Issues related to Health & Education
- Chinese drug that treats moderate Alzheimer’s to go on sale next month
- Finance Minister Launches two new IT Initiatives -ICEDASH & ATITHI
- RBI extends rollout date for LCR norms to Dec next year
- Ministry of Skill Development Launches Skills Build platform in Collaboration with IBM
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Punjab water law change, delayed burning, wind pattern behind NCR smog
- ‘Visibly elusive’ Bengal tree frog gets recorded as new species
Bilateral & International Relations
- Defence Minister heads to Russia, to discuss defence logistics pact
Science & Technology
- ISRO’s NavIC set to be commercialised by Antrix
Key Facts for Prelims
- Absence of Extremophile microbes in Danakil Depression: Research
- Minister of Science addresses ‘Vigyan Samagam’ in Kolkata
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Issues related to Health & Education
Chinese drug that treats moderate Alzheimer’s to go on sale next month
A home-grown drug in China for Alzheimer’s, called GV-971, which could treat the ailment in 17 years, will be available to Chinese patients from next month after it was officially approved.
About the GV-971 drug
- GV-971 drug is also known as Oligomannate.
- It is the only Alzheimer’s medicine out of more than 320 developed by pharmaceutical companies around the globe to pass clinical trials.
- It is the world’s first multi-targeting and carbohydrate-based drug for Alzheimer’s.
- It is extracted from brown algae.
- It can treat mild to moderate forms of the Alzheimer disease and improve cognition.
- It functions mainly by rebalancing gut microbiota, reducing neuro-inflammation and reducing cognitive impairment.
- Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible and progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking ability and the capability to carry out simple tasks.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia (a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills).
- In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s.
- Repeat statements over and over
- Forget conversations and eventually forget the names of family members
- Routinely misplace possessions
- Get lost in familiar places etc.
Causes of Alzheimer’s disease
Scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people.
However, some assumed factors are
- A genetic mutation
- Abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells
- Head Injuries, Cardiovascular disease and Down’s syndrome
- Other factors are hearing loss, social isolation, a sedentary lifestyle, untreated depression etc.
How does the existing treatment works?
- Alzheimer’s disease involves two proteins, called beta amyloids and tau. When levels of either protein reach abnormal levels in the brain, it leads to the formation of plaque, which gets deposited between neurons, disrupting nerve cells. However, it is not known why the levels of these proteins reach abnormal levels.
- Most existing drugs for Alzheimer’s try to target these proteins to manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
What is the different in GV-971?
- The entity which invented GV-971 claimed that there is an association between microbiomes in the gut and progression of Alzheimer’s.
- They suggest that it is possible for a microbiome imbalance in an individual’s gut to influence the formation of plaque and inflammation of the nervous tissue.
- It suggests Alzheimer’s is not driven by proteins alone, but its development may require the interaction between the gut, brain and other inflammatory factors.
- Recently, a US-based biotechnology firm sought approval for ‘Aducanumab’, a drug it claimed could slow down the clinical decline in patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Finance Minister Launches two new IT Initiatives -ICEDASH & ATITHI
Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs unveiled two new IT initiatives – ICEDASH and ATITHI – for improved pace of Customs clearance of imported goods and facilitating arriving international passengers by electronic filing of Customs baggage and currency declarations.
- ICEDASH is an Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) monitoring dashboard of the Indian Customs.
- It provides daily Customs clearance times of import cargo at various ports and airports which anyone can see.
- With ICEDASH, businesses can compare clearance times across ports and plan their logistics accordingly.
- ICEDASH dashboard has been developed by Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) in collaboration with National Informatics Centre (NIC).
- ATITHI is a mobile app for international travellers to file declaration of dutiable items and currency with the Indian Customs even before boarding the flight to India.
- ATITHI would create a tech savvy image of India Customs and would encourage tourism and business travel to India.
RBI extends rollout date for LCR norms to Dec next year
The Reserve Bank of India has extended its liquidity coverage rules to all deposit-taking non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), large nonbanks, and systemically important core investment companies following the liquidity crisis faced by these firms in 2018.
What is Liquidity coverage ratio (LCR)?
- It refers to the proportion of highly liquid assets held by financial institutions, to ensure their ongoing ability to meet short-term obligations.
- The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) introduced the LCR as part of the Basel III post-crisis reforms.
- LCR is designed to ensure that banks hold a sufficient reserve of high-quality liquid assets (HQLA) to allow them to survive a period of significant liquidity stress lasting 30 calendar days.
What are high-quality liquid assets (HQLA)?
- The high-quality liquid assets can be readily sold or immediately converted into cash at little or no loss of value, or used as collateral to obtain funds in a range of stress scenarios.
- The LCR Rule defines HQLA in three asset categories: Level 1 (most liquid assets such as cash and government securities), Level 2A (sold at 15% loss) and Level 2B (sold at 50% loss).
Example of the LCR
- A bank ABC has high-quality liquid assets worth 55 million and 35 million as net cash flows, over a 30-day stress period. The LCR is 55 million / 35 million which is 1.57, or 157%.
Limitations of the LCR
- Requires banks to hold more cash and might lead to fewer loans issued to consumers. Fewer number of loans could lead to slower economic growth.
- Nobody know, until the next financial crisis, whether the LCR provides enough of a financial support for banks to fund cash outflows for 30 days.
What are the RBI guidelines over LCR?
- NBFC with assets of ₹5000-10,000 crore: Have to maintain 30% LCR as HQLA.
- NBFCs with assets of ₹10,000 crores and above: Have to maintain a minimum of 50% of LCR as high quality liquid assets (HQLA).
- In both cases, LCR will be progressively increased to 100% by December 2024.
- NBFCs are mandated to maintain liquidity coverage ratios (LCR). LCR will promote resilience of NBFCs to potential liquidity disruptions by ensuring that they have sufficient High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA) to survive any acute liquidity stress scenario lasting for 30 days.
- Net cumulative mismatches for 1-7 days, 8-14 days, and 15-30 days shall not exceed 10%, 10% and 20% of the cumulative cash outflows in the respective time buckets.
- NBFCs should monitor their cumulative mismatches [running total] across all other time buckets up to one year by establishing internal prudential limits with the approval of the board.
- All non-deposit or deposit taking NBFCs with asset size of Rs 100 crore & above and systemically important core investment companies
Exempted from LCR guidelines
- Core Investment Companies, Type 1 NBFC-NDs (do not accept public funds and do not have customer interface), Non-Operating Financial Holding Companies and Standalone Primary Dealers
Need for such guidelines
- These guidelines came amid the of low ratings and debt defaults by several NBFCs and the need for a stronger asset liability management (ALM) framework.
- Many NBFCs have run up serious mismatches in their books by taking short-term loans and giving out long-term loans.
Reason for Downfall of NBFCs
- After demonetization, a big part of Indian cash moved into bank deposits, mutual funds, deposit-taking NBFCs and the stock market.
- Flooded with short-term money, many institutions started lending it to NBFCs. Borrowing short term money provided an extra profit than on long term money.
- This provided NBFCs a huge opportunity to lend money to real estate developers, small businesses and individuals. Their share of lending went up significantly post demonetization.
- However, after the IL&FS and DHFL crisis, short-term lenders were reluctant to issue new loans or rollover existing ones. This resulted in asset-liability mismatch of NBFCs.
- Type I – NBFC-ND (non-deposit taking) entities are those which do not accept public funds and do not have customer interface and do not intend to engage in such activities.
Ministry of Skill Development Launches Skills Build platform in Collaboration with IBM
Directorate General of Training (DGT), under the aegis of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), announced the launch of SkillsBuild platform in collaboration with IBM.
About SkillsBuild Platform
- SkillsBuild offers digital learning content from IBM and other online coding teaching companies.
- A two-year advanced diploma in IT, networking and cloud computing will be offered at the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) & National Skill Training Institutes (NSTIs).
- The platform will be extended to train ITI & NSTI faculty on building skills in Artificial Intelligence (AI).
- Provide a personal assessment of the cognitive capabilities and personality
- Teach digital technologies and professional skills such as resume-writing, problem solving and communication.
- Students will receive recommendations on role-based education for specific jobs.
Significance of the programme:
- The digital platform will provide a personal assessment of the cognitive capabilities and personality via MyInnerGenius to the students.
- They will then learn foundational knowledge about digital technologies, as well as professional skills such as resume-writing, problem solving and communication.
- Students will also receive recommendations on role-based education for specific jobs that include technical and professional learning.
- This initiative is part of IBM’s global commitment to create a job-ready workforce and to build the next generation of skills needed for new collar careers.
- IBM collaborated with Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) in 2018 to launch a first-of-its kind ‘New Collar Curriculum’ for ITI.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Punjab water law change, delayed burning, wind pattern behind NCR smog
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been setting fire to their fields after harvesting of paddy since the 1980s. However, the PSPW act, responsible for causing the current environmental crisis in Delhi and nearby regions, changes the harvesting time.
What was before Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water (PPSW) Act, 2009?
- Before the Act came into being, farmers in Punjab were sowing paddy from mid-to-late April and transplanting the seedlings from mid-May to late-May.
- As a result, the paddy got harvested by early October and the burning of stubble, which remained after harvesting, got over around mid-October.
What PPSW act did?
- The PPSW 2009 Act does not permit any nursery sowing before May 15 and transplanting of paddy June 15.
- The reason was that transplanting during peak summer led to massive groundwater depletion (Soon after transplanting, the plants have to be irrigated almost daily to prevent weed growth).
- In other words, PPSW Act ensured that a significant part of the crop’s water requirement is met from monsoon rains. Also, it aims for less water loss due to evaporation after mid-June.
How did PPSW Act contribute towards deterioration in air quality in Delhi?
- After PPSW act, farmers are setting fire to their fields mostly in mid-October to the early November. This is the time before the onset of winter, when wind movement is very slow and moisture levels in the lower atmosphere are also high.
- This results in, instead of moving away, accumulation of all the particulate matter and gases from the burnt stubble, as well as vehicles and industries.
- At this time of the year, winds in Punjab blow from the northwest to the southeast. Haryana and Delhi are to the south and southeast of Punjab. This results in air pollution as well as ‘air locking’ (air virtually does not move).
- Air quality indices (AQI) levels in Delhi are poor than Punjab. If stubble burning is the reason for air pollution, then Punjab should have more polluted air than Delhi due to the high number of such fires.
‘Visibly elusive’ Bengal tree frog gets recorded as new species
Six herpetologists from Assam, West Bengal and Malaysia have recorded a new species of tree frog named Brown Blotched Bengal Tree Frog, that had eluded the world of science despite thriving in residential areas.
About the Brown Blotched Bengal Tree Frog ((Polypedates bengalensis):
- It is a tree frog under the genus Polypedates. Polypedates is a genus of tree frog found throughout South and Southeast Asia.
- Specimens of this frog were discovered from residential areas in two districts of West Bengal.
- The name of this frog is derived from a series of dark brown blotches that extend laterally from behind the frog’s eye to the vent.
Bilateral & International Relations
Defence Minister heads to Russia, to discuss defence logistics pact
Defence Minister of India discussed the Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support (ARLS) with his Russian counterpart during the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation.
- He also inaugurated the ‘India-Russia Defence Industry Cooperation Conference’.
About Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support (ARLS)
- The ARLS is an arrangement between India and Russia which will allow access to each other’s military facilities for supplies and fuel,
Significance of signing ARLS
- Indian Navy, which has a large number of Russian origin ships, will get access to Russian ports for supplies and refuelling. The Indian air force can also deploy aircraft in Russia for the same purpose.
- Refuelling and supply in Russia will be crucial for joint military exercises.
- This access will also be for ports in the Russian part of the Arctic, allowing access to energy resources there.
- Russia will also be able to access Indian ports and air bases.
Agreements similar to ARLS
- India has a similar arrangement like ARLS with the US called the ‘Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding’ (LEMOA) which was signed in August 2016.
- Another such arrangement called ‘Agreement for the provision of reciprocal logistics support between India and France’ was also signed in 2018.
Science & Technology
ISRO’s NavIC set to be commercialised by Antrix
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its older commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd. are poised to commercialise, NavIC. The early set of commercial NavIC users would be transporters of resources such as mined ore, coal and sand for vehicle tracking.
About Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS)
- The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NavIC, is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system, that provides accurate real-time positioning services.
- The system at-present consist of 8 satellites.
- It can provide accurate position information service to users in India and the region, extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary which is its Primary Service Area.
It will provide two types of services, namely,
- Standard Positioning Service (SPS) which is provided to all the users
- Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorized users.
Important applications of NavIC (the IRNSS constellation) include:
- Terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation;
- Disaster management;
- Vehicle tracking and fleet management
- Precise timing (as for ATMs and power grids);
- Mapping and geodetic data capture
- Fisheries (fishermen can receive alerts related to bad weather and high waves)
- Resource Management (helps Government agencies to manage resources efficiently using Geo-tagging and Geo-fencing techniques. Alert messages are generated when there is a movement of object beyond permissible limits)
- Mapping and geodetic data capture (for terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers)
Achievements of NavIC system before its launch
- A leading producer of semiconductor chips (Qualcomm Technologies) developed NavIC-friendly chipsets across its user bases and added NavIC to such chipsets.
- NavIC chips can work with the global navigation satellite systems of Europe (Galileo), Russia (GLONASS) and China (Beidou.)
- NavIC was certified by the 3GPP (The 3rd Generation Partnership Project), a global body for coordinating mobile telephony standards.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Key Facts for Prelims
Absence of Extremophile microbes in Danakil Depression: Research
Extremophile microbes can survive under extreme conditions. However, new research has found that such microbes do not exists under the harsh environment of Danakali Depression.
What is Danakil Depression?
- The Danakil Depression is located in the Afar Region (Afar Triangel) of Ethiopia.
- It is a geological depression that has resulted from the divergence of three tectonic plates in the Horn of Africa.
- The Depression overlaps the borders of Eritrea, Djibouti and the entire Afar Region of Ethiopia.
- It is part of the great East African Rift Valley.
What is unique about Danakil Depression?
- It is the hottest place on Earth in terms of year-round average temperatures.
- It is also one of the lowest places on earth (100 m below sea) and without rain for most of the year.
- All the water entering Danakil evaporates. Hence it is mostly covered with salts.
Do microbes can live in Danakali Depression?
As per a recent study, active and naturally occurring life cannot be sustained at Danakil. This is because of two reason:
- Magnesium-dominated brines at Dankali cause cells to break down
- An extreme environment having simultaneously very low pH and high salt.
What are Extremophiles?
- Extremophiles are organisms with the ability to live in extreme environments (under high pressure and temperature) such as hydrothermal vents.
- The unique enzymes used by these organisms, called extremozymes, enable these organisms to function in such environments.
- These creatures are useful for genetically based medications and industrial chemicals and processes.
Minister of Science addresses ‘Vigyan Samagam’ in Kolkata
India’s first-ever global Mega-Science exhibition, ‘Vigyan Samagam’, was inaugurated at the Science City in Kolkata.
About ‘Vigyan Samagam’
- It is India’s first-ever global Mega-Science exhibition held at Kolkata.
- The objective is to encourage young people to take up science as a career option and contribute to the India’s growth.
Significance of such Mega science exhibition
- Mega Science Projects give rise to newer technologies which find numerous other applications in day-to-day lives.
- The spin-offs from Mega Science Projects have ushered in major shifts in the global technological landscape over time.