9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 25, 2019

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In a first, NASA probe detects ‘marsquake’ on the Red Planet

  1. NASA’s robotic probe In-Sight has detected and measured a probable seismological tremor on Mars. This is the first time a likely seismological tremor has been recorded on a planet other than the Earth and its Moon. NASA has labelled the tremor a “Marsquake”.
  2. Previously also tremors have been recorded but this is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind.
  3. The seismic event was recorded by In-Sight’s seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).
  4. InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander. It seeks to study the deep interior of the planet Mars. It also seeks to determine the rate of Martian tectonic activity and meteorite impacts.
  5. The mission is part of NASA’s Discovery Program for highly focused science missions that ask critical questions in solar system science. It is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  6. The mission was launched in May 2018 aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket. It had successfully landed at Elysium Planitia on Mars in November 2018.

HC lifts ban on TikTok, but with a caveat

  1. The interim ban on Chinese-owned TikTok video app has been lifted by the Madras High Court, subject to certain conditions. The ban was removed after the company assured that it had put moderating mechanisms in place to regulate obscene content.
  2. The Madras High Court has warned the company that it would be charged with contempt of court if the regulatory mechanisms were not found in place.
  3. Earlier in April, The Madras High Court directed the state authorities to prohibit downloading of TikTok app. It had also prohibited media from telecasting the videos made using the app.
  4. The court’s decision was based on the grounds that that the app was inappropriate for children and exposed them to several dangers such as pornographic and inappropriate content.
  5. The company had then approached the Supreme Court against high court’s order. It had contended that the app is an intermediary as per Section 2(w) of the Information Technology (IT) Act. Thus, it cannot be held liable for actions of third parties on the platform as stated under section 79 of the IT Act.
  6. The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 provides a diligence framework to be followed by intermediaries in order to avail of the exemption under Section 79. Under the Rules, intermediaries are required to prohibit users from hosting certain content on its platform e.g. obscene content, content that provoke terrorism, extremism, violence and crime.

IEPF Authority in a major success recovers Rs 1514 Cr of Depositors Money

  1. The Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) Authority has been able to recover deposits worth Rs 1,514 crore from Kolkata-based Peerless General Finance and Investment Company.This money of depositors was pending with the company for the last 15 years.
  2. IEPF Authority has been set up under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India.It is a statutory body under the Companies Act 2013.
  3. Further,the Corporate Affairs secretary is the Chairperson of IEPF.The authority aims to administer the Investor Education and Protection Fund with the objective of promoting Investor’s Education,Awareness and Protection.
  4. The Authority also takes various initiatives to fulfil its objectives through Investor Awareness Programmes and various other mediums like print, Electronic,Social Media and Community Radio.
  5. The IEPF Authority is also in the process of commissioning an online facility to collect primary information directly from retail investors about the deposits which have matured and are still pending with various entities for repayment or payment of interests.

Madras High Court bats for extending legal abortion period upto 24 weeks

  1. The Madras High Court has issued notices to the Centre and the state government seeking their response on extending the period for termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks.
  2. The court had taken suo motu cognisance of a report by the World Health Organisation and a March of Dimes,non-profit organisation.They have has said that out of 2.7 crore children born in India every year,17 lakh are born with abnormalities found in the foetus itself.
  3. The Court has said that since doctors find it difficult to diagnose the abnormalities in the fetus within 20 weeks as the cases are reported very late especially in the rural areas.For that reason,the abortion window period should be extended from 20 weeks to 24 weeks.
  4. The High Court has also asked the central government to come out with a time frame by which the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971, could be amended to extend the permissible termination period.
  5. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act allows women to abort foetuses up to 20-weeks-old.Permission of a High Court is required beyond 20 weeks and courts can make exceptions if abnormalities are detected and if there is substantial risk to the mother’s life and health.
  6. A pending bill in Parliament proposes to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to extend the legally permissible period to end a pregnancy to 24 weeks.

China to hold 2nd BRF meet on Thursday;India to give it a miss

  1. China is going to hold its 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF) to showcase its Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) but without India’s presence for the second consecutive time.Recently,India had decided to turn down an official invite from China to attend the second Belt and Road Forum meet.
  2. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious programme to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks along six corridors.It aim at improving (a)regional integration, (b) increasing trade and (c)stimulating economic growth.
  3. India had also boycotted the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in 2017.It has cited issues of sovereignty,transparency and unilateral decision making.
  4. India’s opposition to the BRI is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is a flagship programme of the BRI.The CPEC passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir(Gilgit-Baltistan).As both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir,the area is considered a disputed territory by India.According to India,BRI undermines India’s strategic interests and territorial integrity.
  5. Further, India along with the US and several other countries have been highlighting the concerns over the BRI projects which will leave a number of smaller countries in debt traps.The concerns grew louder after China took over Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port on a 99-year lease as debt swap.
  6. India has also alleged that China has taken unilateral decisions.There has been lack of consultations with India before the launch of BRI.India has also highlighted the importance of openness and transparency on infrastructure projects.

Arab League pledges $100m to Palestinian Authority in summit

  1. The Arab League has pledged to pay $100m a month to the Palestinian Authority(PA) to plug the gap left after Israel had blocked tax transfers to Palestine earlier this year.
  2. Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authorities but had stopped the transfers.Israel has accused the Palestinian Authority of transferring the payments to political prisoners jailed for attacks against Israelis.However, Palestinian Authority(PA) sees the payments as a kind of welfare system for families who have lost a breadwinner.
  3. The Arab League is a regional organization of Arab states in and around North Africa,the Horn of Africa and Saudi Arabia.It was formed in Cairo in 1945 with six members which are Egypt,Iraq,Jordan,Lebanon,Saudi Arabia and Syria.
  4. Currently,the League has 22 members but Syria’s participation has been suspended since November 2011 as a consequence of government repression during the Syrian Civil War.
  5. The League’s main goal is to draw closer the relations between member States and coordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.

Hong Kong leaders jailed over pro-democracy protests

  1. Hong Kong court has jailed four leaders of 2014 pro-democracy protests amid heightened concerns over the decline of freedoms in the China-ruled Hong Kong.
  2. The protests started in reaction to a decision made by China that it would allow direct elections in 2017 but only from a list of candidates pre-approved by China.
  3. The protests were known as the Umbrella Movement after people used umbrellas to shield themselves from pepper spray fired by police to disperse the crowd.
  4. Protesters have accused the Chinese government of breaking its promise to allow full democracy in Hong Kong and of encroaching more and more on the region.
  5. Hong Kong was a former British colony till 1997.It was handed back to China on a condition that Hong Kong would be given a high degree of autonomy,except in foreign and defence affairs for 50 years.

Army to build tunnels to store ammunition

  1. Indian Army has decided to construct underground tunnels for storage of ammunition along the border with China and Pakistan.These tunnels will be constructed with the help of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd (NHPC),a public sector undertaking.
  2. The tunnels will be built in high altitude areas in the Northern and Eastern borders.Initially,four pilot projects would be taken up at four different locations along the Northern border and in Jammu and Kashmir which are expected to be completed within two years.
  3. The tunnels are crucial for providing storage of war-fighting assets as well as NBC(nuclear,chemical,biological) protection without the threat of detection by enemy satellites and spy drones.Further,countries such as China and the U.S already use underground ammunition storage.
  4. These tunnels will also ensures better safety of sensitive ammunition minimising accidental explosions.A range of ammunition used by the Army ranging from bullets,rockets to anti-tank and surface to air missiles, can be stored in these tunnels.

RBI sells entire stake in NHB, Nabard to govt. for ₹ 1,470 cr. in total

  1. The Reserve Bank has divested its stake in National Housing Bank (NHB) and National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (Nabard), by making them fully government-owned.
  2. This move is part of ending the cross-holding in regulatory institutions and follows the recommendation of the second Narasimham committee report of October 2001.The Narasimham panel had said RBI could not own those entities which are regulated by it.
  3. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is an apex development financial institution in India.NABARD was established in 1982 to implement the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act 1981.
  4. NABARD was entrusted with matters concerning policy,planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India.
  5. The National Housing Bank (NHB) was set up on 9 July 1988 under the National Housing Bank Act,1987.NHB is an apex financial institution for housing.
  6. Its objective is to operate as a principal agency to promote housing finance institutions both at local and regional levels and to provide financial and other support incidental to such institutions and for matters connected therewith.

Constitution of J. Bobde panel violates the law

  1. The Supreme Court has appointed a committee headed by senior-most judge of the Supreme Court to inquire into the sexual harassment allegations levelled against Chief Justice of India.
  2. However,the committee have been opposed by wide range of women from various disciplines.They have said that the constitution of the committee with no external member is in complete violation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.
  3. They have demanded that (a)A Special Enquiry Committee consisting of credible individuals be constituted to conduct a thorough enquiry b)The Chief Justice of India should refrain from transacting official duties and responsibilities until the completion of the enquiry d) The Complainant should be allowed legal assistance from a lawyer of her choice and e) The enquiry should be completed within 90 days.
  4. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act,2013 is the key legislation in India for preventing and protecting women against sexual harassment at workplace and to ensure effective redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.This Act broadens the Vishaka guidelines,which were already put in place by the Supreme court.

RBI sells entire stake in NHB, Nabard to govt. for ₹ 1,470 cr. in total

  1. The Reserve Bank has divested its stake in National Housing Bank (NHB) and National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (Nabard), by making them fully government-owned.
  2. This move is part of ending the cross-holding in regulatory institutions and follows the recommendation of the second Narasimham committee report of October 2001.The Narasimham panel had said RBI could not own those entities which are regulated by it.
  3. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is an apex development financial institution in India.NABARD was established in 1982 to implement the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act 1981.
  4. NABARD was entrusted with matters concerning policy,planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India.
  5. The National Housing Bank (NHB) was set up on 9 July 1988 under the National Housing Bank Act,1987.NHB is an apex financial institution for housing.
  6. Its objective is to operate as a principal agency to promote housing finance institutions both at local and regional levels and to provide financial and other support incidental to such institutions and for matters connected therewith.

Interceptor vessel joins Coast Guard service

  1. A new Coast Guard vessel named as C-441 has been commissioned at Vizhinjam harbour in Kerala under the aegis of Regional Commander Western Region.
  2. C-441 is an Indian Coast Guard interceptor Vessel.C-441 is the seventh interceptor vessel amongst the series designed and built indigenously by L&T Ltd,Surat.
  3. C-441 is a 27.8-metre-long vessel.It has a maximum speed of 45 knots (83 km/hr) and is equipped with twin diesel engines and water jet propulsion.
  4. C-441 is capable to undertake several tasks such as close coast surveillance,interdiction,search and rescue and rendering assistance to boats and crafts in distress at sea.
  5. Further,the ship is fitted with state-of-the art communication,navigational equipment and with light,medium and heavy automatic machine gun onboard as main armament.

Potato farmers cry foul as PepsiCo sues them

  1. Farmers groups has asked for Central government intervention to protect farmers in Gujarat against whom PepsiCo India has filed lawsuits.PepsiCo had sued farmers for growing a variety of potato to which it had the exclusive rights.The potatoes are used by PepsiCo to produce potato chips.
  2. Earlier,on a suit filed by PepsiCo,the Ahmedabad civil court had barred farmers from growing and selling potatoes till next hearing.PepsiCo had complained to the court that the farmers were illegally growing and selling a potato variety FL-2027.
  3. FL-2027 which is also known as FC-5 is registered as an intellectual property rights(IPR) with the PepsiCo company under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act,2001.
  4. Further,the court has also appointed an advocate as the court commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the dispute and file a report.
  5. However,farmers groups have cited Section 39 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act,2001 which specifically says that a farmer is allowed to grow and sell any variety of crop or even seed as long as they don’t sell branded seed of registered varieties.

Japan apologises to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  1. Japan’s government has issued an apology and awarded compensation under a redress legislation to thousands of people with disabilities who were forcibly sterilised under the now defunct Eugenics Protection Law.
  2. Eugenics Protection Law was enacted in 1948 and was in place until 1996. The law aimed to prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants. The law allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities.
  3. In 1996, the law was renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
  4. Japan’s government had until recently maintained that the sterilisations were legal at the time. The current redress legislation and apology comes after a series of lawsuits by victims seeking compensation from the government.
  5. Germany and Sweden also had similar sterilization measures, but have since apologised to victims and provided compensation.

Magic milk: fighting infections with a clue from the echidna

  1. Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research – Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) have isolated an anti-microbial protein found in the milk of Echidnas. According to scientists, the new finding could be an alternative to antibiotics used on livestock. The research has been published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Biomembranes.
  2. Echidnas are also known as spiny anteaters. They are unique egg-laying mammals found only in Australia and New Guinea.
  3. Echidnas hatch from eggs at a very early stage of development and depend completely on mother’s milk. However, the mammary glands of the echidnas are devoid of nipples, forcing the young ones to lick milk from the mother’s body surface and thus making them vulnerable to micro-organisms.
  4. However, the milk contains a novel anti-microbial protein that helps to keep young ones safe from infections. Research has revealed that the protein punctures cell membranes of bacteria thus destroying the source of infection.
  5. Scientists have said that there are ways to produce the protein in large quantities using E. coli and can then be used to fight mastitis-an infection of the mammary gland, in dairy animals. Due to indiscriminate use of antibiotics in livestock there is a rise of superbugs which can cause mastitis.
  6. Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are referred to as “superbugs”. Anti-microbial resistance is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it.
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