[Newsbits] 24-29.03.2024: Meme Coins, Beni Koji, Annual India TB Report & more

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The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024, introduced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, aim to enhance plastic waste management practices in India. This amendment to the 2016 rules expands definitions for producers, manufacturers, and importers to include a broader spectrum of entities involved in the plastic packaging industry. It emphasizes the responsibilities of local bodies to assess and manage plastic waste, introduces new categories for biodegradable plastics with specific labeling requirements, and sets forth pre-consumer waste processing obligations. The amendment also details the obligations for micro and small enterprises regarding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), introduces a minimum recycling target, and establishes price caps for EPR certificates​

/ Geography

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is the only ocean current that encircles the Earth without being obstructed by any landmass. Recent studies have shown that during warmer phases, such as the last interglacial period, the ACC flows more rapidly. This change can significantly impact the global climate by affecting other ocean currents like the Gulf Stream, altering weather patterns in regions like Northwest Europe, and potentially decreasing the ocean’s capacity to absorb CO2. This could lead to higher atmospheric CO2 levels and accelerate global warming. Researchers emphasize the importance of understanding the ACC’s role in the global climate system and suggest that its behavior in response to warming trends could provide valuable insights for future climate change predictions and mitigation strategies.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is introducing a T+0 trade settlement cycle on an optional basis starting March 28, with a full instant settlement system expected by March 2025. This move aims to make trades more efficient by settling them on the same day, in response to the growing alternatives like cryptocurrency. The T+0 cycle is part of SEBI’s effort to keep the Indian stock market competitive and is implemented in phases, starting with optional T+0 settlement for trades completed by 1:30 PM. This shift marks a significant evolution from the previous T+5, T+3, and T+2 settlement cycles, showing a trend towards faster trading processes to enhance market liquidity and efficiency.

/ Diseases

The International Myeloma Foundation launched Myeloma Action Month to raise awareness and take action for myeloma, emphasizing the power of personal stories and experiences to foster global awareness​. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in the plasma cells, which are an important part of the immune system responsible for producing antibodies to fight infections. It most commonly affects the bone marrow, leading to a variety of symptoms including infections, bone pain and fractures, kidney problems, and anemia. Risk factors include being male, Black, having a family history of the disease, obesity, and having certain precursor conditions like MGUS. Diagnosis involves a comprehensive evaluation through physical exams, blood and urine tests, imaging, and bone marrow biopsies. Treatment strategies are determined based on factors such as the suitability for bone marrow transplant, age, and overall health, and can include targeted therapy, immunotherapy, corticosteroids, chemotherapy, and managing complications. Research and support for multiple myeloma are ongoing, with a focus on understanding and treating the condition more effectively

/ Diseases

the Annual India TB Report 2023 outlines India’s efforts and strategies to combat Tuberculosis, aiming for its elimination by 2025. It emphasizes the country’s highest-ever TB case notifications in 2022, showcasing the effectiveness of various initiatives like engaging private sectors, active case finding, and community engagements. The report also highlights the challenges posed by drug-resistant TB and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB control efforts. With ambitious goals and innovative approaches, India continues to strive towards a TB-free nation by enhancing diagnosis, treatment, and prevention methods.

The recent news revolves around the extension of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs for another six months, effective from April 1, 2024. This decision was based on a review of the law and order situation in these regions. AFSPA grants the military significant powers, including arresting without a warrant and searching premises without a warrant, under the designation of “disturbed areas.” This extension specifically applies to Changlang, Tirap, and Longding districts in Arunachal Pradesh and certain areas within Namsai district, with detailed specifics on Nagaland districts not provided in the source .

The LCA Tejas Mark 1A is an advanced version of India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, featuring several upgrades like an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capability, and modern Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, designed to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force. It represents a significant step towards self-reliance in defense and is set to replace the ageing fleet of MiG-21 fighter aircraft, with the Indian Air Force planning to induct around 100 additional units. The project involves collaborations with various domestic and international partners, showcasing India’s growing aerospace capabilities.

/ China

The TikTok ownership controversy centers around the potential ban of the app in the United States unless it is sold to U.S. owners, sparking debates over data privacy, political misinformation, and the dynamics of power in the digital age. At the heart of the issue are concerns about China’s potential access to U.S. users’ data and the spread of political misinformation. Despite assurances from U.S. politicians that all U.S. TikTok data is stored domestically without Chinese access, questions about the validity of these concerns persist. Steve Mnuchin, a key figure, has shown interest in purchasing TikTok’s U.S. operations, raising questions about the motives behind the proposed ban. While TikTok is primarily owned by global investors and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has attempted to alleviate security concerns, the involvement of the Chinese government through a “golden share” adds complexity to the situation. The debate touches on broader issues of data security, foreign espionage, and the influence of Chinese technology companies, underscoring the need for a comprehensive strategy for dealing with such companies, enhancing algorithmic transparency, and improving privacy protections​.

/ Diseases, Japan

Beni-koji, or red yeast rice, is a traditional Chinese dietary component known for its potential health benefits, particularly in lowering cholesterol levels. Produced by fermenting rice with the mold Monascus purpureus, it turns the rice red or reddish-purple. Recently, a health scare in Japan linked to supplements containing beni-koji has caused concern, leading to product recalls by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical after reports of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. Despite its health benefits, the safety and regulation of red yeast rice products remain contentious due to their variable content of active compounds like monacolins, and the presence of potentially harmful toxins such as citrinin. Clinical evidence suggests it can significantly lower LDL-cholesterol, but its safety over long periods and in certain populations (e.g., pregnant women, individuals with liver disease) is yet to be established. Moving forward, continuous monitoring and research into its long-term safety and efficacy are essential.

/ Road

The Satellite-Based Toll Collection System in India represents a significant shift in how tolls are collected on national highways. Initiated by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, this new system aims to replace traditional toll plazas with a more efficient satellite-based mechanism that uses GPS and camera technology to directly deduct fees from the vehicle owners’ bank accounts based on the actual distance travelled. Currently in its pilot phase, with plans for full implementation by March 2024, this system is poised to reduce traffic congestion, save time and fuel for commuters, and ensure a more transparent collection of toll fees. The transition signifies the Indian government’s commitment to leveraging technology for improving infrastructure and services.

/ Sri Lanka

China is providing multifaceted support to Sri Lanka’s economic recovery, primarily through debt restructuring, financial support, and infrastructure investment. In 2022, Sri Lanka reached a significant debt restructuring agreement with China’s Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank), covering $4.2 billion in debt, which is crucial for unlocking further International Monetary Fund (IMF) support. This move is part of a broader package of assistance that includes humanitarian aid, such as emergency grain aid, to alleviate immediate needs. China’s involvement is essential for Sri Lanka to stabilize its economy, implement necessary reforms, and attract foreign investment. However, concerns about debt dependency and the viability of some China-funded projects highlight the complexities of this assistance. The way forward for Sri Lanka involves continued negotiations with creditors and the implementation of reforms aimed at achieving sustainable economic growth.

Ex Tiger Triumph 2024 is a comprehensive bilateral tri-service exercise between India and the US, aimed at enhancing interoperability and refining Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Taking place on the Eastern Seaboard from March 18 to 31, 2024, it involves a wide array of military assets and personnel from both nations, including navy ships with integral helicopters, army personnel, and air force assets. The exercise is divided into a Harbour Phase for training and exchanges, followed by a Sea Phase focusing on executing maritime, amphibious, and HADR operations. The collaboration signifies a deepening strategic partnership, aimed at improving joint operational capabilities and fostering military cooperation.

Thailand has taken a groundbreaking step towards marriage equality by passing a bill in the House of Representatives that seeks to legalize same-sex unions, marking the country as the first in Southeast Asia and the third in Asia to do so, after Taiwan and Nepal. The bill amends current references in marriage laws to be gender-neutral, offering same-sex couples the same legal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. This includes rights related to medical treatment, tax benefits, asset management, child adoption, and organizing funerals. The bill received overwhelming support from the major political parties and is expected to pass the Senate and receive royal endorsement later in the year. This legislation not only represents a significant move towards reducing societal disparities and enhancing equality but also solidifies Thailand’s position as one of Asia’s most liberal societies regarding LGBT rights. Public support for this initiative is high, with nearly 97% in favor during public consultations, showcasing the country’s progressive stance on LGBT issues despite ongoing challenges in discrimination​.

In simpler terms, Thailand is on its way to becoming the first Southeast Asian country to allow same-sex marriage. This move is celebrated by many as a big win for equality and human rights. The new law aims to give same-sex couples the same rights as different-sex couples in terms of marriage benefits and responsibilities. It has been a long time coming, with strong support from the public and politicians alike, showing Thailand’s commitment to embracing diversity and fighting for equal rights for all its citizens.

/ Women

The World Health Organization (WHO) is taking significant steps to address violence against vulnerable women, highlighting the critical nature of this issue as both a public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights. Violence against women, especially intimate partner and sexual violence, is a widespread issue that affects approximately one in three women globally. This violence can lead to severe physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health problems for women and can also have detrimental effects on children and societal well-being.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the risks to women and girls, increasing their vulnerability to violence due to isolation, economic stress, and disruptions to support services. The WHO emphasizes the importance of a multifaceted response involving the empowerment of women, community mobilization, addressing the diverse realities of women, and ensuring that prevention and support services are accessible and adequately resourced. Innovative and proactive solutions are necessary to address and eradicate violence against women, including engaging with women’s rights organizations, community and religious leaders, and implementing survivor-centered responses.

The path forward requires continued action from policymakers, health facility administrators, and community members to ensure that services for survivors are not just maintained but expanded, adapting support services to meet the challenges posed by physical distancing measures and ensuring that women can access the care they need. These efforts underscore the WHO’s commitment to addressing the shadow pandemic of violence against women and achieving a gender-equal region free of violence against women and girls

The US and UK have taken significant steps by sanctioning a Chinese company and two individuals over allegations of cyber spying that targeted a broad spectrum of victims, including lawmakers, voters, and critics of the Chinese regime. This action was motivated by the desire to protect national security and critical infrastructure from what is perceived as malicious cyber activities conducted or sponsored by Chinese state-affiliated entities. The main focus of these allegations centers around the cyber espionage activities of APT 31, a group believed to be connected to China’s state security apparatus. These activities reportedly aimed at undermining democratic processes, compromising government institutions, and stealing trade secrets, highlighting the growing tensions in the domain of international cybersecurity. The response from China has been one of denial and condemnation, calling for a more evidence-based approach to cybersecurity issues and cautioning against the politicization of cyber threats. As this situation unfolds, it underscores the importance of bolstering cybersecurity measures and fostering international cooperation to address the challenges posed by state-sponsored cyber espionage​.

/ Space

The PSLV Orbital Experimental Module-3 (POEM-3) is a remarkable space mission by ISRO, utilizing the spent PS4 stage of the PSLV-C58 vehicle to create a cost-effective, experimental space platform. Launched on January 1, 2024, POEM-3 carried nine different payloads for various experiments, including technological and scientific demonstrations. After achieving its objectives, including zero debris in space, the module re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on March 21, 2024. This mission paves the way for more such experiments and enhancements in future POEM configurations, offering a unique opportunity for academia, startups, and non-governmental entities to test their technologies in space.

/ Banking

Meme coins are cryptocurrencies that originate from internet memes or have a humorous or lighthearted premise. Recent developments include the emergence of coins like Pitbull, Vita Inu, Kiba Inu, and Pepecoin, each with unique features such as auto-staking, feeless transactions, and community-driven projects. Dogecoin remains a significant player, often regarded as the “grandfather” of meme coins, while Shiba Inu and newer entries like ApeMax and NuggetRush are gaining attention for their innovations in staking and play-to-earn games. These coins often capitalize on internet culture and community engagement for growth and visibility. Despite their popularity, meme coins are known for their volatility and speculative nature, posing challenges alongside their innovative contributions to the crypto ecosystem. The way forward for meme coins could involve further integration with decentralized finance (DeFi) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), emphasizing community development and utility.

/ etc), Europe (UK, France

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) is a landmark law aimed at making the digital market more fair and competitive, particularly by regulating the practices of large online platforms known as “gatekeepers.” These include companies like Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook’s parent), and Microsoft. The DMA sets specific criteria for identifying gatekeepers based on their economic strength, their role in intermediating between businesses and consumers, and their durable position in the market. It introduces a set of obligations (do’s) and prohibitions (don’ts) for these gatekeepers, such as allowing third-party inter-operation with their services, providing business users access to their data, and preventing them from favoring their own services over others.

Significantly, the DMA aims to benefit business users by creating a fairer business environment, spur innovation among tech startups, and provide consumers with more and better service options. It also outlines severe penalties for non-compliance, including fines of up to 10% or 20% of a company’s total worldwide annual turnover for repeated infringements.

Despite the potential benefits, the DMA’s implementation faces challenges, including the need for a larger enforcement team than initially planned and concerns from big tech companies about privacy, security vulnerabilities, and the impact on innovation. The DMA’s success and its approach to fostering a competitive digital market will likely influence similar regulations globally​.

/ Insurance

The Bima Sugam Marketplace is an initiative by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) aimed at revolutionizing the insurance sector in India. It is designed to function as a comprehensive digital platform where all insurance policies can be accessed, bought, sold, and serviced. Set to launch in June 2024, this platform aims to increase the penetration, availability, accessibility, and affordability of insurance in India. By converting insurance policies to a digital format and allowing for easier management of policies and claims, Bima Sugam intends to simplify the insurance process for policyholders. It promises lower costs, easier claim settlements, and a seamless user experience, backed by a regulatory framework that fosters transparency and efficiency. This significant move towards digitization is projected to empower policyholders and contribute to the goal of achieving ‘Insurance for all by 2047’.

/ Space

The Chandrayaan-3 mission, launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on July 14, 2023, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, marked a significant milestone in India’s lunar exploration efforts. The landing site of Chandrayaan-3’s moon lander, named ‘Station Shiv Shakti’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 26, 2023, has been officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) on March 19, 2024. This recognition underscores the international community’s acknowledgment of India’s achievements in space exploration, particularly the mission’s successful soft landing near the Moon’s south pole, a region of strategic scientific interest.

/ Diseases

This study, led by Dr. Anura Kurpad from St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru, indicates that the prevalence of anaemia in India may have been previously overestimated due to the use of diagnostic criteria based on a healthy Western population. The study, involving over 4,600 participants across eight states, suggests a new haemoglobin diagnostic cut-off lower than the current WHO values. This has implications for the management and understanding of anaemia in India, highlighting the need for revised diagnostic criteria and targeted interventions for high-risk groups.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution aimed at promoting the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) that is safe, secure, and trustworthy, and that contributes to sustainable development goals. The resolution, led by the United States and co-sponsored by over 120 other Member States, calls for the protection of human rights, the safeguarding of personal data, and the monitoring of AI to manage risks. It emphasizes the need for global cooperation to support developing countries in overcoming technological challenges and encourages the development of regulatory frameworks to ensure AI is used responsibly. This resolution is significant as it represents a global consensus on the need to guide the development of AI technologies in a way that ensures they are used for the benefit of all, while also addressing the potential risks they pose.

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