Daily Current Affairs – 21 May, 2017

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International News:-

1) Asia-Pacific meet puts Trump’s trade turmoil centre stage:-

  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s new trade representative held his first face-to-face meetings with some key partners on 20 May 2017 as the United States charts an “America First” policy that has upended the old global order and sparked fears of protectionism.
  • Robert Lighthizer met ministers from Canada and Japan on the sidelines of a gathering of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, the biggest trade meeting since Trump took office.
  • Its members account for more than 40% of world trade.
  • Mr. Lighthizer and Japan’s economy minister, Hiroshige Seko, agreed on strengthening bilateral trade and removing barriers, a statement from the U.S. trade representative said.
    “In particular, both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation to address common concerns with respect to unfair trade practices utilised by third-countries,” .
  • The word “fair” has increasingly entered the U.S. trade lexicon alongside its old mantra of “free” as Mr. Trump seeks to do more to enforce or renegotiate trade agreements in the name of protecting American jobs — particularly in manufacturing.
  • A draft seen by Reuters of the APEC meeting statement to be issued on 21 May 2017 emphasised free trade and warned of the dangers of protectionism.
  • But the different approaches were evident in Hanoi.
  • Mr. Lighthizer was due to meet about a dozen ministers there, a U.S. official said.
    The veteran lawyer and Reagan-era trade negotiator was only confirmed in his new role earlier this month.
  • China, putting itself forward as a global free trade champion in light of the U.S. shift, will be pushing a free trade agreement to encompass the vast majority of Asian economies.
  • The Asia trade deal it favours is called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
    Meanwhile, Japan is leading countries that want to persist with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal ditched by Mr. Trump in one of his first acts in office.
    TPP excludes China and covers a broader scope than the trade agreement favoured by Beijing.
  • Japan still hopes to bring the United States back to the agreement, but is trying to get the 11 remaining countries to push ahead.
  • “The gains from the TPP are definitely worth holding onto if we can. We want to build a consensus for a TPP-11,” Australian trade minister Steven Ciobo told reporters.
  • The greatest challenge is keeping on board Vietnam and Malaysia, which joined largely to benefit from better access to the U.S. market.
  • Officials from both countries have said that without the Americans they would want to renegotiate.
  • A Japanese official said renegotiation did not make sense if the goal was to eventually bring back the United States.
  • Renegotiating the existing North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a bigger immediate priority for Washington.
  • Canada’s trade minister said his meeting with Mr. Lighthizer went well and they discussed “a number of multilateral issues”.
  • Mr. Lighthizer was also due to meet Mexico’s trade minister, according to a schedule from organisers.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC):-

  • APEC is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim member economies that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The twenty one (21) member economies are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Canada, United States, Chinese Taipei, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russia, and Vietnam.
  • The 21 members of the APEC forum, which comprises countries bordering the Pacific Ocean including the U.S., China and Japan, account for about 50% of the world’s trade and almost 60% of global GDP.
  • Among APEC’s objectives is ensuring that goods, services, investment and people move easily across borders in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

Economic & Trade News:-

2) GST to boost India’s export growth, says Sitharaman:-

  • Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 20 May 2017 said Goods and Services Tax (GST) will boost the country’s export growth and that the GST regime has a fast-track process for refund of duties and taxes to exporters.
  • Significantly, she also said job creation is being prioritised with government policies and proposals before the Union Cabinet being analysed from an employment-generation perspective.
  • “The way in which fitment discussions have happened in the GST Council and the way commodities and services have been treated, the GST is only going to help in improving our exports and in making exports more competitive (in the global market),”.
  • “Also, the refund mechanism has been fast-tracked with the assurance that amounts will be refunded within seven days of the receipt of complete application in most cases, and that all cases of exporters will be addressed within three days. The medium-term review of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) is being carried out to align FTP with GST.”
  • On job creation, Ms. Sitharaman said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen that proposals before the Union Cabinet and government policies are analysed from a perspective of generation of direct and indirect employment.
  • On efforts to boost employment in the North East, the Commerce & Industry Ministry and NITI Aayog are in talks with the north-eastern states to soon bring out a new North East Industrial & Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP).
  • As per the Commerce Ministry, exports that availed MEIS in FY16 recorded a lesser contraction in growth as against those that did not make use of MEIS, while shipments that availed MEIS registered a positive growth in FY17 vis-à-vis the negative growth in exports that did not avail MEIS during that fiscal.
  • Appreciating India’s growing project exports to Africa, Japan has expressed interest in collaborating with India in this regard, the Minister added.
  • On Telangana government’s proposal for a new Turmeric Board, the minister said currently there is no move for a separate Turmeric Board as all spices fall under the Spices Board’s purview.

Science & Health Care:-
3) In NTD fight, the end in sight:-

  • Around the world, nearly 1.6 billion people are affected by a group of diseases so ignored that the term used to refer to them is called Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
  • These are a cluster of 17 diseases affecting the poorest people living in the least developed pockets.
  • While some of these diseases may be unfamiliar, leprosy, kala-azar and filariasis are better known in India and being targeted for elimination.
  • A disease is considered ‘eliminated’ when the prevalence rate is less than 1 case per 10,000 population size.
  • The Indian government has set itself the target of eliminating kala-azar and filariasis by 2017, and leprosy by 2018.

Leprosy:-

  • To eliminate leprosy, India needs to tackle the stigma associated with the disease.
    It leads to delays in diagnosis and treatment, which in turn result in continued transmission of infection within families and communities.
  • In 2015-16, 118 districts in India were endemic for leprosy with a prevalence rate of more than 1 per 10,000.
  • An indigenous vaccine developed by Dr. G.P. Talwar, founder and director of the National Institute of Immunology, is being launched shortly for use under the leprosy control programme.
  • The vaccine, mycobacterium indicus pranii (MIP), will be administered to people living in close contact with patients.
  • The vaccine offers 60% protection to people living with leprosy patients for up to 4-5 years; the renewed strategy aims for leprosy elimination ahead of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in 2019.

Elephantiasis or lymphatic filariasis:-

  • In the case of lymphatic filariasis, better known as elephantiasis, the government is targeting a population of 600 million in 256 endemic districts with mass drug administration (MDA).
  • A community-based pilot in Yadgir district of Karnataka is being done to assess the effectiveness of a three-drug combination (DEC + Albendazole + Ivermectin) vis-à-vis the existing twodrug regime (DEC + Albendazole).
  • Mass administration of DEC-fortified salt to accelerate elimination of lymphatic filariasis is being tried in the Andamans.
  • Ensuring that the entire target population accepts MDA needs advocacy and community engagement.

Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) or Kala-Azar:-

  • Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) or kala-azar, which is transmitted through the bite of the female sand fly.
  • In India, a majority of cases are reported in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • Rapid diagnostic tests followed by single day treatment now makes rapid cure possible.
    Sandflies breed on mud walls, so vector control by indoor spraying with insecticides and ultimately with improved housing can result in their control.

In Future:-

  • For these programmes to succeed, it is important to maintain constant vigilance through robust surveillance and reporting mechanisms.
  • While tackling NTDs, it will be important to remember that along with timely diagnosis and treatment access in unreached areas, focussing on the fundamentals of preventive interventions, nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are essential in fast-tracking the goal of elimination.

4) Pharma effluents promoting drug resistance?:-

  • The pharma industry in Hyderabad is polluting the environment with antimicrobials which in turn may contribute to a rise in drug-resistant infections, a new study published in the journal Infection alleges.
  • Claiming that Indian authorities have not done enough, the study also calls upon European regulators to ensure enforcement of regulations during the manufacturing process.
  • Hyderabad is a global market for bulk drug purchasing with 50% of India’s drug exports, pegged at over $3 billion, coming from the city.
  • Resistance was seen to a broad range of antibiotics including a family of powerful drugs known as carbapenems, broad-spectrum antibiotics that target several species of bacteria and were originally synthesised to specifically treat drug-resistant infections.
  • Bacteria producing enzymes to break down carbapenems were found in all 23 environmental samples.

Science & Technology:-

5) Moon orbiting solar system’s third largest dwarf planet found:-

  • New moon has been discovered, by the Hubble Space Telescope and two other telescopes of NASA, orbiting the third largest known dwarf planet known as 2007 OR10.
    2007 OR1O orbits the Sun in the far distant outer fringes of the Solar System, in the Kuiper Belt.

How Astronomers Discovered the Planet?:-

1. Kepler revealed that 2007 OR1O has a slow rotation period of 45 hours.
2. Typical rotation periods for Kuiper Belt Objects are under 24 hours.
3. The decrease in speed of rotation of the dwarf planet means it was under influence of some force which reduced its speed.
4. Astronomers spotted the moon in two different Hubble space telescope spaced a year apart.

Formation of moons:-

  • The discovery of satellites around all of the known large dwarf planets – except for Sedna – means that at the time these bodies formed billions of years ago, collisions must have been more frequent.
  • If the collision was frequent it was quite easy to form these satellite.

6) The mechanics of programmed cell death unraveled:-

  • A recent study has found a new triggering mechanism for programmed cell death (apoptosis).
  • Unlike earlier known trigger mechanisms that involve chemicals being released by the cell destined for death, this is a physical mechanism.
  • The study has found that a particular type of imperfection in the alignment of the cells appears to be correlated with the position of the cell destined to die.
  • The group has studied this correlation experimentally using five different kinds of epithelial tissue.
  • Epithelial cells are those that line the outside and inside of our organs.
  • These cells play a protective role and cells often undergo some kind of damage and need to be removed. This happens through a process of programmed cell death known as apoptosis.
  • The cell destined for apoptosis is pushed out of the layer it inhabits in the epithelial tissue and then dies.
  • Now that the link between mechanics and cell extrusion has been established, it is for future experiments to determine how external pressure can be used to control, for instance, the development of tumours and prevent them from spreading uncontrollably.

7) Mango tree extract could prevent heart injury:-

The study was carried out on diabetic rats,

  • A group of doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, has shown the protective effects of mangiferin(a compound present in the bark of all mango trees) on reperfusion injury in diabetic rats.
  • Reperfusion injury happens in heart tissues when blood supply returns after a heart attack.
    Mangiferin, found in the bark, leaves and fruit of mango trees, is known to possess several beneficial properties — antioxidant, antitumour, anticancer, antidiabetic and antibacterial properties.
  • The study on the heart tissue revealed how mangiferin reduced cell death — it increased the expression of proteins which act against cell death and decreased the proteins causing cell death.
  • Mangiferin also decreased the level of inflammatory and stress proteins.
    However, the conclusion of this study needs to be further validated to establish its clinical usefulness in patients of myocardial ischemia with coexisting diabetes.

8) Indian researchers use a novel route to kill TB bacteria:-

  • Indian researchers found a new compound, a phytochemical isolated from tender leaves of sakhua or shala tree (Shorea robusta), which can help to shorten the duration of treatment of T.B.
  • The test was conducted on a mice which showed tremendous improvement by 100-fold reduction in T.B. Bacterial load after 60 days.
  • The studies shows that combination of bergenin compound and other T.B. drugs can produce good results.

How Does it works?

  1. It directly does not target the bacteria.
  2. The bergenin compound modulates the Immune system to kill the Bacteria found inside the Macropages(a type of white blood cells).
  3. T helper1 (Th1) cells play a key role in proctecting the host against TB bacteria, TH2 cells opposses the protection
  4. The TB bacteria opposes TH1respomse and supports Th2 response due to which Tb bacteria infects the host.
  5. The bergenin compound promotes or supports the TH1 cells response

Beats conventional drugs. How?

  1. The healing rate of conpound is faster.
  2. Many tribals use the leaves of shala trees for wound healing

Future scope:-

  1. Prof. Das with the help of ICMR-National Institute of Traditional Medicine (ICMR-NITM) plans to carry out further test in larger animals.

National News:-

9) EVM hackathon from June 3:-

  • The Election Commission on 20 May 2017 invited recognised political parties to an “Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) Challenge” beginning June 3 to demonstrate that the machine can be, or were, during the five recent Assembly elections, tampered with.
  • Only Indian experts are allowed to participate in the event.
  • The challenge will be open for four to five days, for the political parties that participated in the Assembly elections in Goa, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. An independent team of experts will supervise the proceedings, which will be video-recorded.
  • Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said the political parties, each of which can nominate three experts, had to confirm their participation by 5 p.m. on May 26.
  • Each party will be assigned four EVMs of their choice, picked up from EC warehouses in any Assembly constituency.
  • They can also accompany the EVMs from warehouses to the venue at the EC headquarters, at their own cost.
  • Although the parties’ experts will be allowed to open and inspect the machine, they will not be allowed to tweak its components, as the EC said changing the internal circuit was like changing the whole device itself.
  • They can, however, press any combination of keys or using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Internet-based devices.
  • The first challenge before the parties is to prove the allegation that the EVMs used during the five Assembly polls were tampered with in favour of a particular candidate or party, by altering the results stored in the EVMs after the polls.
  • The challenger will be deemed to have failed if the EVM becomes non-functional after the tampering attempt, the results displayed on the control units remain the same as already declared by the Election Commission, if the challenger violates any prescribed guideline; or the challenger withdraws.
  • In the second challenge, the challenger will fail if the manually recorded votes remain the same as that of the “tampered” machine.