08 , April 2017

Malala Yousafzai to become youngest United Nations Messenger of Peace

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has selected Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai (19) as Messenger of Peace. With this, she becomes UN’s youngest-ever Messenger of Peace, the highest honour bestowed by the UN on a global citizen. Pakistani education activist Malala became a global symbol of the fight for girls education after being shot in the head in October 2012 for opposing Taliban restrictions on female education. She had survived the deadly attack and became an advocate for millions of girls denied formal education around the world.

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Scientists discovers protein that increases effectiveness of vaccines against cancer

Scientists from Boston University School of Medicine, US have discovered a protein that could help make vaccinations more effective and provide protection from diseases such as cancer. They had purified a protein found on the exterior of bacteria – neisseria meningitis and used it as an accessory to provide a better vaccination response. Typically, vaccines can either increase the amount of antibody production or they can stimulate cells called cytotoxic T cells to directly kill the offending agent. In this case, the protein called PorB is unique as it can do both.

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Sex ratio in Haryana touches 950 mark for first time

The sex ratio in Haryana for the first time in the history has touched the 950 mark in March, 2017. It was announced by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The state has improved its skewed sex ratio after the launch of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Haryana. It also had launched a massive campaign in the state by strictly implementing Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act and Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. The State is also running sensitisation-cum-awareness campaigns promoting girl child.

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1. April 7: World Health Day
Source: PIB

  • The World Health Day (WHD) is observed every year on 7 April to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Observance of the day focuses on disseminating knowledge and awareness about human health, increasing life expectancy by adding good health to the lives of people and promoting healthier living habits across the globe.
  • The day also provides with a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.
  • 2017 theme: “Depression: Let’s talk”. It seeks to encourage people to come forward for treatment.
  • Under it, WHO will be leading a one-year global campaign on depression which is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. The goal of the campaign is that people with depression get help.
  • More than 300 million people around the world are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.
  • It affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, which is now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds.

Background:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) annually marks World Health Day on 7 April to celebrate its founding in 1948. It is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by WHO On this day in 1948, the first World Health Assembly was held Geneva, Switzerland. Since then the World Health Assembly decided to celebrate 7 April of each year with effect from 1950 as the World Health Day.
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2. First NIMCARE World Health Day Summit 2017
Source: PIB

The President of India inaugurated the first NIMCARE World Health Day Summit 2017.

The slogan of the first NIMCARE World Health Day Summit is, ‘Unite for a Healthy Mind’.

Mental well-being:

  • He stated that lack of mental well-being contributes significantly to the total disability and morbidity burden across the world
  • Productivity of human beings, whether in workforce or in family situations, gets reduced significantly if one has any mental disorder
  • Mental health disorders span a very wide range from simple disorders to very complex situations
  • It is often seen that simpler disorders, if not managed in time, tend to become more complex putting the patient at higher risk of morbidity

Depression in India:

  • Depression affects people of all ages from all walks of life and in all countries
  • As per the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 conducted by NIMHANS, 5.2% of the Indian adult population suffers from depression in some form or the other
  • The problem of depression often gets ignored due to lack of understanding on the part of family members

Solutions to such problems:

  • The social stigma attached to a mental disorder, even if it is easily treatable, is also a major problem in India
  • However, people have now started talking about this issue leading to greater awareness in this respect
  • He pointed out that traditional Indian values along with our family system, can be good mechanisms to support those who suffer from mental health disorders
  • He urged medical practitioners to focus on the social support systems, spiritual beliefs and practices as well as the system of Yoga in their quest for providing well-being to all
  • The President said that there is a severe shortage of mental health professionals in India and this service gap can be bridged effectively by telemedicine.

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3. North India to get DNA bank for wildlife
Source: The Hindu

  • Scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly are in the process of collecting DNA samples of all wild animals to set up the bank. It is expected to help in research and also in bringing down poaching.
  • The DNA bank is the brainchild of Dr. Raj Kumar Singh, the director of Indian Council of Agricultural Research-IVRI.
  • The bank has ‘positive sample’ meaning ‘known sample’ which will have DNA sequencing.
  • In future, if there is some ‘unknown sample’ like hair or skin, then with the help of the DNA bank, it can be identified that which animal it belongs to.
  • At present: The Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) in Hyderabad is the only such facility in the country.
  • At present, every time there is an incident of poaching, the specimen is sent to the facility in Hyderabad which is an expensive affair.

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4. 1.37 lakh crore tax evasion, says CBDT
Source: The Hindu

  • Law enforcement agencies have detected Rs 1.37 lakh
  •  crore worth of tax evasion, launched criminal prosecution in 2,814 cases, and have arrested 3,893 people in the last three years
  • Concerted and coordinated actions of law enforcement agencies under the Department of Revenue have achieved phenomenal success in fighting the menace of black money during the last three years

The Central Board of Direct Taxes is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. The Central Board of Revenue as the apex body of the Department, charged with the administration of taxes, came into existence as a result of the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1924. Initially the Board was in charge of both direct and indirect taxes. However, when the administration of taxes became too unwieldy for one Board to handle, the Board was split up into two, namely the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Excise and Customs with effect from 1.1.1964. This bifurcation was brought about by constitution of two Boards u/s 3 of the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963.

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5. Sarin gas
Source: The Hindu

The United States believes the Syrian government employed a sarin-like nerve agent in a recent deadly attack in the country’s northwest.

Key facts about sarin:

  • The name sarin comes from the chemists who discovered it by chance: Schrader, Ambros, Ruediger et Van der Linde
  • The scientists had been trying to create stronger pesticides but the formula was then taken up by the Nazi military for chemical weapons
  • Inhaled or absorbed through the skin, the gas kills by crippling the respiratory center of the central nervous system and paralysing the muscles around the lungs
  • The combination results in death by suffocation, and sarin can contaminate food or water supplies
  • Causes convulsions, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth
  • Symptoms of exposure to the agent include nausea and violent headaches, blurred vision, drooling, muscle convulsions, respiratory arrest and loss of consciousness.

According to WHO:

  • Sarin is 26 times more deadly than cyanide gas. Just a pinprick-sized droplet will kill a human.
  • Nerve agents are generally quick-acting and require only simple chemical techniques and inexpensive, readily available ingredients to manufacture.

According to OPCW:

  • Inhalation of a high dose — say 200 milligrams of sarin — may cause death within a couple of minutes, with no time even for symptoms to develop.
  • Exposure through the skin takes longer to kill and the first symptoms may not occur for half an hour, followed by a quick progression
  • Even when it does not kill, sarin’s effects can cause permanent harm —damaging a victim’s lungs, eyes and central nervous system
  • Heavier than air, the gas can linger in an area for up to six hours, depending on weather conditions

Instances of use:

  • It was discovered in Nazi Germany
  • Originally conceived as a pesticide, sarin was used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime to gas thousands of Kurds in the northern town of Halabja in 1988
  • The most notorious sarin attack occurred in the Kurdish city of Halabja in March 1988
  • As many as 5,000 people were killed and 65,000 injured when the Iraqi military attacked using a combination of chemical agents that included sarin, mustard gas and possibly VX, a nerve agent 10 times more powerful than sarin
  • It is thought to have been the worst-ever gas attack targeting civilians
  • A cult also used the odorless, paralysing agent in two attacks in Japan in the 1990s
  • The Aum Supreme Truth cult released it in the Tokyo subway in March 1995, killing 13 people and injuring 6,000 others
  • The cult also used the nerve agent in an attack the year before in the Japanese city of Matsumoto, killing seven

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6. Punjab varsity develops new Bt cotton varieties
Source: The Hindu

Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana has announced that it has developed the country’s first genetically-modified varieties of cotton

Significance:

  • Its seeds could be reused by farmers with no commercial restrictions, resulting in savings on repeat purchases every season as against the presently used terminator seeds which cannot be re-used.
  • The price of these varieties will be much lower than current Bt cotton hybrid seed, and it can cut cultivation costs.

The varieties:

  • PAU Bt 1 and F1861 were developed by PAU, while RS2013 was developed at Rajasthan Agricultural University (RAU), Bikaner
  • While the PAU Bt 1 was completely developed at PAU, the F1861 and RS2013 were converted to Bt version by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur

Cry1Ac gene at work:

  • All three varieties carry the Cry1Ac gene imparting resistance against bollworm complex
  • The genetic modification involves introduction of the Bt bacterial gene that codes for a protein which kills the bollworm cotton pest

Background:

  • Cotton is the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in India
  • Punjab alone needs around 20-25 lakh packets of Bt cotton seed which amounts to about 225 crore

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7. India’s Internet economy to double to $250 billion
Source: The Hindu

The $250 Billion Digital Volcano: Dormant No More’ report by BCG-TiE

Growth estimate: India’s Internet economy is expected to double from $125 billion to $250 billion, growing from the current 5% to 7.5% of the country’s GDP

Drivers: E-commerce and financial services are expected to drive this growth, accounting for about $40-$50 billion of the Internet economy

These are followed by e-commerce products, private and government infrastructure spending, connectivity, devices and digital media and advertising

Mobile Internet users in India are expected to double from 391 million to 650 million by 2020

85% of these will be high speed internet users against 56% currently

The data consumption by 2020 could potentially increase 10-14 times

The average data consumption is projected to reach 7-10 GB per user per month by 2020

The three forces that are now synergising to unlock internet consumption in India are: 4G enabled devices , reliable high speed data , proliferation of digital content

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8. Power of attraction may help protect Great Barrier Reef
Source: The Hindu

  • In a breakthrough, scientists have found a new way that could help protect Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef by using the power of attraction to decimate one of the reef’s fiercest enemies
  • Issue of starfish: For an already struggling Great Barrier Reef, and indeed any reefs across the Indo-Pacific region, these starfish pose an enormous threat
  • This is due to the ability of a single female to produce up to 120 million offspring in one spawning season
  • They feast on the coral and leave it bleached white and vulnerable to destruction in heavy storms
  • Millions of dollars have been spent over many years on a variety of ways to capture crown-of-thorns starfish, whether it be via diver collection, injections or robotics
  • Solution- Eco-friendly baits: Now some genes have been found that the starfish use to communicate
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish gather in large numbers due to a release of pheromones — a scent they have decoded so the prickly pests can be lured to their capture
  • These environmentally safe baits can be used to trick them into gathering in one place, making it easier to remove reproductively-primed animals

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