October 2019

Daily Current Affairs (29-10-19)

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

US-INDIA STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP FORUM (USISPF)

News

  • The members of US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The delegation was led by Mr. John Chambers, Chairman of USISPF.
  • Key points of the discussion with PM included the country’s start-up ecosystem, government initiatives to promote innovation, and steps that the government has taken to improve the ease of doing business in India.
  • The delegation presented PM Modi with three USISPF reports, on U.S.-India bilateral trade, high-tech manufacturing, and coal gasification.

About USISPF

  • It is a non-profit organization established in 2017.
  • The primary objective of the forum is to strengthen the India-US bilateral and strategic partnership through policy advocacy in the fields of economic growth, entrepreneurship, employment-creation, and innovation.
  • USISPF will engage with both US- and India-based companies through its 13 sector-specific committees, focusing on advancing, through advocacy, prosperity for all in both countries.
  • Advocacy initiatives include tracking opportunities at the state and federal level, identifying new avenues for investment, and deepening engagement with stakeholders.
  • It is Headquartered in Washington DC

Significance

  • According to USISPF estimates, India-US bilateral trade is projected to grow to 238 billion dollars by 2025.
  • The assessment underscores the pathways for growth and economic opportunities in bilateral ties by highlighting current trends.
  • Sectors like defence trade, commercial aircraft, oil and LNG, coal, machinery and electronics are areas of potential growth in US investments and commerce into India.
  • Indian industry has an opportunity to promote automotive, pharmaceuticals, seafood, IT and travel services to the US market.

Second Annual India Leadership Summit

  • It was hosted by US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) with the themePartners of Growth“.
  • Top leaders and corporate executives from India and the US gathered in New Delhi on October 21, 2019 for a day-long brain storming session on trade and geo-politics, as a part of the summit.
  • Over 300 influential and powerful people from India and the US joined the summit.
  • The summit focussed on the immense potential that the US-India relationship has in areas beyond trade including sustainability, security, energy access and innovation.

[Source: Livemint, usispf.org] 

 

GEOGRAPHY

AYERS ROCK (ULURU)

News

From October 26, 2019, climbing the Ayers rock (Uluru), which is considered sacred by the local Anangu people, has been banned.

What is Uluru?

  • Uluru is an ancient sandstone rock formation in Central Australia.
  • It is one of Australia’s prime tourist attractions.

Features

  • Uluru is notable for appearing to change colour at different times of the day and year, most notably when it glows red at dawn and sunset.
  • The rock has a circumference of 9.4 km, and its 1,140-foot summit — taller than Eiffel Tower.
  • It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Uluru is an inselberg, literally “Island Mountain”.
  • An inselberg is a prominent isolated residual knob or hill that rises abruptly from and is surrounded by extensive and relatively flat erosion lowlands in a hot, dry region.

Why Uluru is considered sacred by Anangu people?

  • According to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park website, the Central Australian landscape, of which Uluru and Kata Tjuta are an important part, is believed to have been created at the beginning of time by ancestral beings.
  • Uluru and Kata Tjuta provide physical evidence of feats performed during the creation period.
  • Anangu people believe that they are the direct descendants of these beings and are responsible for the protection and appropriate management of these ancestral lands.
[Source: Indian Express]

 

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

ORGANOIDS

News

  • At Neuroscience 2019, the annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience, two neuroscientists have warned that scientists are “perilously close” to crossing the ethical red line of growing mini-brains or organoids in the laboratory that can perceive or feel things.
  • In some cases, scientists have already transplanted such lab-grown brain organoid to adult animals.
  • Similarly, lung organoid transplanted into mice was able to form branching airways and early alveolar structures.
  • These are seen as a step towards potential “humanisation” of host animals.

What is an Organoid?

  • Organoids are a group of cells grown in laboratories into three-dimensional, miniature structures that mimic the cell arrangement of a fully-grown organ.
  • They are tiny organ-like structures that do not achieve all the functional maturity of human organs but often resemble the early stages of a developing tissue.
  • Most organoids contain only a subset of all the cells seen in a real organ, but lack blood vessels to make them fully functional.
  • In the case of brain organoids, scientists have been able to develop neurons and even make specific brain regions such as the cerebral cortex that closely resemble the human brain.

Growing Organoids in the laboratory

  • Organoids are grown in the lab using stem cells that can become any of the specialised cells seen in the human body, or stem cells taken from the organ or adult cells that have been induced to behave like stem cells, scientifically called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
  • The growing cells are capable of self-organising into cellular structures of a specific organ.
  • It can partly replicate complex functions of mature organs.

Significance

  • Since the use of embryonic stem cells to grow organs of interest has been mired in controversy leading to a ban on such research, researchers have turned to generating organoids using stem cells.
  • Researchers have been successful in generating organoids of increasing “complexity and diversity”.
  • Since the organoids closely resemble mature tissues, it opens up new vistas.
  • These include studying the complex arrangements of cells in three-dimension and their function in detail, and understanding how cells assemble into organs.

Precision Medicine

  • Organoids can be used to study the safety and efficacy of new drugs and also test the response of tissues to existing medicines.
  • They will bring precision medicine closer to reality by developing patient-specific treatment strategies by studying which drugs the patient is most sensitive to.

Understanding of diseases

  • Organoids offer new opportunities to studying proteins and genes that are critical for the development of an organ.
  • This helps in knowing how a mutation in a specific gene causes a disease or disorder.
  • Researchers have used brain organoids to study how the Zika virus affects brain development in the embryo.

Cancer Treatment

  • Scientists are already using stem cells taken from tumours to grow organoids that are poised to develop cancer.
  • This ability allows researchers to study the genes, proteins and signalling pathways that cancer cells use to develop and grow.
  • They are also using healthy organoids to identify and verify the gene mutations that cause cancer.

Ethical Challenges

  • As per the scientists, organoids do not have sensory inputs and sensory connections from the brain are limited.
  • Isolated regions of the brain cannot communicate with other brain regions or generate motor signals.
  • Thus, the possibility of consciousness or other higher-order perceptive properties [such as the ability to feel distress] emerging seems extremely remote.
  • The research is controversial because it is unclear where it may cross the line into human experimentation.
  • The concerns will become more serious, if organoids perceive and react to stimuli that might cause pain.
  • One concern is the possibility, however minute, that the grafted organoids may one day induce a level of consciousness in host animals, as models evolve to resemble the human brain more closely.

Way Forward

  • Organoids are a promising model for better understanding a variety of neurological disorders.
  • Neuroscience is far from perfecting the model, and ethical concerns must be discussed.
  • Researchers need to contribute to the creation of ethical guidelines grounded in scientific principles that define how to approach their use before and after transplantation in animals.
  • However, the current progress suggests that studying brain organoids may eventually lead to a turning point in the battle against disorders affecting millions.
[Source: The Hindu]

 

FACTS OF THE DAY

NELLOPTODES GRETAE
  • A tiny species of beetle discovered more than 50 years ago has been named after environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg.
  • Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London have officially called the insect ‘Nelloptodes gretae’ to honour the 16-year-old Swedish activist’s “outstanding contribution” in raising global awareness of climate change.
  • The arthropod, which has no eyes or wings, is less than 1mm long and belongs to the Ptiliidae family, which is made up of some of the world’s smallest beetles.
  • The beetle was first found in 1965 by British naturalist Dr William C Block in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Greta Thunberg rose to prominence after she started spending her Fridays outside Sweden’s parliament in August 2018, holding a sign reading School strike for climate”.
AARAMBH – FIRST-EVER COMMON FOUNDATION COURSE
  • Central government has launched the first-ever common foundation course Aarambh (Beginning) for 2019 batch probationer civil servants at the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, Gujarat.
  • Around 500 newly recruited bureaucrats will undergo the six-day training.
  • Aarambh will conclude on October 31, 2019 being a fit tribute to Sardar Patel, on his birth anniversary, fondly celebrated as Rashtriya Ekta Divas’.
  • Along with training and seminars by experts, the government has also launched a new initiative called “Nurture the Future”, under which each official will guide a local youth from villages near the Statue of Unity, which is located in a tribal area along the Narmada river.
NURTURE THE FUTURE
  • Central government has launched “Nurture the Future” programme during Aarambh, the first-ever common foundation course for 2019 batch probationer civil servants at the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, Gujarat.
  • Under the mentorship programme ‘Nurture the Future’, the civil service officials will be divided into teams to visit villages near Kevadia.
  • Each official will take a youth under his wing and provide career and professional guidance.
  • The initiative will ensure a better and brighter future for the youth living in remote and rural areas.
  • Over the next five years, the initiative is expected to cover nearly one lakh youth throughout the country
OPERATION KAYLA MUELLER / BARISHA RAID
  • US President Donald Trump has announced that the elusive leader of the Islamic State group (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed himself during a raid by US Special Forces.
  • The operation to kill Baghdadi took place near a small village in northwestern Syria called Barisha.
  • US military operation was named after American humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller.
  • Kayla Mueller was imprisoned and tortured by ISIS and repeatedly sexually abused by Baghdadi, having been kidnapped after travelling from Turkey to Aleppo in Syria in August 2013, seeking to visit a hospital.
DOXXING
  • A court in Hong Kong has issued a temporary order, in effect until November 8, banning the practice of ‘doxxing’.
  • The common dictionary definition of doxxing is to publicly identify or publish private information about someone, especially with the intention of punishing or taking revenge.
  • Doxxing first emerged as hacker slang for obtaining and posting private documents about an individual, usually a rival or enemy.
  • Doxxing has emerged as one of the major tactics employed by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, who have been carrying out relentless, sometimes violent, demonstrations that the administration has found impossible to suppress for over four months now.
  • Protesters in Hong Kong have been releasing information about police officers and their families, thereby opening them up to targeted violence or harassment and abuse, either physically or online.

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