The HINDU Notes – 12th May 2019 - VISION

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 12th May 2019

πŸ“° Pulwama reference cut for UN listing of Azhar

U.K. played a key role, says diplomat

•Concessions were made to secure the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a UN Security Council sanctioned terrorist, Britain’s most senior diplomat Simon McDonald said on Saturday, asserting that the United Kingdom had played a “central role” in ensuring that the listing went through after talks with New Delhi and Islamabad. Mr. McDonald was in New Delhi for consultations on the India-U.K. strategic partnership.

•In an exclusive interview to The Hindu , Mr. McDonald, Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the U.K. government, did not deny a suggestion that China had agreed to the listing of the JeM chief after all references to terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, including the Pulwama strike, were dropped. However, he said the “prize” of listing Mr. Azhar was more important than the “rubric” or details of the decision.

•Mr. McDonald also said Pakistan should be given “space” and “time” to take action against terror groups.

πŸ“° India, Australia to adopt classified communications: official

‘System allows several countries to talk together’

•Though the Australian Navy is, at present, “hanging off” COMCASA — India’s secure communications agreement with the U.S. — Australia and India are “moving forward” toward a classified-level communications environment, a senior Australian Navy spokesperson said.

•The spokesperson said COMCASA (the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) was a “major step forward”, especially for interactions between navies of two countries that are restricted to the classified environment, for example, conversations on counter-terrorism.

•“Now we will see India moving to classified communications environment that one would see, for instance, in the Combined Task Force 150, 151 and 152 operations [relating to counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and maritime security], where there is a bunch of like-minded countries that have a communications system that is operating at the classified level, to be able to allow them to talk together,” the official said.

•At the present juncture, communication in an unclassified environment is part of an age-old tradition of ships meeting on the high seas, the spokesperson added, though even in that space, there has recently been an “evolution of authority to Indian Navy ships’ commanding officers to be able to do passage exercises”.

•Australian officials said that for a basic exchange of pleasantries and identity, and then doing “some things together”, Indian Navy commanding officers no longer must go back to New Delhi to get authority.

•This could even be for conducting an “exercise, in a simple set of manoeuvres, or some gunnery”, an officer said.

πŸ“° U.S. FDA warns of faulty pacemaker batteries

No information, say Indian patients

•Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alert about batteries in certain Medtronic implantable pacemakers draining more quickly than expected, patients in India using the device claim that they are yet to be alerted about the issue.

•The problem with the batteries in certain pacemakers has resulted in at least one death and one injury, the FDA confirmed. Senior Indian cardiologists have said they had alerted the manufactures about the ‘defect’ as early as 2017 and had informed hospital authorities.

•While the exact number of these defective implants in use in India is not yet known, Dr. Balbir Singh, interventional cardiologist at Medanta-The Medcity said, “I was alerted to the problem in 2017-end after which I stopped using these pacemakers. We also immediately informed the company about the problem. However, it is only now that the FDA has issued this warning which will have a huge impact on patients in India.”

•He explained that as a precautionary measure, patients with this device are being called for a check-up every three months instead of the normal six months.

•The FDA said the affected Medtronic implantable pacemaker and CRT-P device models include Azure, Astra, Percepta, Serena and Solara. Some 2,66,700 devices have been distributed worldwide, with 1,31,889 in the U.S., according to the company and the FDA.

πŸ“° U.S. positions Patriot missile off Iran

Missiles, B-52 bombers also arrive

•The United States is deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to bolster an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers already sent to the Gulf, ratcheting up pressure on Saturday on arch-foe Iran.

•In response to alleged threats from Iran, the USS Arlington , which transports marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft, and the Patriot air defence system will join the Abraham Lincoln carrier group, the Pentagon announced on Friday. The carrier and a B-52 bomber task force were ordered towards the Gulf, as Washington reiterated that intelligence reports suggested Iran was planning some sort of attack in the region.

B-52 bombers arrive

•CENTCOM, the U.S. forces for West Asia and Afghanistan, said Friday on Twitter that the B-52 bombers arrived at the area of operations on May 8, without saying where they had landed.

•National Security Advisor John Bolton has said that the deployment aimed to send a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran about any attack against the U.S. or its partners in the region. Washington has not elaborated on the alleged threat, drawing criticism that it is overreacting and unnecessarily driving up tensions in the region.

•There was no immediate reaction from Tehran, but earlier in the week it shrugged off the carrier deployment. “Bolton’s statement is a clumsy use of an out-of-date event for psychological warfare,” Iran’s Supreme National Security Council spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said.

πŸ“° Trump orders tariff hike on remaining Chinese imports

Beijing says talks will continue, but rules out concessions on ‘important principles’

•U.S. President Donald Trump cranked up the heat in a trade battle with China on Friday, ordering a tariff hike on almost all remaining imports from the world’s second-biggest economy, but Beijing said talks would continue to resolve the row.

•After tweeting that two days of trade talks in Washington had been “candid and constructive”, Mr. Trump changed tack and followed through on a threat he had been making for months.

•“The President... ordered us to begin the process of raising tariffs on essentially all remaining imports from China, which are valued at approximately $300 billion,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

•The move came less than 24 hours after Washington increased punitive duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, raising them to 25% from 10%, days after the Trump administration accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments.

•Details on the process for public notice and comment will be posted on Monday, ahead of a final decision on the new tariffs, Mr. Lighthizer said. They were not expected to go into effect for several months.

•China’s top trade negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, had warned earlier that Beijing “must respond” to any U.S. tariffs. The developments came as two days of talks to resolve the trade battle ended on Friday with no deal, but no immediate breakdown either, offering a glimmer of hope that Washington and Beijing could find a way to avert damage to the global economy.

•“Over the course of the past two days, the U.S. and China have held candid and constructive conversations on the status of the trade relationship between both countries,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “The relationship between President Xi (Jinping) and myself remains a very strong one, and conversations into the future will continue.”

•The tariffs on China “may or may not be removed depending on what happens with respect to future negotiations!”

Three disagreements

•Mr. Liu told reporters the talks had been “productive” and said the two sides would meet again in Beijing at an unspecified date, but he warned that China would make no concessions on “important principles”.

•“Negotiations have not broken down, but rather on the contrary, this is only a normal twist in the negotiations between the two countries, it is inevitable,” Mr. Liu said.

•Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mr. Lighthizer met for about two hours with Mr. Liu on Friday and then headed for the White House to brief Mr. Trump, who had said he was in no hurry to reach a deal, arguing the U.S. was negotiating from a position of strength.

•“We have a consensus in lots of areas but to speak frankly there are areas we have differences on, and we believe these concern big principles,” Mr. Liu said.

•Mr. Liu pointed to three major areas of disagreement: whether to cancel all trade war tariffs when an agreement is reached, the exact size of Chinese purchases of U.S. goods, and a “balanced” agreement text.

•“Any country needs its own dignity, so the text must be balanced,” Mr. Liu said.

•Mr. Liu and his backer Mr. Xi cannot be seen as giving in too much with trade concessions to the U.S. in fear of triggering comparisons to past “unequal treaties” forced on China in the 19th and 20th centuries. “Every country has important principles, and we will not make concessions on matters of principle,” Mr. Liu said.

πŸ“° Initial estimate pegs Fani crop damage at Rs. 150 crore

•The initial estimate of Cyclone Fani’s damage to standing crops in Odisha has been pegged at Rs. 150 crore, but the State Agriculture Department warns that the destruction of storage facilities and harvested crops stored in the open could further spike the losses.

•Low insurance penetration could also exacerbate farmers’ losses, especially in the poultry sector. “Because of the advance warning, it was possible to evacuate larger livestock, but it was impossible to move poultry. A large number of birds, mostly broilers, were killed,” said Saurabh Garg, Principal Secretary, Odisha’s Department of Agriculture. According to the latest situation report, poultry casualties had hit 34.52 lakh, and more than 53 lakh birds were affected.

•Livestock casualties included 2,082 larger animals, mostly cows and buffaloes, and 2,202 smaller animals, mostly goats.

Compensation estimate

•Initial calculations of compensation to be paid for poultry and livestock losses are about Rs. 10 crore, according to Vishal Gagan, Secretary of the State’s Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Department.

•Another concern is the safe disposal of the carcasses. “There has been some concern about contamination of waterbodies, although we are ensuring that burial is done away from homes,” said Mr. Gagan, adding that health and sanitation teams had been called in to ensure safe disposal.

πŸ“° IAF receives first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter

Deal for 22 choppers was signed in 2015

•The first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter built for India was formally handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona in the U.S. on Saturday.

•The first batch of these helicopters is scheduled to be shipped to India by July this year.

•“Selected aircrew and ground crew have undergone training at the training facilities at U.S. Army base Fort Rucker in Alabama. These personnel will lead the operationalisation of the Apache fleet in the IAF,” the IAF said in a statement.

•The Air Force had contracted 22 Apache helicopters from the U.S. Govt and Boeing in September 2015.

•The helicopter has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain. “The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground,” the IAF said, adding that the ability of the helicopters, to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems makes it a lethal acquisition.

πŸ“° IS claims it has set up a ‘province’ in India

•It also claimed that the IS inflicted casualties on soldiers at Amshipora in Shopian district. The statement corresponds to the one from the police on Friday that a militant, called Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi, was killed in an encounter in Shopian.

•The IS’s statement appears to be designed to bolster its standing after the group was driven in April from its self-styled “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, where at one point it controlled thousands of miles of territory.

•The IS has stepped up hit-and-run raids and suicide attacks, including taking responsibility for the recent bombings in Sri Lanka that killed at least 253 people.

•“The establishment of a ‘province’ in a region where it has nothing resembling actual governance is absurd, but it should not be written off,” said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intel Group that tracks Islamic extremists. “The world may roll its eyes at these developments, but to jihadists in these vulnerable regions, these are significant gestures to help lay the groundwork for rebuilding the map of the IS ‘caliphate’.”

Multiple attacks

•Sofi was involved in several militant groups in Kashmir for more than a decade before pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, according to a military official on Saturday and an interview given by Sofi to a Srinagar-based magazine sympathetic to the IS.

•He was suspected of several grenade attacks on security forces in the region, police and military sources said. The military official said it was possible that Sofi had been the only militant left in Kashmir associated with the IS.

πŸ“° Kolkata researchers use novel compound to kill cancer cells

The synthesised derivatives have better efficacy in killing cancer cells

•Researchers at Kolkata’s the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (CSIR-IICB) and the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) have designed and synthesised about 25 quinoline derivatives that show potent anticancer activity. The compounds were tested in vitro against human Topoisomerase 1 (topo1) activity and their efficacy to kill cancer cells was carried out using breast, ovarian, cervical and colon cancer cell lines. The results of topo1 inhibition activity, cellular mechanisms and the cancer cell line studies carried out at IACS and the compounds designed and synthesised by IICB researcherswere publishedin the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry .

•“Preliminary data based on cell line studies suggest that the compounds from IICB might be effective against breast and colon cancer,” says Srijita Paul Chowdhuri from the School of Biological Sciences at IACS and one of the first authors of the paper.

•“The success of the project is due to the years immaculate design by going back-and-forth with our hypothesis through computational analysis followed by synthesis and X-ray crystallography even before the biological validation began,” says Biswajit Kundu from the Medicinal Chemistry Laboratory at IICB and one the first authors of the paper.

Essential enzyme

•Topoisomerase 1 is a fundamental enzyme that is essential for replication. DNA is in a supercoiled state and has to be unwound before replication can take place. For the DNA to uncoil, the topo1 enzyme has to first bind to the DNA and form a complex. Once the complex is formed, the topo1 enzyme cleaves one strand of the DNA thus allowing the DNA to uncoil. Once uncoiling is completed, the topo1 enzyme rejoins the cleaved DNA strand for replication to take place.

•Existing drugs and the quinoline derivatives synthesised by the IICB team have the ability to trap the complex thereby not freeing the topo1 to rejoin the cleaved DNA strand. As the number of trapped complexes in the DNA increases, the amount of free topo1 enzyme available to repair the cleaved DNA strand reduces. Also, other enzymes involved in replication and transcription (where DNA is converted into RNA) come and collide with the trapped topo1 and this causes more DNA breaks. As a result, replication gets affected leading to DNA break and cancer cell death.

•The mode of action of the existing drugs and the synthesised compounds is the same. The difference lies in the time the complexes remain trapped when the drugs or the synthesised compounds are used and therefore the ability to kill cancer cells.

•Compared with normal cells, topo1 enzyme is produced in far excess amount in cancer cells and so more complexes are formed. As a result, though topo1 enzyme is found even in normal cells, there is greater likelihood of the drugs specifically targeting the cancer cells.

•“The existing drugs bind to the complex and trap it only transiently. This is because the drugs can be easily removed by body fluids. So within about 20 minutes, all the DNA breaks are repaired,” says Dr. Benu Brata Das from the School of Biological Sciences and DBT-Wellcome India Alliance fellow at IACS and one of the corresponding authors of the paper. “So the existing drugs have less ability to kill cancer cells.”

Stable complex

•“The existing drugs are not metabolically stable and so become inactive very fast. So using the existing drugs, the complexes can be trapped only for a brief period,” says Dr. Arindam Talukdar from IICB and the other corresponding author. “But our compound can trap the complex for as long as five hours. All the 25 quinoline derivatives we synthesised show similar efficacy towards human topo1 inhibition.” The ability of the synthesised derivatives to trap the complex for a much longer time might translate into better efficacy in killing cancer cells.

•“The speciality of our compound is that they do not react with or bind to topo1 or the DNA when they are in isolation. They bind only when topo1 and the DNA form a complex. Thus, our designed compounds can be seen as targeted therapies,” says Dr. Talukdar.

πŸ“° Fast neutrino oscillations may hold key to supernovae formation

The oscillation is proportional to the density of neutrinos and not their masses

•Neutrinos could be the driving force behind supernova explosions, a new theoretical study from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research finds. The study which makes a fundamental advance in modelling neutrinos inside stars puts forth the idea that “fast neutrino oscillations” could hold the key to why some stars explode forming supernovae at the end of their lives.

•Neutrinos come in three flavours: electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino, so named because of the corresponding leptons they are associated with (electron, muon and tau). There are several puzzles they have posed, including how they are ordered according to mass and this puzzle still remains to be solved.

•Earlier when measuring the number of neutrinos coming from the sun, experimentalists found that only a third of the number of solar neutrinos that was expected was being intercepted on earth. This was later explained by the understanding that they have a small mass and they can change from one flavour to another – a phenomenon named neutrino oscillations.

•Fast neutrino oscillations are another phenomenon – When the same neutrinos are in the presence of many other neutrinos and when the different flavours are emitted slightly differently in various directions (anisotropy) the oscillations from one flavour to another happen at a higher frequency. This is called fast oscillation and is proportional to the density of neutrinos in the medium, and not the masses of the neutrinos.

•“Any star that collapses under its own gravity after having run out of its fusion fuel is called a supernova. Usually stars more massive than eight times the Sun’s mass enter this phase of explosive death,” explains Basudeb Dasgupta of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, one of the authors of the paper published in Physical Review Letters, in an email to The Hindu .

•He further explains that this has not been observed as it requires a large neutrino density and anisotropy, conditions that can be met only in the hearts of massive stars, neutron star collisions etc.

•“Our key advance is to treat neutrino collisions and oscillations self-consistently in a single calculation,” says Dr Dasgupta. In earlier work, it was assumed that high density and anisotropy conditions were put in by hand, while the neutrinos were assumed to travel in straight lines without colliding. In the present work the authors include collisions that lead to the high anisotropy conditions. They show how in the presence of collisions the fast oscillations take place. “This was technically very challenging and the first calculation of its kind. Our computer-based calculation took several days on a cluster of high performance computers,” he adds.

πŸ“° NBRI: Arsenic bioremediation using two soil bacteria

The bacteria increase bioavailability of metals, facilitate plant growth

•Using two indigenous strains of bacterium isolated from arsenic-contaminated field, researchers from CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (CSIR-NBRI), Lucknow and the University of Lucknow have shown that arsenic can be effectively removed from contaminated soil with the help of microbes.

•What adds value to these strains ( Bacillus flexus and Acinetobacter junii ) is the fact that they can promote plant growth too.

Different forms of arsenic

•Several studies have pointed out that using arsenic-contaminated water for agricultural purposes can lead to increased concentration of arsenic in fruits and grains, proving toxic to humans.

•The researchers studied the two bacteria under different concentrations of arsenate and arsenite, the toxic forms of heavy metal. Arsenic treatment did not stunt or delay the growth of both the bacterial strains.

•B. flexus exhibited resistance to high levels (150 mmol per litre) of arsenate andA. junii to about 70 mmol per litre of arsenite. This is higher than previously reported arsenic tolerant bacteria and so were regarded as hyper-tolerant strains.

•Further gene detection studies pointed out that both the bacteria have a special ars C gene, which aids in arsenic detoxification.

Plant growth promoters

•The bacterial strains were further scrutinised to understand if they can help in plant growth too. In studies carried out in the lab, both the bacteria were able to solubilise phosphorus. Phosphate solubilising bacteria have been reported to increase phytoavailability of phosphate, thus facilitating plant growth.

•These two bacterial strains were also found to produce siderophores and ACC deaminase enzyme. Siderophore increase the bioavailability of iron and other metal ions in polluted soil environment and ACC deaminase is a well known plant growth promoting enzyme.

•These bacteria can live symbiotically in the roots of plants in arsenic- contaminated soils and help them uptake the required nutrients without causing toxicity.

•The paper published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology notes that these indigenous strains demonstrated the “potential to accumulate arsenic within the cells and transform it into less phytotoxic forms, making the strains more proficient candidate for bioremediation”.

πŸ“° CCMB scientists sequence Asiatic lion genome

•For the first time, the entire genome of Asiatic lion, an endangered species, has been sequenced by scientists from CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

•De novo sequencing and annotation have resulted in a draft assembly of the entire genome of a male Asiatic lion. “This firsthand information would help us to better understand the evolution of Asiatic lions and also make possible comparative analysis with other big cats,” says Dr. Ajay Gaur, the lead author of the study, which was recently published online in BioRxiv, the pre-print website.

Comparitive study

•With the complete genome of royal Bengal tiger, African Cheetah and Jaguar available, comparative studies of all these big cats would be possible. He said only partial genomic information of the African lion was available now. Comparative genomics between African and Asiatic lions could be undertaken once the complete genome of the African lion is sequenced.

•The population of the endangered Asiatic lion is very low — only 523 animals are present in the Gir forests. The genome sequencing would enable scientists to develop specific markers to study population genetics (the differences at the gene level within a population) and get newer insights into its population status and subsequent management.

•Comparative analysis with other felids and mammalian genomes unravelled the evolutionary history of the Asiatic lion and its position among other felids. The study noted that the evaluation of genetic diversity placed the Asiatic lion in the lowest bracket of genomic diversity index highlighting the gravity of its conservation status.

•The genome is estimated to be 2.3 Gb (Gigabase) long and is found to have 20,543 protein-coding genes.

Multi-pronged approach

•Dr. Gaur says that they found several candidate genes which are up-regulated in Asiatic lion and a few of them were specific to males.

•As regards the crucial aspect of conservation of Asiatic lions, he says there is a need to adopt a multi-pronged approach and the study will enable better disease and population management of the endangered big cat by identifying characteristics which are specific to Asiatic lions.

•CCMB Director, Dr. Rakesh Mishra says candidate genes which are specific to Asiatic lion can be identified by comparing with other big cats. The final objective is to understand the species at DNA level and study if there are any specific problems with regard to adaptability to environment or behaviour vis-Γ -vis other big cats.

πŸ“° Obesity rising faster in rural areas

•Obesity is increasing more rapidly in the world’s rural areas than in cities, according to a study of global trends in BMI.

•The study, published in the Nature , analysed the height and weight data of over 112 million adults across urban and rural areas of 200 countries.

•The study found that from 1985 to 2017, BMI rose by an average of 2 kg/m2 in women and 2.2 kg/m2 in men globally, equivalent to each person becoming five to six kg heavier.

•“The results of this study overturn commonly held perceptions that more people living in cities is the main cause of the global rise in obesity,” said Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial’s School of Public Health. “This means that we need to rethink how we tackle this global health problem.”

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