[Newsbits] 11-19.06.2024: Nagastra Drone, Global Gender Gap Report, 2024 & More

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A groundbreaking study from University College London and University Medical Center Goettingen, published in Nature Communications, describes a new AI-based blood test that can detect Parkinson’s disease up to seven years before symptoms appear. The test analyzes eight blood-based biomarkers and has shown 79% accuracy in predicting the disease in patients with Rapid Eye Movement Disorder. This early detection could revolutionize diagnosis, treatment, and research, although further validation and ethical considerations are necessary.

NATO has established a €1 billion innovation fund to enhance defense and security technology, particularly in response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Supported by 24 NATO countries, including new members Finland and Sweden, the fund aims to invest in cutting-edge technologies. Initial investments include Fractile, ARX Robotics, iCOMAT, and Space Forge. Strategic partnerships with venture capital firms like Alpine Space Ventures further bolster the fund’s impact. NATO, founded in 1949, operates on the principle of collective defense, now encompassing 32 member countries.

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/ World History

Archaeologists have discovered the ancient city of Tu’am on Siniyah Island, UAE, known for its pearl trade. Evidence shows it was a major city from the 4th to 6th centuries, declining due to unrest and plague. Findings include tightly packed homes and a Christian monastery, matching early Islamic records. This discovery enhances understanding of the region’s history, trade, and religious life, potentially altering the historical narrative of the Arabian Peninsula.

/ Space

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Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has secured a Rs 50,000 crore contract from the UK Ministry of Defence for Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) “Prachand.” This is the largest single order for an Indian company. The LCH, designed for high-altitude operations, will enhance India’s tactical capabilities and reduce reliance on foreign helicopters. The contract follows a 2022 order for 15 LCH units worth Rs 3,887 crore, reflecting India’s commitment to strengthening its defense infrastructure.

/ Europe (UK

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Summary: South Korean scientists at Yonsei University have developed ‘meaty rice’ by integrating beef cells into rice grains, aiming to create an eco-friendly protein source. This innovation reduces the need for animal slaughter and has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional beef. Despite regulatory and acceptance challenges, this technology could revolutionize global food production.

/ Russia

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Mumbai is India’s most expensive city due to high costs in personal care, energy, utilities, and transportation. Rental prices have significantly increased, especially for expatriates. Compared to other Indian cities, Mumbai remains the priciest, with Delhi also seeing notable cost increases. Globally, Mumbai ranks 136th, with top cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Zurich leading in expenses. Despite rising costs, India’s overall affordability continues to attract global talent and multinational companies.

/ Diseases, Japan

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/ Species

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The Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is being developed as a second habitat for cheetahs in India. The sanctuary’s savanna environment, flat rocky plateaus, and diverse landscape make it ideal for cheetahs. Preparations include setting aside a 64 sq km area, building a soft-release cage, and constructing a wildlife hospital. The main challenge is ensuring a sufficient prey base, requiring the translocation of animals like chital, blackbuck, and chinkara. The broader goal is to restore natural balance and increase biodiversity, with a target of 50 cheetahs over five years.

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/ Indices/Reports

India’s rank in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) has seen a slight improvement from 180th in 2022 to 176th in 2024. Historically, India’s rank has fluctuated but has generally declined since 2014. Despite improvements in areas like pollution from solid fuels, cleanliness, and drinking water quality, India still faces significant challenges in air quality, ecosystem vitality, and biodiversity. Estonia leads the 2024 EPI, while major countries like the USA, China, and Russia have not reduced their emissions.

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/ Banking

In 2024, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) received the “Risk Manager of the Year Award” from Central Banking, recognizing its advancements in risk management, particularly through AI and ML. The award, accepted by Mr. Manoranjan Mishra, highlights RBI’s role in financial stability. Despite benefits, RBI acknowledges risks of over-reliance on technology. Established in 1935 and nationalized in 1949, RBI regulates India’s financial system, manages foreign exchange, and issues currency.

/ Space

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The Indian Air Force (IAF) participated in the Red Flag drill in Alaska in June 2023, deploying Rafale jets for the first time. The exercise aimed to enhance battle readiness and interoperability among international air forces, including those from Singapore, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and the US. The IAF conducted complex missions and received support from IL-78 refuellers and C-17 Globemaster aircraft. Post-drill, the IAF engaged in additional exercises with Egypt and Greece, strengthening diplomatic ties and preparing for future multinational exercises.

/ Space

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The Nagastra-1 drones, developed by Solar Industries in Nagpur, are a significant addition to the Indian Army’s arsenal. These advanced, person-carried suicide drones offer precise targeting with a 2-meter accuracy and a 1 kg high-explosive charge. They feature innovative technology, including mission abort capability, day and night monitoring, and a low-noise electric motor for stealth operations. With over 75% indigenous parts, they reduce reliance on foreign technology, support local businesses, and offer cost savings. The parachute recovery system adds tactical and logistical advantages.

/ Awards & Honors

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/ Indices/Reports, Women

The Global Gender Gap Report 2024 highlights the slow progress in closing the gender gap, with a global score of 68.6%. It will take 134 years to achieve full gender equality. Iceland leads with a score of 93.5%, while India ranks 129th with 64.1%. The report assesses 146 countries across economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment.

/ Geography

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The Gen AI Conclave in Kochi, scheduled for July 11-12, aims to position Kerala as a hub for generative AI innovation, driving economic growth and Industry 4.0 readiness. The event will feature keynote speeches, panel discussions, and interactive sessions, focusing on AI’s societal and economic impacts. Pre-event hackathons will engage university students and local start-ups. The conclave emphasizes public-private collaboration to advance AI technology, solve business and societal challenges, and enhance skill development.

/ Geography

A significant environmental project is underway at Kavinadu Kanmoi in Pudukottai district, Tamil Nadu, led by the local government and KAIFA. The project aims to create 10 artificial islands using cleaned silt, standing 10 feet above the tank bed, and planted with fruit-bearing and native trees to protect biodiversity. Initial steps include removing invasive weeds and silt. The project promises long-term benefits like habitat restoration, improved water management, and ecosystem sustainability.

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China is leading the world in self-driving car technology, with Wuhan hosting the largest test of autonomous vehicles. Baidu operates 500 robot taxis, with plans to expand. The Chinese government supports this progress through designated testing areas and public sentiment monitoring. Chinese people generally trust the technology, unlike in other countries with stricter regulations. Strict data control laws pose challenges for foreign companies. By 2030, 20% of cars in China could be self-driving, with 70% having advanced systems, driven by innovations in electric vehicles and Western technology.

/ Women

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The G7 Summit 2024 will be held in Apulia, Italy, from June 13-15. The agenda includes economic stability, climate change, health systems, geopolitical tensions, and regulation of new technologies. The G7, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the US, and the EU, will focus on the Global South, international law, economic and energy security, migration, and cooperation with Africa. Despite challenges to its relevance, the G7 remains crucial in shaping international policies and addressing global issues.

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India is the world’s second-largest emitter of nitrous oxide (N2O), primarily due to agricultural activities, including the use of nitrogen fertilizers and animal waste. These sources account for 74% of anthropogenic N2O emissions. The atmospheric concentration of N2O has risen by 25% since pre-industrial times, contributing significantly to global warming. To mitigate this, India has implemented policies like the Nutrient-Based Subsidy and Soil Health Cards. Experts recommend further strategies such as using nitrification inhibitors and improving nitrogen use efficiency to reduce emissions by 20% by 2050.

/ Space

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/ Diseases

Dr. Michael Gottlieb’s 1981 research on pneumocystis pneumonia led to the first identification of AIDS. Despite 50 years of study, HIV’s high genetic diversity and error-prone replication hinder vaccine development. B-cells play a crucial role in immunity by producing antibodies. Advances in germline targeting and nanoparticle-based vaccines show promise. HIV-1 is the most widespread type, with significant genetic variability affecting treatment and diagnostics.

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/ Diseases, Space

The study by IIT-M and NASA on the ISS focused on Enterobacter bugandensis, a drug-resistant pathogen. This bacterium, part of the ESKAPE group, is highly resistant to antibiotics. Researchers found 13 genetically distinct strains on the ISS, which are more resistant to antimicrobials. These findings are crucial for managing infections in hospitals and protecting astronauts’ health. The ISS, a collaborative project of five space agencies, travels at 28,000 km/h and has been continuously occupied since 2000.

/ Physics

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The World Bank and Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) aim to enhance Chennai’s waste management by 2026-2027, focusing on stopping trash at Kodungaiyur. Strategic meetings set Zero Waste as the goal, with plans to stop using Perungudi dumpsite. Over 20 years, the World Bank will study and improve waste management policies. Post-study, new rules will boost recycling and reduce landfill waste, creating a circular economy. Addressing administrative issues will improve civic response and efficiency, making Chennai a model for eco-friendly waste management.

/ Indices/Reports, Shipping

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/ Diseases

Donanemab, developed by Eli Lilly, is an experimental antibody treatment targeting N3pG amyloid to slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. Recently, an FDA advisory group unanimously approved it, highlighting its potential benefits despite risks like brain swelling and bleeding. The drug’s unique trial design and comparison to Leqembi show different safety and efficacy results. The FDA’s final decision, influenced by the panel’s approval, could impact future treatment cycles and management.

/ Science & Technology

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Apple Intelligence, introduced at WWDC 2024, is a personal AI system integrated into iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia. It uses generative AI and user-specific data to provide customized features, enhancing productivity and enjoyment. Key capabilities include advanced writing tools, email management, and creative expressions like Image Playground and Genmoji. Privacy is ensured through Private Cloud Compute. Initially available to developers, the public rollout coincides with the iPhone 16 launch in September 2024.

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Since the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, there has been a strong push for Andhra Pradesh to be given Special Category Status (SCS). The idea of SCS was created in 1969 to help states with geographic and socioeconomic issues. However, Andhra Pradesh did not meet the criteria. The 14th Finance Commission’s review and the dissolution of the Planning Commission complicated matters. Instead, a special package was introduced. Recent developments and political influence may renew the SCS conversation, crucial for the state’s economic and infrastructure growth.

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India welcomed Egypt, Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Ethiopia as new BRICS members at a meeting in Russia. The BRICS ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening their strategic partnership across politics, economy, and culture. They emphasized multilateralism, UN reforms, and the importance of the G20. The ministers also addressed global conflicts, counterterrorism, and climate action. The expansion aims to diversify BRICS and increase its global influence.

/ History

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after being re-elected for a third term, approved the 17th installment of the PM-KISAN scheme, disbursing Rs 20,000 crore to aid 9.3 crore farmers. The PM-KISAN scheme, launched in 2019, provides Rs 6,000 annually to eligible farmers in three installments. The scheme aims to support farmers financially, improving their productivity and living standards. The government allocated Rs 1.27 lakh crore for agriculture in 2024-25, emphasizing its commitment to farmers’ welfare and sustainable farming.

/ Space

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/ Space

Aditya-L1, India’s first mission to study the Sun, launched on September 2, 2023, and reached the L1 Lagrange point on January 6, 2024. Equipped with instruments like SUIT and VELC, it observed high solar activity in May 2024, including X- and M-class flares from AR13664. A major geomagnetic storm on May 11, 2024, highlighted the mission’s importance in protecting technology infrastructure.

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