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Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 11 February 2018

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 11 February 2018


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 Palestinian Authority.
  • 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 Indian people”.
  • 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 Beit Sahur.
  • 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 State.
  • 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 of Jerusalem.
  • 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 conflict.
  • 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 to Jerusalem.
  • “[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 Ramallah.

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 through PDS.”
  • “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 hospitalisation.
  • “While the real facts behind such claims of denial are being investigated, strict action will be taken in case denial has occurred,” it said.

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Invitation to S.Korean Pres. to visit North: Kim

  • 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. Kim.
  • 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.


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 identified early.
  • 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 Neuroscience.
  • 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 normal cognition.
  • 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 cells.
  • 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 tenfold.
  • 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 their hosts.
  • All animals, plants and fungi have accommodated mitochondria in their cells.
  • The number of mitochondria in a cell varies depending on the role of the cell.
  • 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 inheritance’.
  • 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 territories.
  • 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 with females.
  • 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 females.
  • Males from the f–m pairs fertilised the single females and those in the f–f pairs.
  • 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 energy-intensive.
  • 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.

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