27, January 2018

  1. Scientists clone monkeys

Source: The Hindu

Shanghai scientists have created two genetically identical long-tailed macaques. The monkeys are named Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, a version of the Chinese adjective Zhonghua which means the “Chinese nation” or “people.” This could be an important tool in medical research for understanding disease in a species genetically more comparable to humans.

  • This is for the first time that scientists have created cloned primates using the same complicated cloning technique that made Dolly the sheep in 1996. The technique is called somatic cell transfer, or SCNT.

Overall, are these the first primates to be cloned

  • Overall, these two are not the first primates to be cloned. Scientists in 1999 created Tetra, a rhesus monkey, but used what researchers consider a simpler cloning method that produces a more limited number of off spring. In Tetra’s case, scientists split the embryos, much like what happens naturally when identical twins develop.

Somatic cell transfer, or SCNT:

  • Under this technique, scientists reconstruct an unfertilized egg. The researchers remove the egg’s nucleus — the part of the cell that contains most of its genetic information– and replace it with the nucleus from another cell. It’s then stimulated to develop into an embryo, which is transplanted into a surrogate mother. That same cell cluster can make more genetically matched animals.
  • The birth of these clones also brings up ethical issues. Humans are in the primate family. With this birth, these scientists have broken a barrier and that means the technique could, in theory, be applied to humans.

  1. China releases Arctic Policy

Source: The Hindu

China has released its Arctic Policy.

  • The document draws a picture of how China views the economic possibilities the region offers. With this, China has vowed to actively participate in Arctic affairs as a “near-Arctic State” and a major stakeholder in the Arctic.

As per the policy, specifically, China will mainly focus its attention on four aspects:

  1. First, China will participate in the development of Arctic shipping routes which are composed of the Northeast Passage, Northwest Passage, and the Central Passage. Noting that “the Arctic shipping routes are likely to become important transport routes for international trade” as a result of global warming, China plans to build a “Polar Silk Road” by developing the Arctic shipping routes. To that end, China will encourage its enterprises to participate in the infrastructure construction for these routes and conduct commercial trial voyages.
  2. Second, China aims to participate “in the exploration for and exploitation of oil, gas, mineral and other non-living resources” in the Arctic. However, the white paper also places a particular emphasis on nontraditional energy sources.
  3. Third, China will start to utilize fisheries and other living resources and participate in conservation, since “the Arctic has the potential to become a new fishing ground in the future.” In recent years, Chinese fishermen have been sailing farther and farther abroad in search of fertile fishing grounds; including, unfortunately, illegal fishing.
  4. Fourth, China will develop Arctic tourism, which the paper described as “an emerging industry.” China will support and encourage “its enterprises to cooperate with Arctic States in developing tourism in the region” and conduct “training for and regulates Chinese tourism agencies and professionals involved in Arctic tourism.”

Concerns:

  • Although Beijing maintained that China’s Arctic policy is based on the principle of “respect, cooperation, win-win results and sustainability,” some analysts have raised concerns over China’s increasing prominence in the region.

Background:

  • China is an important stakeholder in Arctic affairs. Geographically, China is a ‘Near-Arctic State’, one of the continental States that are closest to the Arctic Circle. The natural conditions of the Arctic and their changes have a direct impact on China’s climate system and ecological environment, and, in turn, on its economic interests in agriculture, forestry, fishery, marine industry and other sectors.
  • The land territories in the Arctic cover an area of about 8 million square kilometres, whose sovereignty belongs to Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. The Arctic Ocean has an area of over 12 million square kilometres, in which coastal and other countries share maritime rights and interests according to international law.

  1. Atal Pension Yojana (APY)

Source: PIB

The Centre has decided to allow small finance banks and payment banks to offer the Atal Pension Yojana (APY), which is expected to significantly increase the coverage of the scheme. This is also expected to strengthen the existing channels of APY distribution.

Background:

  • Participation in APY not only builds a pensioned society but also adds sustainable fee income to banks by way of attractive incentive for mobilising APY. So far, 11 payment banks and 10 small finance banks have received licences from the Reserve Bank of India to start banking operations in India.

APY:

  • The Atal Pension Yojana became operational from June 1, 2015 and is available to all the citizens of India in the age group of 18-40 years.

Features:

  • Under the scheme, a subscriber would receive a minimum guaranteed pension of Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 per month, depending upon his contribution, from the age of 60 years. The same pension would be paid to the spouse of the subscriber and on the demise of both the subscriber and the spouse, the accumulated pension wealth is returned to the nominee.
  • The Central Government would also co-contribute 50% of the total contribution or Rs. 1000 per annum, whichever is lower, to each eligible subscriber account, for a period of 5 years, that is, from 2015-16 to 2019-20, to those who join the NPS before 31st December, 2015 and who are not members of any statutory social security scheme and who are not Income Tax payers.

  1. Maitreyi Yatra’

Source: PIB

The closing ceremony of Maitreyi Yatra was recently held.

Maitreyi Yatra:

  • The Maitreyi Yatra is an exchange programme for schoolchildren as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the J&K government and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • The objective of this programme is to integrate the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of the country and to promote brotherhood and harmony. It provides a good opportunity for the youth of J&K to be acquainted with culture, language and development story of different parts of the country.
  • The Student Exchange Programme is organized by Ministry of Human Resource development.



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