Current Affairs (8th May 2021)
Latest findings about Venus
- Scientists have obtained new data about Venus by bouncing radio waves off Venus.
- The researchers transmitted radio waves toward Venus 21 times from 2006 to 2020 from NASA’s Goldstone Antenna in the Mojave Desert of California and studied the radio echo, which provided information on certain planetary traits.
- The study measured the tilt of the Venusian axis and size of the planet’s core.
- A single Venusian rotation takes 243.0226 Earth days. That means a day lasts longer than a year on Venus, which makes a complete orbit around the sun in 225 Earth days.
- The Venusian planetary core has a diameter of about 4,360 miles (7,000 km), comparable to Earth’s core.
- The study calculated the Venusian tilt at about 2.64 degrees. Earth’s is about 23.5 degrees.
- It is the second planet from the sun, is similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth.
- Above its foreboding landscape is a thick and toxic atmosphere that consists primarily of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets.
- With a runaway greenhouse effect, its surface temperatures reach 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead.
- Venus is one of just two planets that rotate from east to west. Only Venus and Uranus have this “backwards” rotation.
- In another quirk, its day-night cycle – the time between sunrises as opposed to the length of a single axial spin – takes 117 Earth days because Venus rotates in the direction opposite of its orbital path around the sun.
Vaccine patent plan
- In view of the global health crisis and the need to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, India and South Africa proposed a relaxation in the norms of the agreement on TRIPS in WTO, to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries.
- In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
- It asked for suspension of vaccine patents for the duration of the pandemic and sharing of the formula for jabs prepared by AstraZeneca and Pzifer.
- The proposal argued this would make vaccines more affordable and allow poorer countries to acquire more doses easily.
- The proposal was supported by more than 100 countries (mostly lower- and middle-income nations) and raised by human rights bodies and global advocacy groups.
- In March 2021, WTO called for vaccine patent rights to be waived until the end of the pandemic and suggested that countries with their own vaccine capacity should start waiving Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)as provided in special emergency provisions.
- Politicians, civil society members, human rights bodies, health professionals and also pharmaceutical companies raised the demand to waive the patents.
About the USA latest move:
- The proposal has received the support of more than 120 countries.
- France also has joined the United States in supporting an easing of patent and other protections on COVID-19 vaccines.
- Russia has also expressed its support for the idea of a waiver on patent protections for coronavirus vaccines.
- The relaxation could help poorer countries get more doses and speed up the end of the pandemic.
- The EU Commission President has also expressed willingness to discuss the proposal.
- The GAVI vaccine alliance, which co-leads the COVAX dose-sharing programme with the WHO welcomed Mr. Biden’s support for waiving intellectual property rights.
Significance of the Move
- Currently, only drug companies which own patents are authorised to manufacture Covid vaccines.
- A lifting of patent will allow the recipes to be shared and there will no longer be an embargo.
- Simply put, once the formula is shared, any company which possesses the required technology and infrastructure can produce vaccines.
- This will lead to cheaper and more generic versions of Covid vaccines making it more affordable.
- It will be a big step in scaled up production and overcoming vaccine shortage and will increase global vaccine coverage.
- The drug makers opine that the proposal if adopted by the WTO would invite new manufacturers that lack essential know-how and oversight from the inventors to crowd out established contractors.
- Inequitable distribution of vaccines has opened a glaring gap between developing and wealthier countries.
- While a few developed countries have already given the shot to a considerable percentage of their population and are getting normalcy back into their lives, poorer nations continue to face shortages with overburdened healthcare systems and hundreds dying daily.
- Vaccine experts and human rights groups have warned that the longer Covid circulates in developing nations, there is a greater chance of more vaccine-resistant, deadly mutations of the virus emerging.
Facebook’s Oversight Board
- Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s January decision to block the then-U.S. President Donald Trump from its platform.
- Trump was blocked for “inciting violent insurrection against a democratically elected government”.
- Facebook then referred the case to its Oversight Board.
Facebook’s Oversight Board:
- It has been set up as an independent body that will help Facebook figure out what content can be allowed on the platform and what ought to be removed.
- It was said to have emerged out of the tensions around the often-conflicting goals of maintaining Facebook as a platform for free speech and effectively filtering out problematic speech.
- The board is autonomous in the exercise of independent judgment.
- Facebook as well as its users can refer cases to the board. The decisions of the board are binding on Facebook.
Indian Army Covid Management Cell
- Indian army has established a COVID management cell to coordinate assistance to civil authority.
- The Cell is under a Director General rank officer which reports directly to the Vice Chief of Army Staff.
- This will bring in greater efficiency in coordinating real time responses to address exponential rise in COVID cases across the country including Delhi.
- Assistance to civil administration in Delhi is already being provided in the form of testing, admissions in military hospitals and transportation of critical medical equipment.
- Indian Army has been at the forefront of COVID response at the national level. It has deployed considerable medical resources to assist civil authorities especially at the five COVID hospitals already functional or in the process of being established at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Varanasi, and Patna.
Global Sodium Benchmarks for different food categories
- The WHO has established global benchmarks for sodium levels in foods across different food categories.
- The WHO recommended daily intake of salt or sodium is 5 gm, but most people around the world consume more than double this amount.
- It is necessary to maintain normal cell metabolism, healthy plasma and improves the health of the nervous system.
- It is found naturally in a range of foods like meat and dairy.
- However, it is present in very high amounts in processed foods, like snacks, bread, or condiments.
- Excess dietary sodium intake increases blood pressure and consequently increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- It is estimated that 2.5 million deaths could be prevented globally if salt consumption is cut down to recommended levels.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH):
- It is an eating plan to lower or control high blood pressure.
- The DASH diet emphasizes foods that are lower in sodium as well as foods that are rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium (nutrients that help lower blood pressure).
Online Certification of Disability
- A notification under Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016 has made mandatory for all States/UTs to grant certification of disability through online mode only using UDID (Unique Disability ID).
- It will ensure complete digitization of certification of disability to achieve pan-India validity to ensure access to government schemes.
- It is in line with Incheon Strategy for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and Pacific.
Other Government Initiatives for Persons with Disabilities:
- Accessible India campaign to help make buildings and other infrastructure disabled friendly.
- Assiatnce to disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP) Scheme to provide for distribution of aids and assistive devices.
- Sugamya Pustakalaya: Online library for persons with disabilities.
- Reservation is provided to disabled in higher education.
- 4% reservation in Government jobs.
India is a signatory to:
- Biwako Millennium Framework working towards an inclusive, barrier free and rights-based society.
- United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
- Declaration on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.
G20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting
- Recently, the Union Minister of State for Tourism & Culture (I/c) participated in the G20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting held in Italy.
- The Minister appreciated and supported the focus of the Italian G20 Presidency on recovery and ensuring new opportunities for People, Planet and Prosperity by putting in place Guidelines on the seven key interrelated policy areas.
- These areas are:
- Safe mobility
- Crisis management Resilience
- Green transformation
- Digital transition
- Investment and infrastructure.
- They are comprehensive and relevant for resilient, sustainable and inclusive tourism framed with the support of the OECD.
Tourism Sector in India:
- Tourism plays a role of significant economic multiplier and becomes critical since India has to grow at rapid rates and create jobs.
- Tourism is an integral pillar of the Make in India programme.
- India has over 200 beaches, 38 UNESCO World Heritage sites and 668 protected areas which can attract significant tourism activity.
- Tourism tends to encourage the development of multiple-use infrastructure including hotels, resorts & restaurants, transport infrastructure (aviation, roads, shipping & railways) and healthcare facilities.