National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 19th February 2019

Japan approves stem cells trial

1

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: A team of Japanese researchers will carry out an unprecedented trial using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to treat spinal cord injuries.

More on the Topic:

  • The team at Tokyo’s Keio University has received government approval for the trial — which have the potential to develop into any cell in the body — to treat patients with serious spinal cord injuries.
  • The research team hopes to test the efficacy and safety of the treatment for chronic injuries as well in the future if they can confirm the safety of the technique through the clinical trial.
  • The announcement comes after researchers in Kyoto said in November they had transplanted iPS cells into the brain of a patient in a bid to cure Parkinson’s disease.
  • The man was stable after the operation and he will be monitored for two years.The researchers injected 2.4 million iPS cells into the left side of the patient’s brain in an operation that took about three hours.
  • Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body’s motor system, often causing shaking and other difficulties in movement.
  • iPS cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialised, cells back into a juvenile state — basically cloning without the need for an embryo.

About Stem Cells:

  •  Embryonic stem cells (ES cells or ESCs) are pluripotent stem cells derived from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst, an early-stage pre-implantation embryo.
  • Human embryos reach the blastocyst stage 4–5 days post fertilization, at which time they consist of 50–150 cells.
  • Isolating the embryoblast, or inner cell mass (ICM) results in destruction of the blastocyst, a process which raises ethical issues, including whether or not embryos at the pre-implantation stage should have the same moral considerations as embryos in the post-implantation stage of development.
  • Researchers are currently focusing heavily on the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells, with clinical use being the goal for many labs.
  • Potential uses include the treatment of diabetes and heart disease.The cells are being studied to be used as clinical therapies, models of genetic disorders, and cellular/DNA repair.
  • However, adverse effects in the research and clinical processes such as tumours and unwanted immune responses have also been reported.

Source: The Hindu

Artificial Intelligence

2

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhusaid that Government will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for good governance and proper regulations and corrective action will be taken to protect citizen’s privacy and ownership of data.

More on the Topic:

  • Commerce Minister was speaking at the International Colloquium on Ethics and Governance of Autonomous AI System for a Better World held in New Delhi . The two-day Colloquium has been organized by Department of Science and Technology, CMS, ITUAPT and InfocomThink Tank.

Significance of AI:

  • India is transporting more data than US and China put together and the top six companies in the world are using this data with value addition and monetization. Suresh Prabhu added that India is strengthening its legal system and regulatory framework to deal with this world of digital data.
  • AIis the technology of today and one who masters this will rule the world. Every country is developing an AI strategy and India too is working on developing a strategy for the use of AI for the common good.
  • Government of India has taken the initiative to formulate a national strategy for use of AI and make the process transparent and participative in order to create awareness in civil society about AI.

Concerns:

  • This is the first time in human history that machines are taking decisions based on data and experience and we have to learn to deal with this kind of decision making. Government will have to put in place mechanisms on how data is used and algorithms are written.
  • As all the data being generated in world today is being controlled by few companies, it is creating asymmetries as very few create, understand and use this data.
  • This has given rise to a very powerful elite who are controlling millions of lives.

Way Forward:

  • Government will have to take massive efforts in the fundamental education of every Indian from school level so that access to mathematics and technology is available to each and every student.
  • In the present world those who can’t access technology will be on the other side as AI is creating an ethical divide. Therefore, education at the foundation level has to be upgraded urgently.
  • A data rich country like India must develop a national policy spelling out ownership of data, privacy of data generated by citizens and issues of data portability so that the sovereignty of country is not compromised.

Model Mains Question: In the present world those who can’t access technology will be on the other side as AI is creating an ethical divide. Comment.

Source: The Hindu

National cyber forensic lab (NCFL)

Topic: Important Institutions

In News: Boosting country’s efforts in tackling cyber crimes, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a state-of-the-art national cyber forensic lab (NCFL) and the Delhi Police’s cyber crime unit ‘CyPAD’.

More on the Topic:

  • The Home Ministry’s Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) consists of seven verticals, including National Cyber Forensic Laboratory (NCFL), National Cyber Threat Analytics Unit (C-TAU), National Cyber Reporting Portal and National Cyber Research and Innovation Centre.
  • With this initiative, law enforcers will be able to proactively address cyber threats in coordination with other law-enforcement agencies, national & international cyber security organisation and various online intermediaries.

Source: The Hindu

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

4

Topic: Polity and Governance

In News: Foundation Day of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is being observed on 19th February, 2019. The Commission is celebrating fifteen years on 19th February, 2019.

More on the Topic:

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was set up on 19th February, 2004 through Constitution (89th Amendment) Act.
  • NCST was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).
  • NCST is empowered to investigate and monitor matters relating to safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. orde
  • The Commission is also authorized to inquire into specific complaints relating to rights and safeguards of STs and to participate and advise in the Planning Process relating to socio-economic development of STs and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and States.
  • The commission submits its report to the President annually on the working of safeguards and measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to welfare and socio-economic development of STs.

Source:The Hindu

Eco-Circuit

5

Topic: Government Schemes

In News: ‘Development of Eco Circuit: Pathanamthitta – Gavi – Vagamon – Thekkady’ under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of Ministry of Tourism was recently inaugurated.

More on the topic:

  • Eco Circuit is one of the fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under Swadesh Darshan Scheme– Integrated development of theme- based tourist circuits in the country.
  • Major works carried out under the project includes Eco Adventure Tourism Park at Vagamon, Cultural Centre at Kadamanitta, Eco Log Huts at Peerumedu, Idukki, Approach Roads, Walking trails, Rain Shelters at Pine Valley Forest, Thekkady, Kumily, Moozhiyar Dam, Penstock and Kakki Dam.

About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

  • Tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner
  • They will be developed by synergizing efforts to focus on concerns and needs of all stakeholders to enrich tourist experience and enhance employment opportunities
  • Under this scheme, 13 thematic circuits have been identified for development
  • The scheme is 100% centrally funded for the project components undertaken for public funding
  • It also leverages Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.

Source: The Hindu

Scientists discover massive mountains under Earth’s crust

6

Topic: Geography

In News: Scientists have discovered massive mountains in the Earth’s mantle, an advance that may change our understanding of how the planet was formed.

More on the Topic:

  • During the study, researchers use data from an enormous earthquake in Bolivia and discovered mountains, as well as other topography on a layer located 660 kilometres straight down that separates the upper and lower mantle.
  • It should be noted that researchers have previously classified the earth into three layers; crust, mantle and core. Even though scientists have found this new layer comprising of mountains, researchers have not named it and they are simply calling it the 660 kilometres boundary.
  • Scientists made this discovery after analyzing data from one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded. The earthquake in Bolivia happened in 1994 and it measured 8.2 on the Richter scale. During the research, scientists used powerful computers and simulated the complicated behaviour of scattering waves in the deep earth.
  • Further analysis revealed that the waves of earthquake often pass through straight when it encounters homogenous rocks, while it gets reflect or refracts as it encounters any kind of boundaries or roughness. Researchers also noted that the roughness in this inner mantle is much more than the earth’s surface.
  • In this study, scientists investigated scattered seismic waves travelling inside the earth to constrain the roughness of the earth’s 660-km boundary. In other words, stronger topography than the Rocky Mountains or the Appalachians is present at the 660-km boundary.

Source: The Hindu

 

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