[Newsbits] 14.05-6.06.2024: Mission Karmayogi, Reverse Transcriptase & More

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The partnership between NPCI International Payments Limited and the Central Reserve Bank of Peru aims to introduce a UPI-like instant payment system in Peru, marking the first such implementation in South America. This initiative seeks to enhance Peru’s financial infrastructure, promote economic growth, and increase financial inclusion. Supported by the Reserve Bank of India, this collaboration is part of a broader strategy to globalize UPI technology, with plans to expand to 20 countries by 2028-29.

/ Internal Security

The Defence Accounts Department (DAD) has partnered with four banks to enhance the SPARSH program, which streamlines pension claims for defense personnel. The collaboration involves setting up SPARSH service centers in 1,128 branches nationwide. These centers offer services like profile updates, complaint filing, and digital IDs. The initiative ensures free services, covered by DAD, and aims to improve pension management, making it more efficient, responsive, and transparent.

/ Diseases

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A new study predicts global groundwater temperatures will rise by 2-3.5°C by 2100, impacting regions like Central Russia, Northern China, North America, and the Amazon. High emissions could lead to a 3.5°C rise, while medium emissions predict a 2.1°C increase. This warming threatens water quality, ecosystems, and biodiversity, emphasizing the need for global emission reductions and updated water management policies.

/ Trade & Commerce

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/ Israel-Palestine

Slovenia recognized Palestine as a sovereign state on June 4, following a parliamentary vote with 52 votes in favor. This aligns Slovenia with Spain, Norway, and Ireland. Despite Israel’s opposition, Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon praised the move as a step toward peace and a two-state solution. The decision was influenced by the Israel-Hamas conflict and supported by Slovenia’s ruling coalition, while the opposition party’s referendum attempt failed.

/ Education

Indian universities have significantly improved in the QS 2025 Global Rankings, with 61% seeing score increases. IIT Bombay leads in India, ranking 118th globally. Notable gains include IIT Delhi and IIT Madras. Globally, MIT remains top, followed by Imperial College London and Harvard. The rankings are based on extensive data analysis and surveys. India is the seventh most represented country, with 46 universities listed, highlighting its growing importance in global higher education.

/ Taxation

The CBIC has released a draft bill to amend the Central Excise Act, aiming to update the 80-year-old law. The new bill focuses on simplifying rules, removing outdated provisions, and adapting to the current economic climate. It includes 12 chapters, 114 sections, and 2 schedules. The bill also considers integrating petroleum products into GST. Public feedback is invited by June 26.

/ Biotechnology

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/ Israel-Palestine, Maldives

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/ Awards & Honors

Siddhalinga Pattanashetti, a poet and playwright, has been awarded the Gudleppa Hallikeri Award for 2024 by the Gudleppa Hallikeri Memorial Foundation. The award, which includes ₹25,000 and a memento, will be presented on June 6. The award honors contributions to literature, society, and social service, named after freedom fighter Gudleppa Hallikeri. Key participants in the ceremony include Basavaraj Horatti and P.L. Patil.

Nvidia announced the Rubin AI chip platform, set for 2026, featuring new CPUs, GPUs, and networking processors. The Versa CPU and high-bandwidth memory from Samsung, Micron, and SK Hynix will enhance AI capabilities. Nvidia plans annual releases to maintain its 80% market share and drive AI innovation, impacting sectors like data centers and self-driving cars.

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/ Korea

On June 3, Seoul announced the suspension of a military deal with North Korea due to provocations involving trash-filled balloons. The 2018 agreement aimed to reduce tensions but was deemed ineffective after North Korea’s satellite launch. The suspension allows South Korea to train closer to the border and better address threats, with an official decision pending a future cabinet meeting.

/ Insurance

The National Health Claim Exchange (NHCX) is a digital platform developed by the NHA and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission. It streamlines health insurance claims by facilitating communication between payers and providers through a single encrypted portal. NHCX automates data verification, reduces manual errors, and lowers operational costs, benefiting hospitals, insurers, and policyholders. Currently, it focuses on cashless claims, with plans to expand to all claims in the future.

/ Civil Services

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The Indian Air Force and Navy are participating in US-hosted multinational war games. The IAF is involved in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska, while the Navy is part of RIMPAC in Hawaii. These exercises aim to enhance military readiness, cooperation, and strategic operations among participating nations. RIMPAC is the largest international maritime exercise, held biennially by the U.S. Navy, involving extensive global participation.

/ Species

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/ Space

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/ Space

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has extended significant support to boost India’s space startup ecosystem. This initiative was highlighted by the successful suborbital launch of the Agnibaan SOrTeD mission by the Indian startup Agnikul Cosmos, with ISRO providing extensive technical assistance. Key ISRO facilities, including the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, and the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network, played crucial roles in various aspects of the mission, from location selection and safety planning to engine testing and real-time tracking. This collaboration aims to strengthen India’s space economy and encourage private sector participation in space ventures.

/ Biotechnology, Species

The fork fern Tmesipteris oblanceolata, found in New Caledonia, holds the record for the largest known genome, being 50 times larger than the human genome. Despite its massive genetic material, the fern is a small plant that stands only 10-15 centimeters tall. The genome’s size, which results from an inability to discard redundant DNA, poses significant biological challenges, such as increased resource needs and slower growth. This discovery offers valuable insights into genome evolution and prompts further research into genetic and evolutionary studies.

/ China, Space

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In May 2024, India will host the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the 26th Meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) in Kochi, Kerala. Organized by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), these meetings aim to promote global environmental dialogue and scientific cooperation, focusing on governance, environmental management, and scientific research in Antarctica.

The Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, Karnataka, experienced a collapse of its saalu mantap due to heavy rainfall. The temple, dating back to the 7th century and expanded during the Vijayanagara Empire, is a UNESCO site known for its Dravidian architecture. Preservation faces challenges like financial constraints and skilled labor shortages. Despite these, ASI remains committed to restoration, balancing heritage with current needs.

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/ Geography, Space

NASA and ESA are collaborating under the Artemis program to establish a standardized lunar time system. This system aims to facilitate coordination among various lunar missions by addressing challenges like the Moon’s unique day-night cycle, lack of natural timekeeping references, and communication delays. Potential solutions include linking lunar time to UTC or creating a custom time scale. This initiative is crucial for future lunar exploration, including permanent human presence and missions to Mars.

/ Awards & Honors

NIMHANS, India’s premier mental health center, received the 2024 Nelson Mandela Health Promotion Award from WHO at the 77th World Health Assembly. This award, established in 2019, honors significant contributions to health promotion. Under Director Pratima Murthy, NIMHANS excels in mental health care, research, and innovative programs. Celebrating its 50th and 70th anniversaries, the award highlights its progress and future potential. Founded in 1974, NIMHANS operates autonomously and collaborates internationally.

/ Biology

The study in Nature reveals rapid evolution of the Y chromosome in apes, showing only 14-27% similarity with humans, unlike the stable X chromosome with over 90% similarity. Scientists sequenced genomes of six ape species, uncovering significant evolutionary differences. The Y chromosome’s rapid change is linked to sperm production, while the X chromosome remains stable. Repetitive elements protect genetic information, and the Y chromosome has developed self-repair mechanisms, stabilizing over 25 million years.

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The 77th World Health Assembly approved a resolution to enhance global organ donation and transplantation. The plan, to be implemented by 2026, emphasizes ethical practices, increasing dead donations, and establishing World Donor Day. It calls for integrating organ transplants into national healthcare and protecting live donors. An expert committee will aid strategy development. Despite global donation growth, supply meets only 10% of demand, highlighting the need for international cooperation and equal access.

Artificial intelligence is aiding researchers in finding a female partner for E. woodii, the “world’s loneliest plant,” to naturally spread the species, now extinct in the wild. AI analyzes images from the Ngoye Forest, where only male plants have been found. Researchers explore sex transformation due to climate changes. Less than 2% of the forest has been studied, offering hope for finding a female and reviving the species.

/ Space

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/ Space

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/ Diseases

Personalized cancer vaccines, a type of immunotherapy, use DNA sequencing and AI to create patient-specific treatments. Ongoing trials, like the phase 2 mRNA-based melanoma vaccine, show promise. Manufacturing involves tumor DNA analysis and AI to identify changes. Access is mainly through clinical trials, such as England’s Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad. Patient experiences, like Elliot Pfebve’s, indicate potential success. These vaccines offer a revolutionary, hopeful future for cancer treatment.

The IUCN has labeled coastal mangroves in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives as “critically endangered.” The assessment highlights the importance of mangroves for biodiversity, local livelihoods, and climate change mitigation. Tamil Nadu has seen growth in mangrove areas and formed village groups for conservation. Restoration efforts post-Gaja Cyclone, supported by the World Bank, aim to revitalize mangrove ecosystems, emphasizing community involvement and scientific management.

/ Geography

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/ Food safety

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/ Banking

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) finalized guidelines in 2023 for establishing self-regulatory organizations (SROs) in the fintech sector. These SROs will regulate and represent various fintech activities, including digital loans and P2P services. They will ensure data safety, enforce compliance, and manage risks like fraud. Multiple SROs are allowed, and membership is mandatory for fintech companies. SROs must effectively monitor and resolve complaints to maintain their status.

/ Space

A study reveals that Venus has more volcanic activity than previously thought, based on old radar images from NASA’s Magellan probe (1990-1992). Magellan mapped 98% of Venus’s surface, and improved computer analysis has identified new volcanic sites. Sif Mons and Niobe Planitia show recent lava flows, indicating active volcanism. The volcanoes are shield types, similar to those in Hawaii, with lava flowing from specific slopes.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts a slight drop in global unemployment to 4.9% in 2024, contrary to earlier forecasts of 5.2%. The ILO highlights the complexity of unemployment, with 183 million officially jobless and 402 million wanting work but not seeking it. Gender inequality remains a significant issue, with higher unemployment rates for women. The ILO, established in 1919, promotes social justice and labor standards globally.

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/ Industries/Sectors

India is boosting its lab-grown diamond sector by offering tax benefits and funding IIT Madras to establish a research center. Traditional diamond production uses the HPHT process, which mimics natural conditions but has size limitations. Korean scientists have innovated a new method to grow diamonds at lower temperatures and normal pressure, using a mix of elements and methane, resulting in purer and colorful diamonds.

/ Insurance

The IRDAI has introduced new guidelines to streamline health insurance claims in India. These include mandatory cashless settlements, strict timelines for claim processing, penalties for delays, and adjustments to policy cancellation and grace periods. The IRDAI, established in 1999 in Hyderabad, aims to protect policyholder interests and promote the insurance sector. It has also launched consumer protection initiatives and technological advancements for better policy management.

/ Africa

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/ Diseases

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India is experiencing a severe heatwave affecting states like Delhi and Punjab, with high temperatures and humidity impacting daily life. Humidity measurement involves dry bulb, wet bulb, and dew point temperatures. Wet bulb temperature, crucial for understanding humidity, indicates air’s water capacity and affects comfort. High humidity reduces evaporation cooling, increasing discomfort. New research suggests lower safe limits for wet-bulb temperatures, highlighting dangerous conditions at 31°C with 50% humidity or 38°C with 60% humidity.

/ Physics

IIT Bombay and TCS are developing India’s first quantum diamond microchip imager, which will revolutionize semiconductor chip inspection. This imager, similar to MRI technology, maps chips non-destructively. It integrates quantum diamond microscopy with advanced AI, enhancing accuracy and reducing energy consumption. The imager has applications in various fields, promising safer, reliable, and energy-efficient gadgets. This project, part of the Second Quantum Revolution, aims to transform industries and benefit society.

/ Awards & Honors

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/ China

China’s proposed “One Person, One File” (OPOF) program aims to enhance digital surveillance and censorship by creating detailed personal profiles for every resident. This initiative, part of a broader trend of increasing authoritarianism under Xi Jinping, uses advanced technologies like AI and facial recognition. The program raises significant human rights concerns, leading to unfair detentions and suppression, particularly targeting minorities.

/ Banking

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The government, through the Sanchar Saathi program, has intensified efforts to combat SMS fraud by blacklisting entities and headers involved in illegal activities. Over 10,000 fake texts were identified, leading to the ban of eight SMS headers. The crackdown includes blacklisting 73 headers and 1,522 templates. Consumers are urged to report suspicious messages using the Chakshu feature, with severe penalties for misuse of telecom resources, including potential blacklisting for two years.

The Amazon rainforest is struggling to recover from repeated severe droughts, with more than a third of the ecosystem affected. Droughts from 2001 to 2019 have led to slower recovery rates, causing fewer trees to grow and more to die. Tree mortality is primarily due to carbon starvation and hydraulic failure. The study emphasizes the need for conservation efforts, highlighting the role of indigenous groups and the importance of proactive policies to prevent further damage.

The ATMF report addresses global antibiotic access, highlighting pharmaceutical industry challenges, particularly in developing drugs for superbugs. It explains AMR, predicting 10 million annual deaths by 2050. The report evaluates five key drug projects from companies like GSK and Pfizer, noting innovation and accessibility issues. It criticizes the lack of LMIC registration plans and affordability strategies. Encouragingly, it notes pediatric trials and praises partnerships aiding smaller businesses.

Thailand has initiated its first Senate election since the 2014 coup, with significant changes including reducing senators from 250 to 200 and removing their power to choose the Prime Minister. The election process involves strict requirements and no public voting, emphasizing intra-group self-selection. This election is crucial for understanding the conservative elite’s influence on legislative processes and democracy reforms in Thailand. Voting occurs from June 9-26, with results by July 2.

/ France

India is negotiating with France to buy 26 Rafale Marine jets for Rs 50,000 crore, approved for INS Vikrant. Chosen over F/A-18 due to interoperability with IAF Rafale, saving costs. Rafale M, a single-seat fighter by Dassault, has reinforced parts for carrier operations. It supports various missions and weapons, proving its versatility. In service since 2004, it has evolved through F1, F3, and F4 standards.

/ Iran

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/ Species

British scientists discovered that caterpillars have a sixth sense called electroreception, allowing them to detect electric fields through setae. The study, published in PNAS, examined four caterpillar types. Electroreception helps animals avoid predators, with caterpillars uniquely using it for defense. Researchers simulated predator approaches, noting caterpillars’ stress responses to specific frequencies. This research enhances understanding of caterpillar senses, insect behavior, and the impact of sensory pollution.

India’s $48 billion input subsidy for power and agriculture has raised concerns among several WTO members, including the US and EU. The subsidies, aimed at supporting low-income farmers, are defended by India citing inflation and rising fertilizer costs. WTO rules allow developing countries more flexibility in providing such subsidies. The Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) is a WTO mechanism to limit trade-distorting agricultural support, with higher limits for developing countries.

/ Species

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/ Space

NASA’s PREFIRE mission, launched on May 25, aims to enhance climate prediction by deploying two CubeSats to measure polar heat emissions. Using infrared technology, PREFIRE will provide crucial data to improve climate models, particularly for polar regions. This mission will help understand polar ice melt, sea ice loss, and the Earth’s energy balance, benefiting various sectors like agriculture and coastal management by enabling better responses to environmental changes.

/ Russia

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/ Banking

Four major European banks are seeking RBI approval to use a third-party clearing model for trading Indian government bonds and derivatives due to ESMA’s revocation of CCIL’s recognition over audit rights issues. The proposed model involves Indian banks like SBI and ICICI Bank. Challenges include maintaining client confidentiality and data security. ESMA, established in 2011, aims to ensure financial stability, market integrity, and investor protection within the EU.

/ Africa

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/ Awards & Honors

In May 2023, the Cannes Film Festival highlighted global cinema, with Indian film “All We Imagine As Light” by Payal Kapadia winning the Grand Prix, showcasing India’s rising influence. The festival featured film screenings, red carpet events, and media interactions. Established in 1946, Cannes has a rich history, including the introduction of the Palme d’Or in 1955 and notable interruptions in 1968 and 2020. The festival’s jury has evolved to include women only recently.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and mobile operators have developed a mechanism to identify and block spoofed international calls that display Indian numbers, addressing rising complaints about scam calls from fraudsters impersonating officials. This initiative is part of broader efforts to enhance user safety and align with the Digital India goals. The mechanism includes expanded blocking systems and integration of AI technologies to detect fraud, optimize networks, and improve customer service, making the telecom industry more efficient and secure.

/ Physics

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The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has initiated a crackdown on gaming apps involved in virtual trading using real-time stock prices. This measure aims to prevent the misuse of market data and protect investors from potential financial risks. SEBI’s directive prohibits stock exchanges from sharing real-time data with third-party apps, except for educational purposes with a one-day delay. This move is expected to safeguard market integrity and promote responsible financial education.

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/ Space

Recent studies reveal that the Sun’s magnetic field originates much closer to the surface than previously believed, around 20,000 miles below instead of over 130,000 miles. This finding, published in Nature and derived using advanced computer models on NASA supercomputers, sheds light on the solar dynamo process, which is essential in understanding solar activity. This closer origin influences the solar cycle and helps predict solar storms, which impact Earth’s technology and atmosphere. Historical and modern research, from Galileo’s early observations to contemporary modeling, continues to enhance our comprehension of the Sun’s behavior and its effects on Earth.

/ Space

SpaceX has announced the next test flight of Starship, the world’s most powerful rocket, scheduled for June 5, 2024, at the Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. This launch is crucial for NASA’s lunar missions and Elon Musk’s vision of Mars colonization. Starship aims to reduce space travel costs and enhance mission reliability with its fully reusable design. Standing 397 feet tall, it features advanced heat-resistant tiles and Raptor engines running on liquid methane and oxygen. The upcoming flight will test critical aspects like re-entry and booster recovery, essential for future manned missions to the moon and Mars.

Recent studies suggest that breastfeeding should be recognized as an environmentally friendly practice and a potential carbon offset. Breastfeeding offers significant health benefits for both mothers and babies and has a minimal environmental impact compared to commercial milk formulas, which are associated with high water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and substantial waste. Advocates propose including breastfeeding in national budgets and GDP calculations to promote female equality and sustainable development. Recognizing breastfeeding as a carbon offset could redirect funds from the commercial formula industry to support breastfeeding, benefiting the environment and public health.

/ Diseases

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/ China

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/ Diaspora, Europe (UK

The UK Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended keeping the Graduate Route Visa (GRV) unchanged after its review in May 2024. The GRV, introduced in 2021, allows international students to stay in the UK for two years post-graduation (three years for PhD holders) to seek employment. This decision is widely supported by stakeholders and is particularly beneficial for Indian students, who are the largest group of international students in the UK. Despite the high costs of studying and living in the UK, the GRV offers valuable opportunities for professional growth and the possibility to transition to a Skilled Worker visa. The MAC also suggested implementing stricter reporting regulations for universities.

/ Diseases

Antibiotic protocols are essential in all Indian hospitals to combat the prevalent issue of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) exacerbated by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Reports from 2023 indicate that HAIs, such as bloodstream, urinary tract, and pneumonia infections, are still common and particularly severe in low and middle-income countries, including India. This is due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, leading to drug-resistant pathogens. Various initiatives, like India’s National Program on AMR Containment and NARS-Net, aim to enhance infection control and AMR surveillance. Effective implementation of these protocols will reduce HAIs, lower AMR cases, and improve overall patient health outcomes.

Cyclone Remal is a developing storm in the Bay of Bengal, identified as a low-pressure area on May 22, 2024. Predicted to turn into a depression by May 24 and intensify by May 25, it is expected to impact regions like West Bengal, Odisha, and northeast India with significant rainfall. Favorable conditions such as warm sea temperatures and low wind shear support its intensification. The storm underscores the importance of accurate weather predictions and preparedness for potential cyclonic impacts. The Bay of Bengal, known for its frequent cyclones, is closely monitored by meteorological agencies to mitigate risks and enhance preparedness.

/ Internal Security

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On May 16, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in India established an inter-ministerial committee to combat the rising threat of cybercrimes originating from Southeast Asian countries. This committee, led by the special secretary of internal security, includes members from various financial and technological institutions. Its purpose is to develop long-term strategies to counteract these cybercrimes, which have significantly impacted India’s economy and citizens. Preventive measures, such as monitoring and blocking malicious online activities, are in place, along with ongoing efforts to increase public awareness and international cooperation.

Scarlett Johansson has sued OpenAI for using her voice without permission, raising critical issues about ownership and the use of one’s voice in the age of AI. This case highlights the privacy challenges posed by advanced AI technologies capable of accurately replicating human voices, with potential consequences for individuals and public figures alike. Legal systems struggle to classify voices as intellectual property, necessitating clearer regulations. Global frameworks like the EU’s GDPR and India’s IndiaAI Mission aim to protect personal data but fall short in addressing AI-generated voice misuse. Proactive legislation and public awareness are essential to safeguard individual rights and prevent AI-related abuses.

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/ Nanotechnology

Scientists from IIT Guwahati and Columbia University have developed an innovative and cost-effective optical nanopatterning process. This new method, led by Dr. Rishi Maiti, utilizes an IR laser to manipulate material properties at their resonance frequency without direct contact. This advancement overcomes the high cost and complexity of traditional techniques like electron beam lithography. The breakthrough, which creates nano-sized holes capable of trapping phonon-polaritons, holds significant promise for improving nanoscale gadgets such as solar cells, LEDs, and advanced light detectors.

/ Banking, Maldives

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/ Geography

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/ Internal Security

The Indian Armed Forces are reorganizing into integrated theatre commands to enhance operational efficiency by unifying the Army, Navy, and Air Force under centralized commands. This initiative, inspired by models from the U.S. and China, began in earnest in 2019 with the establishment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Department of Military Affairs (DMA). Proposed commands include the Western Theatre Command in Jaipur, Northern Theatre Command in Lucknow, and Maritime Theatre Command in Coimbatore. This restructuring aims to streamline military operations, optimize resource allocation, and improve strategic coordination, but it still requires final government approval.

/ Diseases

Recent research by molecular scientist Marcelo Briones and his team has uncovered viral DNA fragments in 50,000-year-old Neanderthal bones from Russia’s Chagyrskaya cave. These fragments, which include adenovirus, herpesvirus, and papillomavirus, suggest that Neanderthals were susceptible to diseases that affect modern humans. This discovery offers new insights into the factors contributing to Neanderthal extinction around 40,000 years ago, including the possible role of pandemics. The study utilized advanced DNA sequencing techniques to overcome the challenges of working with degraded ancient samples. This finding enhances our understanding of human evolution and the historical impact of diseases.

In March, a child returning from India became Australia’s first human case of H5N1 bird flu, recovering fully from a serious illness. Victoria’s health authorities confirmed no further cases, highlighting the rarity of human transmission. Avian influenza, highly contagious among birds and occasionally affecting humans, spreads through direct contact or contaminated environments. Australia’s response included quarantining nearby farms and culling infected animals. Public health measures emphasize safe consumption of poultry products and enhanced surveillance to detect and contain outbreaks early. H5N1, first identified in 1959, remains highly lethal with significant global control efforts.

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/ Public Finance

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/ Israel-Palestine

Norway, Ireland, and Spain plan to formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28, highlighting international support for Palestinian independence and responding to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This decision is part of a broader history of countries recognizing Palestine, with 140 recognitions globally. While this move strengthens the Palestinian position and pressures Israel to resume peace talks, immediate changes on the ground are unlikely. The recognition underscores ongoing complexities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and EU-Israel relations, with hopes for renewed negotiations and increased international support.

/ GS4 (Ethics)

Workplace gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person, often in a position of authority, undermines another employee’s reality, leading them to question their own memory, perception, and reasoning. This manipulation can take the form of denying facts, trivializing concerns, shifting blame, withholding information, isolation tactics, and using intimidation. The effects are detrimental, impacting mental health, job performance, and workplace morale. Addressing this issue involves promoting a transparent culture, providing training, establishing clear policies, offering support mechanisms, and ensuring accountability for perpetrators.

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/ Awards & Honors

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/ Awards & Honors, Energy

NTPC Limited, India’s largest energy company, secured third place at the ATD BEST Awards 2024, marking its highest ranking ever. The award, received by Ms. Rachana Singh Bhal in New Orleans, USA, highlights NTPC’s excellence in Learning and Development (L&D). NTPC has been honored seven times in the last eight years, showcasing its commitment to HR best practices and continuous learning. Established in 1975, NTPC has diversified into various energy sources and holds a significant market presence.

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In May 2024, India will host the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the 26th Meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) in Kochi, Kerala. Organized by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), these meetings aim to promote global environmental dialogue and scientific cooperation, focusing on governance, environmental management, and scientific research in Antarctica.

/ Internal Security

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Thwaites Glacier, known as the “Doomsday Glacier,” is melting rapidly due to warming ocean currents, leading to accelerated ice loss and structural instability. This glacier, located in West Antarctica and roughly the size of Florida, contributes significantly to global sea level rise. If current trends continue, Thwaites’ complete melt could raise sea levels by about three meters, causing catastrophic flooding in coastal areas worldwide. The instability of Thwaites Glacier could also trigger a domino effect, destabilizing the entire Antarctic ice sheet. Scientists emphasize the need for close monitoring and climate change mitigation to address these serious challenges.

/ Space

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/ Biology

Recent studies indicate that the revival of the dormant X chromosome in older women increases the risk of autoimmune diseases. The human X chromosome, with around 800 genes, plays a significant role in various biological processes and disease mechanisms. Aging-related hormonal changes, especially during menopause, further contribute to health issues such as osteoporosis, muscle loss, and cardiovascular diseases. Autoimmune diseases, more common in women, occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s cells. Understanding the X chromosome’s influence and developing targeted therapies can help manage these conditions better.

/ etc), Europe (UK, France

The UK contaminated blood scandal, which primarily occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, involved the distribution of blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C to thousands of patients, predominantly those with hemophilia. This tragic event resulted in over 30,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths. The use of Factor VIII, a blood-clotting agent derived from high-risk donors such as US prisoners and IV drug users, was identified as a primary cause. The government’s and medical community’s delayed and inadequate response exacerbated the crisis. An independent inquiry’s report released in May 2024 highlighted a series of failures and a government cover-up, leading to a significant compensation package and an apology from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The scandal underscores the necessity for stringent public health measures, ethical medical practices, and accountability.

/ Indices/Reports

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/ etc), Europe (UK, France, Russia

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is of significant economic, military, and cultural importance. It has been a focal point in the ongoing conflict with Russia since February 2022, facing constant attacks and substantial damage. President Zelenskyy’s visit underscored improved safety and the effectiveness of Ukrainian defences. Historically a crucial industrial and educational hub, Kharkiv also holds strategic military value due to its proximity to the Russian border. Despite recent challenges, the city’s defence remains vital in symbolizing Ukrainian resilience and maintaining strategic advantages in the broader conflict.

/ Diseases

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/ Drugs/Pharmaceuticals

The IFPMA report “From Resistance to Resilience” underscores the urgent need to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a major global health threat leading to millions of deaths annually. The study explores two future scenarios for antibiotic development: without new incentives, only a few treatments progress significantly; with strong incentives by 2025, many more treatments could be developed, significantly reducing AMR-related diseases. Economic incentives, particularly pull incentives, are crucial. The role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in research and development is highlighted, with calls for increased policy support to bolster the antibiotic pipeline and enhance global health security.

/ Space

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The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) Rapid Response Service is a European Union initiative designed to provide swift and detailed geospatial data during emergencies. Activated recently to aid search and rescue operations in Iran following a helicopter crash involving the Iranian President, this service uses satellite imagery and other monitoring tools to create maps and analyses crucial for disaster response. The Copernicus programme, which began in 1998, supports various areas including disaster management and climate tracking through its open data policy and comprehensive monitoring systems.

The Indian Navy’s ships INS Delhi, INS Shakti, and INS Kiltan recently arrived in Manila, Philippines, as part of a strategic operational deployment in the South China Sea aimed at strengthening maritime ties and showcasing India’s strategic interests in the region. The visit involves various activities including professional exchanges, sports competitions, deck visits, cultural events, and a crucial Maritime Partnership Exercise (MPX) with the Philippine Navy to enhance naval cooperation. This deployment is set against a backdrop of ongoing territorial disputes between China and the Philippines, particularly over the Scarborough Shoal within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Historical ties between India and the Philippines since 1949, marked by regular naval engagements, further underpin this cooperative effort. The Eastern Fleet, instrumental in this visit, highlights India’s blue-water capabilities and regional maritime presence, participating in international missions and maintaining advanced naval assets.

/ Bangladesh, Railways

RITES Limited, a government-owned enterprise under Indian Railways, has signed a significant contract to supply 200 broad-gauge passenger carriages to Bangladesh Railways, funded by the European Investment Bank for USD 111.26 million. This deal, secured through a global tender, includes design assistance, spare parts, and training. It aligns with India’s “Make in India, for the World” initiative and aims to enhance Bangladesh’s rail infrastructure, reflecting RITES’ commitment to exporting Indian-made railway stock and showcasing India’s manufacturing capabilities. The project emphasizes strategic international collaboration and aims to strengthen future export opportunities.

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/ Conservation Areas

The Supreme Court of India has ordered the closure of 68 mines located within one kilometer of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan to protect the tiger habitat. This decision enforces the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and the Environment Protection Act of 1986, aiming to curb illegal mining activities that have persisted since the 1990s. Despite earlier interventions and the establishment of safety zones, issues such as boundary demarcation and local community concerns have posed challenges. The court’s latest ruling reinforces conservation laws and underscores the significance of preserving the reserve’s biodiversity.

/ Species

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/ Space

Ed Dwight, America’s first Black astronaut candidate, made history by flying to space with Blue Origin on May 19, 2024. At 90 years old, he set the record as the oldest person to experience space. Despite being encouraged by President Kennedy in the 1960s, Dwight was excluded from NASA’s astronaut class due to racial barriers. After leaving the Air Force, he became a renowned sculptor, creating works that honor Black history. Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, facilitated this historic flight, highlighting progress in both space tourism and social recognition.

/ Diaspora, etc), Europe (UK, France

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/ Judiciary/Justice

The Supreme Court of India has reinforced the rule that decisions made by its Constitution benches must be followed by smaller benches, highlighting this through a case related to land-holding rights in Haryana under the Haryana Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961. The April 2022 verdict, which misinterpreted the role of panchayats in land ownership, was reviewed and corrected to align with a 1966 Constitution bench precedent. This ensures legal consistency, upholds the integrity of the judicial system, and emphasizes the importance of judicial review in maintaining fairness and justice.

/ Food safety

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/ Diseases

In April 2024, health officials from 14 Eastern African countries met in Kenya to launch two major public health initiatives with the support of the Africa CDC: the Eastern Africa Regional Integrated Surveillance and Laboratory Network (RISLNET) and the Eastern Africa Regional Cholera Taskforce. RISLNET aims to improve health monitoring and response across the region by integrating existing systems from various sectors. The Cholera Taskforce focuses on managing and preventing cholera outbreaks through coordinated strategies. These efforts, supported by significant investment from the Kenyan government, aim to enhance regional health security, promote economic growth, and align with Africa CDC’s strategic objectives for 2023-2027.

/ Banking

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