Unbroken and Unwavering support to Palestine: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said support for the Palestinian cause is a
continuing thread in India’s foreign policy and hoped for an early realisation
of a “sovereign, independent Palestine living in a peaceful environment”.
India’s support for Palestine is “unbroken and unwavering. That’s why I am
here, in Ramallah,” Mr. Modi said at the administrative headquarters of the
The first Indian Prime Minister to visit Palestine, Mr Modi was speaking
after holding bilateral talks with President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Prime Minister, who arrived at Ramallah’s Presidential compound earlier
in the day, laid a wreath at the tomb of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian
leader, whom he described as “a great leader... and a very close friend of the
Mr. Modi was accompanied by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah at
the Arafat mausoleum before he joined President Abbas to receive the guard of
honour and hold talks.
After bilateral talks, the two sides signed six agreements worth around $50
million, including one for setting up a $30 million super speciality hospital in
Agreements were also signed to build schools, a diplomatic training
institute and a woman’s empowerment and training centre.
“We are committed to taking care of the cause and well-being of Palestinian
people,” Mr. Modi said.
“Friendship between India and Palestine has stood the test of time. The
people of Palestine have shown remarkable courage in the face of several
challenges. India will always support Palestine’s development journey,” he said.
Rs.1269 crore to AP for projects: Centre
The Centre has released a sum of Rs. 1,269 crore to Andhra Pradesh under
different heads in the past few days.
amid a strain in ties between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and
its ally, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), over allocation given to the State in
the Union Budget.
The gross grant included Rs. 417.44 crore for the Polavaram multipurpose
project, one of the issues of contention between the allies, the TDP and the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
The release [of Rs. 417.44 crore] is towards the amount already utilised by
the State against the irrigation component [of Polavaram] after April 1, 2014.
The Centre, through the Polavaram Project Authority, has so far released Rs.
4,329 crore for the project, while the State government said it spent over Rs.
7,200 crore after it was declared a national project.
Memo to Jaitley
Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu submitted a
memorandum to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last month, stating that a
sum of Rs. 3,217.63 crore, spent on Polavaram, was yet to be reimbursed to the
Of this, the Centre has now released Rs. 417.44 crore, an official of the
Water Resources Department here said.
The Centre, meanwhile, also released Rs. 369.16 crore under post-devolution
revenue deficit grant, as per the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission,
to Andhra Pradesh.
Cautious on status of Jerusalem is Modi
During his historic visit to Palestine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
reaffirmed India’s support for the Palestinian cause, and called for dialogue to
find a permanent solution to the crisis.
But stopped short of saying anything on the contested issue of the status
Traditionally, Indian statements of support for Palestine have said that
India backs an independent, sovereign state of Palestine within the 1967 borders
and East Jerusalem as its capital.
Two years ago, when then President Pranab Mukherjee visited Jordan, Israel
and Palestine, he said: “I reiterated India’s principled support to the Palestinian cause and called for
a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united
State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and
recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet
Roadmap and relevant UNSC [United Nations Security Council] Resolutions.”
The Quartet Roadmap he referred to is the two-state plan suggested by the
U.S., the European Union, Russia and the UN to resolve the Israeli-Palestine
In November 2013, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement on
the occasion of the International Solidarity Day with the Palestinian People,
reiterating India’s position. “India supports a negotiated resolution, resulting
in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine with East
Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders side by
side and at peace with Israel...,” it read.
However, in the statement issued by Prime Minister Modi after the India
visit of Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas in May 2017, there was no reference
“[W]e hope to see the realisation of a sovereign, independent, united and
viable Palestine, co-existing peacefully with Israel. I have reaffirmed our
position on this to President Abbas during our conversation today,” the Prime
Minister said on May 16, 2017.
in Ramallah, Mr. Modi has reiterated this line, with no direct reference
either to the borders or to Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister said India hoped to see an independent sovereign
Palestine living in a peaceful environment, whereas President Abbas, in his
statement, stressed achieving the national goals of Palestine “according to the
two-state solution on the 1967 borders and the resolutions of international
legitimacy. And Israel in peace and security, with East Jerusalem as the capital
of a Palestinian state.”
Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as
Israel’s capital has triggered an angry response from the Palestinians and
criticisms from different parts of the world.
India voted against Mr. Trump’s Jerusalem move in the UN General Assembly
in December 2017. After Mr. Trump’s move, the External Affairs Ministry issued a
statement saying “India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent”,
but again without any reference to Jerusalem.
Mr. Modi said nothing on Israel while giving the press statement in
UIDAI on Aadhaar benefits
Aadhaar-issuing authority UIDAI said that no essential service or benefit
can be denied for want of the biometric national ID.
In a statement, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) asked
Government Departments and State administrations “to ensure that no essential
service or benefit shall be denied to a genuine beneficiary for the want of
Aadhaar, whether it is medical help, hospitalisation, school admission or ration
“There are exceptions to the handling regulations issued by the UIDAI vide
its circular dated 24th October 2017, which must be followed to make sure that
no beneficiary is denied benefits for want of Aadhaar,” it said.
The UIDAI said it has taken serious note of some of the reported cases
where want of Aadhaar had resulted in the denial of essential services like
“While the real facts behind such claims of denial are being investigated,
strict action will be taken in case denial has occurred,” it said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited the South’s President Moon Jae-in
for a summit in Pyongyang, Seoul said, even as the U.S. warned against falling
for Pyongyang’s Olympic charm offensive.
The invitation, delivered by Mr. Kim’s visiting sister Kim Yo-jong, said he
was willing to meet the South’s leader “at the earliest date possible”, said a
spokesperson for the presidential Blue House.
An inter-Korean summit would be the third of its kind, after Mr. Kim’s
father and predecessor Kim Jong-il met the South’s Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun
in 2000 and 2007 respectively, both of them in Pyongyang.
Mr. Moon did not immediately accept the invitation. But the prospect could
sow division between the dovish leader, who has long argued for engagement with
the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table, and U.S. President
Donald Trump, who last year traded personal insults and threats of war with Mr.
Washington insists that Pyongyang — which is under multiple sets of UN
Security Council sanctions — must take concrete steps towards denuclearisation
before any negotiations can happen.
After months of silence on whether it would even take part in the
Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South, the Games have driven a rapprochement
on the peninsula, while the North’s athletes, performers and delegates have
dominated the headlines.
Mr. Moon met Ms. Kim Yo-jong — a close confidante of her brother and the
first member of the dynasty to set foot in the South since the Korean War — and
the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam at the Blue House in Seoul.
“We want to see President Moon become a protagonist in opening a new
chapter for reunification and leave great footprints in history,” she said.
The two Koreas have been divided since the conflict ended in a ceasefire in
1953, and the democratic South has risen to become the world’s 11th-largest
economy, while the North has stagnated under the Kim family’s rule.
The offer could put Mr. Moon in a delicate diplomatic quandary, but he
avoided a direct response, said his spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom, and called
instead for efforts to “create the right conditions” for a visit.
Mr. Moon urged Pyongyang to actively seek an “absolutely necessary”
dialogue with Washington, he said.
Tensions between the two soared last year as Pyongyang launched
intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland and
carried out by far its most powerful nuclear test to date.
The North Korean delegation then took the bullet train to Gangneung, the
venue of all ice competitions, and attended a banquet hosted by the South’s
Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon.
::SCIENCE & TECH::
Potential Biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have
identified a potential biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease.
The biomarker shows up very early in the disease process and well before
clinical and even pathological manifestation of the disease.
They also found that it is possible to reverse the disease process if
Loss of dendritic spines from the surface of a nerve cell is already
recognised as an early feature of Alzheimer’s. But the underlying mechanism
behind this loss was not known.
Now, a team led by Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath from the Centre for
Neuroscience at IISc has deciphered it. The results were published inJournal of
Projections on the dendrites called spines grow or shrink in response to
activity-dependent modification and correlates with normal memory or memory
deficit in animal models.
Filamentous actin (F-actin) is a cytoskeletal protein which is responsible
for maintaining the shape of the spines.
While F-actin is formed by polymerisation of monomeric globular-actin (G-actin),
depolymerisation leads to loss of F-actin and, in turn, the loss of spines. F-actin
is crucial for memory consolidation.
In mice that are genetically altered to have Alzheimer’s, there was
decreased F-actin protein level and increased G-actin protein level in animals
as young as one month.
The change in the ratio of F-actin and G-actin led to loss of spines.
The decrease in F-actin level and loss of spine thereof translated into
memory deficit when the animals turned two months old.
In contrast, the first signs of memory deficit in mice with Alzheimer’s is
typically seen only when the animals are seven-eight months old.
This is because the formation of protein clumps called amyloid plaques,
which is one of the earliest clinical symptoms, happens at this stage.
To test the role of F-actin in behaviour response, two-month-old mice were
exposed to mild foot shocks when kept in a conditioning chamber to bring about
contextual fear conditioning.
While normal mice placed in the chamber the next day they tend to freeze in
anticipation of a shock, mice with Alzheimer’s did not exhibit this behaviour.
To test if decrease in F-actin protein and, in turn, the spine was
responsible for deficit in memory a chemical was injected into Alzheimer mice to
stabilise the level of F-actin.
The researchers went a step further to test the role of F-actin level in
behaviour response by injecting a chemical into four-month-old normal mice.
Since the chemical inhibits actin polymerisation, there was a decrease in
the F-actin level. And the mice, though healthy, displayed significant decrease
in freezing response, just like Alzheimer’s mice would behave.
The team checked the level of F-actin levels in cortical brain tissue
samples of human subjects who had Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment and
There was “graded lowering” of F-actin levels from normal to mild cognitive
to Alzheimer’s tissue samples.
The correlation seen between mouse model and human disease indicates the
potential to use F-actin levels as a biomarker.
Immigration in Biology
In biology, this process has been on even at the single-cellular levels,
over 2.5 to 3 billion years ago — and continues even today.
Leave alone infection by pathogens; there have been helpful ones too.
Two outstanding examples of helpful immigration that happened during those
early years are chloroplasts and mitochondria.
The chloroplasts are neatly packaged mini-cells which come with their own
genetic make- up, and they have the ability to absorb sunlight and use it to
convert atmospheric carbon dioxide and water to produce the sugar glucose and
the gas oxygen.
They appear to have arisen from even more ancient cells called
‘cyanobacteria’ (3.5 billion years ago), and have migrated from there to plant
This immigration led to what is called the ‘oxygen revolution’, through
which the air surrounding the earth became over 20% rich in oxygen ( pranavayu -
a gas without which we cannot live).
At about the same time, or a bit later, another ancient life form, derived
from ‘the purple bacterium’, migrated to both plant and animal cells.
This is the mitochondrion. Mitochondria do the reverse; they use oxygen and
enhance the metabolic energy production of their ‘host’ cells by as much as
Mitochondria are thus power houses in cells, as chloroplasts are solar
panels of energy in plants.
Cellular immigrants such as these two are welcome in cells and have been
given permanent residence permits therein.
But they bring their own genomes through which they produce progeny, and
live in ghettos called organelles in the cells, offering power and prosperity to
All animals, plants and fungi have accommodated mitochondria in their
The number of mitochondria in a cell varies depending on the role of the
Muscle cells, which have high energy needs have large numbers of
mitochondria in them, while red blood cells whose job is just to transport
oxygen have none.
Given all this importance of mitochondria, it comes as a surprise to learn
that we humans inherit our mitochondria only from the mother and none at all
from the father. In other words, it is the mother who provides her progeny the
Power-Pack that her children’s body cells need.
So it is in plants too; it is the female that provides the chloroplasts.
This too is a process that has been conserved evolutionarily from worms,
fruit flies, animals and humans, and is referred to as ‘uniparental
But how and why does this happen? After all the egg cell is fertilized by
the sperm cell, and both of them carry their own mitochondria.
And as the sperm cell enters the egg cell, its mitochondria are eliminated,
and why? This is a puzzle that has bothered scientists, and several suggestions
have come about recently.
Some have proposed that mitochondrial DNA is inherently more prone to
damage than nuclear DNA, and that if the introduced mitochondria are avoided or
deleted, one can make do with the maternal mitochondria, which can be multiplied
as the embryo forms and develops.
Reasons for same-sex behavior in Pigeons
It’s all about making the best of a bad job: if there is a paucity of
males, female rock pigeons can form long-lasting, same-sex relationships to
bring up their chicks, find scientists.
Such female pairs fare no differently than female–male pairs, and better
than single females, in bringing up their brood.
Numerous records of same-sex sexual behaviour exist in the natural world
and more than 130 bird species have been recorded displaying such behaviour,
ranging from courtship displays and copulation to establishing nesting
Theories put forward to explain this include ‘social glue’ (where engaging
in same-sex bonds establishes strong social relationships), ‘alloparenting’
(that females have a fluid sexuality that helps them form same-sex bonds if
their partners die or leave, which is useful to bring up offspring) and the
‘prison effect’ (removing one sex causes the rest to engage sexually with
members of its own sex).
A team of scientists from Poland tested what would happen if males or
females are removed from populations of rock (feral) pigeons, a monogamous
species (which has only one mate at a time) that is also found in India.
In their study published in Scientific Reports, the scientists detail how
they established three feral pigeon colonies between 2007 and 2009.
From the first colony, they removed several males that had already paired
This skewed the sex ratio towards females, creating not just the existing
female–male (f–m) pairs but also five female–female (f–f) pairs and 14 single
Males from the f–m pairs fertilised the single females and those in the f–f
The team found that egg incubation time, development of chicks and numbers
of hatchlings of f–f pairs was almost the same as f–m pairs, while single
females did not do as well.
The removal of females from the second colony created only two short and
unstable male–male pairs, which did not build nests or adopt offered eggs.
From the third colony, when the team removed females whose fledglings were
growing, males displayed mating behaviour towards their offspring.
Pure white light from Zinc
Now, pure white light can be produced using zinc, which is usually used to
protect iron from rusting and in making brass.
The most commonly used method of producing white light is by mixing three
primary colour–emitting phosphors in a proportionate composition.
The existing methods of white-light production are energy-intensive and
involve a long process.
But the new LED device requires only a single active layer of zinc-based
metal–organic framework to get perfect white light under UV-excitation.
And synthesis of the zinc framework is easy and highly stable and is not
Scientists from Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS),
Kolkata, synthesised the zinc-framework and the results were published inJournal
of Materials Chemistry C.
For the LED fabrication, indium tin oxide–coated glass was used as anode
and vacuum evaporated aluminium as cathode.
The zinc-based framework is used as the active layer in which electrons are
recombined to produce white light.
The precursor materials used to make the LED are easily available and very
much cost effective.
By checking with the International Commission on Illumination (CIE)
standards, the researchers found that the emission was very close to that of
ideal white light.
While commercially available white LEDs show slightly higher blue emission
when compared with two other primary colours, the new white LED emits three
primary colours proportionally to get perfect white light.