Daily Current Affairs - 19-05-2021

The World Wildlife Fund recently claimed that more than 70% of snow Leopard habitats are unexplored. The organisation recently released its report “A spatially explicit review of the state of knowledge in the snow leopard range”.

Key Findings of the report

Most of the snow leopard researches have been conducted by Nepal, India and China followed by Mongolia and Pakistan. There could be only four thousand snow leopards left in the world. They are facing continuous threats due to increased habitat loss and degradation, conflict with communities and poaching.

Why only 70%? Why is 100% Exploration not possible?

As snow leopards live in rugged terrain, it is highly difficult to conduct researches on snow leopard and their habitat. That is why, till date their entire habitat remains unexplored.

First Snow Leopard Survey

On the International Snow Leopard Day (October 24), India launched the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in 2019. However, the survey is yet to be launched. Several state governments have launched local surveys such as Uttarkhand.

Snow Leopard conservation

Conservation of Snow Leopard

GSLEP: GSLEP is Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme. It was launched by twelve snow leopard range countries such as India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Russia.

SECURE Himalaya: It is a Global Environment Facility-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded project.

Snow Leopards in India

In India, snow leopards are found in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir. These regions contribute to 5% of global snow leopard range. Government is running Project Snow Leopard since 2009.

The US scientists has invented a new COVID-19 Saliva Testing method called SPOT. SPOT is Scalable and Portable Testing.

About SPOT

SPOT was invented by a research team from the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. The SPOT gives COVID-19 test results in thirty minutes. The cost of the device is 78 USD. Apart from these the reagents and other testing devices are estimated to cost 6 to 7 USD. The device can be operated by anyone with minimal training.

The test is very much similar to that of the RT-PCR. But it uses Reverse Transcriptase Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP). However, it does not need complex machinery or expertise. It can be completed quickly and is more accurate.

RT-Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification

RT-LAMP is a one step nucleic acid amplification method. It is used to multiply specific sequences of RNA. This technology is considered as an alternate to RT-PCR as it is much cheaper and easier. RT-LAMP test first makes DNA from the RNA samples. This conversion is made by reverse transcriptase enzyme. This DNA is called cDNA. Now this cDNA will be amplified for virus detection.

The only difference between RT-PCR and RT-LAMP is that RT-LAMP uses four LAMP Primers. Primers are short fragments of nucleic acids.

Outcome

The researchers tested 104 clinical samples using SPOT. Of these it accurately identified twenty eight of thirty COVID-19 positive samples and 73 out of 74 COVID-19 negative samples.

About new COVID-19 tests

Every day ten to fifteen new COVID-19 tests are launched in the market. These tests claim to be quick. However, none of these quick antigen tests are reliable as that of RT-PCR.

Biological E is to produce Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine along with its own vaccine. This is to boost the overall vaccine production of the country.

Background

A new Vaccine partnership was unveiled at the first Quad Summit. The four Quad countries namely India, Australia, US and Japan decided to pool their resources. They also decided to roll out 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines by 2022.  According to the plan, the United States International Development Finance Corporation is to assist the Biological E.

What is the plan?

The Biological E of India is to produce 600 million Johnson and Johnson Vaccine doses annually. It is to produce the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine along with its own vaccine. However, the manufacturing units of the vaccines will be different. Also, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine production is to be funded by the US.

Biological E has plans to produce 75 million to 80 million doses of its own vaccine in Hyderabad. The drug was developed by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Johnson and Johnson Vaccine

It has been approved by United States Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organisation. In India, Johnson and Johnson has sought for permission to conduct clinical trials.

It is an adeno virus vector based COVID-19 vaccine. It is a single dose vaccine. The other adeno virus based vaccines such as Moderna and Pfizer are two dose vaccines.

Current Scenario

According to COVAX, India is unlikely to resume its major exports of COVID-19 vaccines till October, 2021. This is because it is diverting its shots for domestic use.

A new study states that Antarctica ices sheets are headed towards Climate Tipping Points by 2060.

Climate Tipping in Antarctica

There are several ice shelves in Antarctica. As these ice shelves break up, the towering ice cliffs may not be able to stand on their own. The study found that these ice shelves are breaking at a faster rate. How? The ice sheets and shelves of Antarctica are grounded on the bed rocks that slope inwards towards the centre of the continent. The warming of ocean waters is melting their lower edges. This might destabilize them creating open fractures. Open fractures speed up the melting process as more ice areas are exposed to warmer temperatures. Thus, it is concluded that Antarctica is moving towards irreversible climate changes, that is, it is moving toward its Climate Tipping Points.

Climate Tipping Point

Climate Tipping Point is the threshold that leads to large changes in the state of the system.

The fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defined Climate Tipping Point as the irreversible change in the climate system. It is often referred to as runaway Climate Change. However, it is not same as that of the Runaway Greenhouse Effect.

Runaway Greenhouse Effect

It occurs when the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of the planet prevents the planet from cooling. It is an extreme Green House Effect. It creates irreversible climate state. The Runway Greenhouse effect is so extreme that the oceans boil away and renders the planet uninhabitable. It is an irreversible climate state. This happened in Venus.

The Government of India recently brought changes to the Customs (Imports of Goods at Concessional Rate of Duty) rules, IGCR 2017 to boost trade facilitation. This was done through the Customs (Import of Goods at Concessional Rate of Duty) Amendment Rules, 2021.

What are the major rules changed?

The absence of the newly rules had constrained Indian industries, especially, the MSMEs. It mainly affected those that did not have in-house manufacturing facility. Earlier, the concessional customs duty on imports was not provided to those who did not have an in-house manufacturing facility. Now, under the new rules they can now import goods at concessional rates, get the job done in other manufacturing units. However, this has still not been extended to certain sectors such as gold, diamond, precious metals.

The new rules will now allow import of capital goods at concessional customs duty. Capital goods are physical assets used by a company to manufacture products and services for later use. They are not finished goods. But are used to make finished goods. Tools, machinery, building, equipment are capital goods.

The new rules basically lay down procedure and manner in which an importer can avail benefit of concessional customs duty on import of goods for domestic production.

IGCR rules, 2017

These rules are for the importers who can avail the benefit of exemption notification issued under Section 25 of Customs Act, 1962.  The act empowers the Union Government of India to grant exemptions from payment of customs duties.

On May 19, 2021, the United Launch Alliance launched the Atlas V Rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The Atlas V rocket carried SBRIS Geo-5 Missile Warning Satellite.

SBRIS Geo-5 Missile Warning Satellite

The satellite will provide key capabilities in missile warning, battle space, missile defence. It weighs 4,850 kilograms. As of 2018, ten SBRIS satellites were launched.

Atlas V

Atlas V is a two-stage rocket. It is fueled with rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen in its first stage and hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the second stage. The rocket put SBRIS at a height of 35,753 kilo metres.

SBRIS

The full form of SBRIS is Space Based Infrared System. It is designed for missile warning, missile battlespace and defence characterization. SBRIS is basically a Space Tracking and Surveillance System. SBRIS was designed to meet the Infrared Space Surveillance of United States Space Force System. In 2020 alone, the SBRIS satellites detected more than thousand missiles.

United States Space Force

It is a branch of US Armed Forces. It is first independent space force. Also, it is the only space force in the world. It is operated by Department of Air Force which is one of the three civilian led military departments in Department of Defence.

United Launch Alliance

It is an American Spacecraft company that manufactures and operates number of rocket vehicles. It also provides launch services. The Atlas V rockets are operated by the company. Vulcan Centaur is the successor to Atlas V and is under design.

In future, ULA is to launch Boeing Starliner Crew Capsule to the International Space Station. The mission is called OFT-2, that is, Orbital Flight Test. In 2019, it failed to reach the space station due to software issue.