Daily Current Affairs - 22-04-2021

The IIT Kharagpur has successfully commercialised the healthcare product COVIRAP.

What is COVIRAP?

COVIRAP is a diagnostic technology to detect COVID-19 virus. The technology is also capable of testing influenza, dengue, malaria. Tuberculosis and Japanese Encephalitis. Also, the technology can be used to test other vector borne diseases.

COVIRAP is now being launched for commercialisation after getting validated by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research). Recently, the research team from IIT Kharagpur has developed a more advanced version of COVIRAP using isothermal nuclei acid testing technology for rapid diagnostics of the infections.

Working of COVIRAP

COVIRAP has a special detection unit for genomic analysis, pre-programmable temperature control unit and a customised smartphone app for results. It also has three master mixes that work as markers of different genes to confirm the presence of COVID-19. The samples collected through swabs react with these mixes. The paper strips coded with required chemicals are then dipped into the reaction products from the samples and mixes. The coloured lines indicate the presence of the COVID-19 virus.

The Perseverance rover of Mars 2020 Mission of NASA recently converted carbon dioxide into oxygen. This is the first time this has been achieved in another planet. This was achieved by MOXIE, an instrument placed in the front side of the rover.

What is MOXIE?

Perseverance

Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. It carried the Ingenuity helicopter. The helicopter recently made its successful flight. This was first flight in another planet.

The International Energy Agency recently released the Global Energy Review report. According to the report, the Carbon Dioxide emissions in India is to be 1.4% higher than the levels recorded in 2019.

Key Findings of the Report: India

Key Findings of the Report: World

The World Economic Forum recently released the Global Energy Transition Index. The index was prepared in collaboration with Accenture.

Key findings of the Report

Report on India and China

According to the report, India is bringing in energy transitions through subsidy reforms. On the other hand, China is focusing on expanding renewables through investments and infrastructure.

Both India and China together account to one-third of the global energy demand.

About the report

The Global Energy Transition Index benchmarks 115 countries based in their performance across three dimensions namely Environmental sustainability, economic development and growth and energy security.

Reports of World Economic Forum

The other reports published by World Economic Forum are as follows:

World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum is an international organisation for private and public cooperation. The headquarters of WEF is located in Switzerland.

The Libya based rebels that are currently attacking Chad are called FACT. FACT is Front for Change and Concord in Chad. On April 20, 2021, the President of Chad Idriss Deby died of injuries after fighting against these rebels.

About FACT

Idriss Deby

He came to power in 1990 through an armed uprising. Deby ruled Chad fighting against the Islamist militants in the region. Chad is one of the most stable countries in the region. The region is surrounded by Libya, Central African Republic and Sudan where the armed forces roam around freely.

Chad has been facing violent power struggle since its independence from France in 1960.

Way Forward

A military council led by Deby’s son is to govern Chad for the next 18 months. Mahamat Idriss Deby is to lead the council till the elections are held.

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended Biden Administration to place four countries including India under “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC). The other three countries were Russia, Vietnam and Syria.

USCIRF

The USCIRF was established by the US Government in 1998 after the enaction of International Religious Freedom Act. The Commissioners of USCIRF are appointed by the President. It mainly aims to review the violations of religious freedom internationally. It makes recommendations to President, US Congress and the Secretary of State. However, it is not mandatory for them to implement the recommendations.

Why should India be placed under CPC list?

According to the report, the Citizenship Amendment Act that was passed in 2020 led to nationwide protests. The act was passed to fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim migrants residing in the country. These migrants were from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The report also noted that the Government of India has amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. This was done to increase restrictions on Non-Governmental Organisations and their foreign funds. The amendments led to forced closure of human rights organisation and religious organisations. This included Amnesty International India. The Amnesty International India was closed after the authorities froze its bank account in October 2020.

India’s Stand

According to India, the Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of the country. The act was passed to protect oppressed minorities in the neighbouring countries.

The Australian Government recently announced that it has cancelled deals on Belt and Road initiative over national interest.

What is the issue?

The Victorian State Government had signed two agreements with China. In 2018, an agreement was signed to promote infrastructure development initiative in the state. The second agreement was signed in 2019 that aimed to bring in Chinese investments in the state. Both these agreements were signed under the Belt and Road Initiative of China. The Australian Government recently cancelled both these agreements.

Why did Australia cancel the deals?

According to Australia, the agreements signed were out of line with foreign policy of the government. In December 2020, the Australian Government introduced the Australia Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangement) Act. The law allows Australian Government to cancel any agreements signed between a foreign country and the state authorities. This shall be done if the actions of the agreement threatened national interest. The law empowers the foreign minister to cancel any of such foreign agreement.

Recently, the Australian Government had directed the states to submit the details of the agreements signed by them with foreign countries under the law.

Indo-Pacific

Under its foreign policy, Australia sees a free and open Indo-Pacific as a key goal. Australia recently launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Initiative. Also, the Australian Government allocated Rs 8.12 crores under the initiative.

Australia-China

The diplomatic relations between China and Australia have been deteriorating since Australia called for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

Way Forward

Australia is to revoke a 2004 MoU signed between Iran and Victoria’s Education Department as well. Also, the Australian Government is to revoke a scientific cooperation agreement signed between Syria and the State of Victoria that was signed in 1999.

The Government of Israel has chosen Google and Amazon Web Services to provide cloud services for its military and Public Sector Units. The project is to be implemented in four phases and has been named the “Nimbus” project.

About Nimbus Project

In future, the project is to be extended, where dozens of local suppliers are to be selected to assist in migration of Government Systems to the Cloud.

What is Cloud Services?

The Cloud Services refer to wide range of services delivered over the internet. The Cloud Services are highly important as the defence industry of Israel is one of the largest in the world.

Defence Industry of Israel

Israel is one of the major exporters of military equipment in the world. It accounts to 10% of Global Defence Exports. There are more than 150 active defence companies in the country. Their collective revenue is more than 3.5 billion USD.

Israel and the US are considered as allies and have strong ties through defence industry. However, the relations weakened due to the “Dotan Scandal”. It was said that Israel violated US ITAR (International Traffic on Arms Regulations) restrictions and sold sensitive data and equipment to China. In 2020, US pressured Israel to bar all the Chinese components including the communication systems.

Controversies

Amazon and Google beat out Oracle, Microsoft and IBM in winning the tender. Microsoft is said to have strong hold in Israel. In fact, the company announced in 2020, that it is to invest 1 billion USD in Israel aiming to win this project. One of the three largest Microsoft Research and Development centres is located in Israel. With Microsoft losing the contract, critics believe that Microsoft era in Israel has come to an end.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently shared an image of “Cosmic Rose”.

Cosmic Rose

Cosmic Rose is an image captured by Hubble Space Telescope of NASA. The image featured interacting galaxies Arp 273.

Arp 273

What are Interacting Galaxies?

The Interacting Galaxies are those galaxies whose gravitational fields disturb one another.

Types of Galaxy Interactions

Galaxy harassment

Galaxy harassment is an interaction between a low-luminosity galaxy and a brighter one. It is usually common in rich galaxy clusters such as Coma and Virgo.

Galactic Cannibalism

It is a process where a large galaxy interacts with a companion through tidal gravitational interactions. A Galactic tide is a force experienced by objects subjected to gravitational field of a galaxy.

Galaxy Collision

These are common during galaxy evolution. In these interactions, two galaxies will collide and will not have enough momentum to continue travelling after collision.

Galaxy Mergers

Galaxy merger occurs when two or more galaxies collide with each other. They are the most violent type of galaxy interactions. Galaxy mergers are highly important as they are the fundamental measure of Galaxy evolution.

Hubble Space Telescope

It is space telescope that was launched in 1990 into low Earth Orbit.

The US House of Representatives recently passed a bill that will limit the ability of the President to impose religion-based travel ban. It is informally called “No Ban Act”.

Why was the act passed?

The No Ban Act was passed in response to the controversial “Muslim ban” passed by the former US President Donald Trump. The Muslim ban barred the travel from Muslim-majority countries to the US.

Full Form of NO BAN Act

NO BAN Act is the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Non-Immigrants Act.

Key Features of No Ban Act

Background

In 2017, the former President Trump imposed travel ban shortly after becoming the President of United States. It was struck down twice by the US courts. However, in 2018, the US Supreme Court upheld the act.

The travel ban was initially applied only to countries such as Yemen, Syria, Iran, Libya and Somalia. However, it was later expanded to Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Muslims in the US

The Beal Seed Viability Experiment was begun by William James Beam. He was an American Botanist who worked at the Michigan State University.

What is Beal Seed Viability Experiment?

Findings of Beal Seed Viability Experiment

In 2002, the Beal Seed Viability Experiment founded that some weed seeds are capable of surviving even hundred years if placed in an uncorked bottle with sand buried into soil.

Doomsday Vault

The Doomsday Vault is a seed bank. It houses samples of more than one million crop varieties from five thousand different species. Around two-fifth of the world seed varieties are stored in the vault. It is located in the Arctic region in the Island of Spitsbergen.

As India is struggling to battle COVID-19 crisis, a triple mutant variant strain of COVID-19 has emerged as a fresh threat. It is also called the “Bengal Variant”. The triple mutant variant has been identified in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi and Chhattisgarh.

What is Triple Mutant Variant?

The Triple Mutant Variant has evolved from double mutation. In the triple mutant variant, three different COVID-19 strains have combined to form a new variant.

Recently, a double mutant variety has been spreading in India rapidly. This double mutant carried mutations namely E484Q and L452R. The E484Q was reported to be found in UK and South Africa. The L452R mutation was found in California. These mutations were associated with antibody escape and greater binding capacities. However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recently announced that COVAXIN works against these mutations. The National Institute of Virology has been successfully isolating the mutations and testing them against the vaccines. Also, the INSACOG laboratories are processing the genome sequencing of these mutant variants. INSACOG is Indian SARS CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG).

The new triple mutant variant carries the above double mutants along with another mutation in amino acids. In the triple mutant, two amino acids such as H146del and Y145del have been deleted.

Why are mutant strains dangerous?

The Chinese President Xi Jing Ping is to attend the US Leaders Summit that is to be held on World Earth Day (April 22). Also, Xi Jing Ping will deliver an important speech at the summit. Apart from China, over forty leaders are to attend the summit. This includes PM Modi of India as well. The summit is expected to be a key milestone on the road to United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

India at the Summit

There have been several debates if India should announce “Net-Zero” emission during the summit. India will have to take heavier burden if it commits to adopt net-zero emission by 2050.

What should India do to achieve Net-Zero Emission?

Every year, the World Earth Day is celebrated on April 22. The first World Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.

Background

In 1969, the Peace Activist John McConnell proposed to celebrate World Earth Day to honour the earth. It was first proposed to be celebrated on March 21, 1970, which is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.

Paris Agreement

On the World Earth Day, in 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by China, United States and other 120 countries.

World Earth Day, 2021

This year, US President Joe Biden has invited leaders of forty top economies of the world including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jing Ping to the Leader’s Summit on Climate. The virtual meet is to be held on World Earth Day.

This year, in 2021, the World Earth Day is celebrated under the following the theme:

Theme: Restore our Earth

About World Earth Day

The World Earth Day celebrations are organised by Earth Society Foundation. It was founded by John McConnel.

Equinox Earth Day

Every year, the Equinox Earth Day is celebrated on March 20 (or 21). It marks the arrival of spring in the Northern hemisphere and autumn in southern hemisphere. It is also called the Equinoctial Earth Day. The first Equinox Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.

Japanese Peace Bell and Earth Day

The Peace Bell is rung twice or thrice a year. Once during the celebrations of World Earth Day that falls on April 22.

It is also rung on Equinox Earth Day. The Japanese Peace Bell was donated to the United Nations by Japan.

Apart from these days, sometimes it is also rung on every opening day of the United Nations General Assembly yearly session. This is usually held in the month of September.