such as by hosting hearings, writing letters and constituting Congressional delegations.
- USCIRF recommendations are non-binding.
- Other new recommendations for the CPC list in the Commission’s 2021 were Russia, Syria and Vietnam.
- Countries already on the CPCs list and recommended by USCIRF for re-designation were Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
- Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey and Uzbekistan were recommended for a ‘Special Watch List’, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, both of which were already on the list for 2019.
- Scientists have now grown monkey embryos containing human stem cells for the first time, raising several ethical questions.
- Fertilised eggs extracted from monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) were injected with human extended pluripotent stem cells.
- Out of the injected 132 embryos, three survived 19 days after fertilisation.
- Scientists hope that such hybrids could be used as models for drug tests and to grow organs for transplants.
- Researchers studying pot fragments from 12 archaeological sites in Central Nigeria were in for a sweet surprise when they found that it contained beeswax.
- It implied that the Nok people who lived in the region about 3,500 years ago consumed honey and also heated the wax to be used as a coating for the cooking pots or to store honey.
- Inspired by the porous and layered cuttlefish bone, researchers have 3D printed new microstructures and materials that show many adaptations.
- The team hopes that this can help 3-D print implants for injuries.
- The implants would more closely mimic the porous nature of the human bone and would promote the growth of the bone itself inside the scaffold.
- As the bone grows, the scaffold biodegrades, and if everything goes well, in the end, the scaffold is gone, and the patient has new bones in the right places.
It’s all in the gut
- There is a connection between sugar, mosquitoes and malaria.
- A new study has shown that when mosquitoes are given a sugar diet, it increases the abundance of a particular bacteria in the mosquito’s gut.
- This in turn raises the gut’s pH and leads to an increase in the number of malaria-causing parasites in its midgut.
- This finding may help in the development of new preventive strategies.
Why in News?
- For the first time, NASA is putting its trust in a recycled SpaceX rocket and capsule for a crew.
- This will be SpaceX’s third crew flight for NASA from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in under a year.
- The commercial flights ended the U.S.’s reliance on Russian rockets launched from Kazakhstan to get astronauts to and from the space station after the shuttles retired.
Some highlights of the SpaceX flight:
- Use, recycle, repeat: Both the Dragon capsule and Falcon rocket for this mission have soared once before.
- The capsule launched the first SpaceX crew last May, while the rocket hoisted the second set of astronauts, who are still at the space station.
- For SpaceX, recycling is key to space exploration, lowering costs, increasing flights and destinations, and allowing more kinds of people to jump on board.
- Each capsule is designed to launch at least five times with a crew.
High-risk Artificial Intelligence Uses
- European Union officials unveiled proposals for reining in high-risk uses of artificial intelligence such as live facial scanning that could threaten people’s safety or rights.
- The draft regulations from the EU’s executive commission include rules on the use of the rapidly expanding technology in activities such as choosing school, job or loan applicants.
- They also would ban artificial intelligence outright in a few situations, such as “social scoring” and systems used to manipulate human behaviour.
- EU officials are taking a “risk-based approach” as they try to balance the need to protect rights such as data privacy against the need to encourage innovation.
- The proposals also include a prohibition in principle on “remote biometric identification,” such as the use of live facial recognition on crowds of people in public places, with exceptions only for narrowly defined law enforcement purposes such as searching for a missing child or a wanted person.
- The draft regulations say chatbots and deepfakes should be labelled so people know they are interacting with a machine.
Earth Day 2021
- Earth Day is observed on April 22 every year. Earth Day gains significance with each passing year as the global climate crisis worsens.
- Earth Day brings millions of peopple together as it gives an opportunity for all stakeholders to create awareness and work together on critical issues like global warming, pollution and the vanishing forest cover among others.
- In 1990, Earth Day became an ”environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet”.
Earth Day 2021 theme
- Restore Our Earth is the theme for Earth Day 2021.
India’s oil and gas production
Why in News?
- India’s crude oil production fell by 5.2 per cent and natural gas production by 8.1 per cent in the FY21.
- While Covid-19 related delays are among the key reasons cited by producers behind lower production, India’s crude oil and natural gas production have been falling consistently since 2011-12.
Why is India’s crude oil and natural gas production falling?
- Most of India’s crude oil and natural gas production comes from ageing wells that have become less productive over time.
- “There was no more easy oil and gas” available in India and that producers would have to invest in extracting oil and gas using technologically intensive means from more difficult fields such as ultradeepwater fields.
- Crude oil production in India is dominated by two major state-owned exploration and production companies, ONGC and Oil India.
- These companies are the key bidders for hydrocarbon blocks in auctions and were the only successful bidders in the fifth and latest round of auctions under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) regime with ONGC bagging seven of the eleven oil and gas blocks on offer and Oil India acquiring rights for the other four.
Why is there a lack of private participation?
- Delays in the operationalisation of hydrocarbon blocks due to delays in major clearances including environmental clearances and approval by the regulator of field development plans.
- Industry players have been calling for a reduction in the cess on domestically produced crude oil to 10 per cent from the current 20 per cent.
Double mutant’ COVID-19 variant
Why in News?
- The ‘double mutant’ Indian variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.617, is indeed evading the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR test.
- Another close variant, B.1.618, first isolated from West Bengal in October 2020; is also adding to the risk.
- RT-PCR is a method used for detecting the presence of specific genetic material in any pathogen, including a virus.
- The conventional SARS-CoV-2 strain usually colonises the nasopharyngeal region where the body’s immune system counters it and stops it from directly accessing the lungs.
- However, the double mutant variant was believed to evade the nasopharyngeal region and colonise the lungs directly.
- This might be the reason why the sample drawn from the nasopharyngeal region might not have the viral load, resulting in the patient being recorded negative.
- 1.617, the double mutant variant, carries two mutations, L452R and E484Q, simultaneously.
- 1.618 has four mutations to the spike protein linked with heightened infectivity and escaping immune response.
- In nature, many molecules possess a property called chirality, which means that they cannot be superimposed on their mirror images (like a left and right hand).
- Chirality can influence function, impacting a pharmaceutical or enzyme’s effectiveness, for example, or a compound’s perceived aroma.
- Now, a new study is advancing scientists’ understanding of another property tied to chirality: How light interacts with chiral materials under a magnetic field.
- Prior research has shown that in such a system, the left- and right-handed forms of a material absorb light differently, in ways that mirror one another when light flowing parallel to an external magnetic field changes direction, adopting an anti-parallel flow. This phenomenon is called magneto-chiral dichroism (MChD).
- The new findings changes this.
- The first theoretical predictions of MChD for light appeared in 1980s. Since then, an increasing number of observations of the effect have been reported, but no quantitative analysis was possible to confirm whether the underlying theory of MChD is correct.
- The new study puts forward detailed measurements on two well-defined model systems, and advanced quantum-chemical calculations on one of them.
- Biodegradable plastics have been advertised as one solution to the plastic pollution problem bedeviling the world, but today’s “compostable” plastic bags, utensils and cup lids don’t break down during typical composting and contaminate other recyclable plastics, creating headaches for recyclers.
- Most compostable plastics, made primarily of the polyester known as polylactic acid, or PLA, end up in landfills and last as long as forever plastics.
- University of California scientists have now invented a way to make these compostable plastics break down more easily, with just heat and water, within a few weeks, solving a problem that has flummoxed the plastics industry and environmentalists.
- The new technology should theoretically be applicable to other types of polyester plastics, perhaps allowing the creation of compostable plastic containers, which currently are made of polyethylene, a type of polyolefin that does not degrade.
- The new process involves embedding polyester-eating enzymes in the plastic as it’s made.
- These enzymes are protected by a simple polymer wrapping that prevents the enzyme from untangling and becoming useless.
- When exposed to heat and water, the enzyme shrugs off its polymer shroud and starts chomping the plastic polymer into its building blocks—in the case of PLA, reducing it to lactic acid, which can feed the soil microbes in compost.
- The polymer wrapping also degrades.