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18 June Current Affairs

India joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence

In News:

India joined the Global Partnership of Artificial Intelligence as a founding member.

Details:

The other leading member countries that joined along with India are UK, USA, European Union, Australia, France, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Italy, Republic of Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, etc. The Gee-Pay or GPAI-Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence is a multi-stake holder initiative that will guide development of Artificial Intelligence.

About GPAI:

The GPAI is the first initiative of its kind that will help to understand the opportunities and challenges of Artificial Intelligence better. The GPAI will into opportunities to bridge the gaps between theories of AI and AI supported researches to increase AI-related priorities.

India:

India had recently launched the National AI Strategy and National AI portal. It has leveraged AI across various sectors such as education, health care, agriculture, E-Commerce, telecommunications, finance, etc. Therefore, by joining GPAI, India with its experience shall help in global development of AI.

The main problem of AI is that it greatly affects labour population as a good developed AI system reduces work force. Being a populated country, India launces its AI related initiative addressing this issue of AI. Every AI initiative of India including the recently launched National AI strategy includes this problem and aims to develop AI considering its impacts on labour force.

SIPRI Yearbook: Nuclear Weapons of India and China increases

In News:

The Swedish think-tank launched the SIPRI Yearbook, 2020.According to the yearbook, India and China have increased their nuclear arsenal as compared to 2019.

Key findings:

The think tank also reports that China is modernizing its nuclear arsenal. China and Pakistan as compared to India have more nuclear warheads.

The Think tank has listed the following:

  • India has 150 nuclear war heads
  • China had 290 and Pakistan has around 150 to 160 nuclear war heads.

India:

The report says that India is expanding its nuclear weapon stock pile and nuclear infrastructure. Aircrafts are the most mature component of nuclear strike capability of India. India has assigned 48 nuclear bombs to its aircrafts. India is also developing naval component of its nuclear triad.

China:

The think tank says that China is developing the nuclear triad for the first time. It has made new sea-based missiles and nuclear capable aircrafts. The country has assigned over 240 war heads to operate its land and sea based ballistic missiles. Also, China has adopted a nuclear strategy for its self defence.

Findings of SIPRI:

According to SIPRI, the nine major nuclear armed states of the world include US, UK, Russia, France, India, Pakistan, China, North Korea and Israel. These countries together possessed 13,400 nuclear weapons in the beginning of 2020. However, this has decreased to 13,865 nuclear weapons as compared to 2019. Of these 3,720 nuclear weapons are currently deployed and 1,800 are kept in high operational alert.

The reduction in the number of nuclear weapons as compare to 2019 was mainly because of the dismantlement of retired nuclear weapons by Russia and US. US and Russia alone possess 90% of world nuclear weapons.

Rapid Antigen Test Kits recommended

In News:

The Indian Council of Medical Research recommended the use of Rapid Antigen test kits along with RT-PCR in containment zones.

Details:

The Antigen test kits will allow faster diagnosis. They will reduce laboratory examination. The maximum time taken by the Rapid antigen test to interpret positive or negative is 30 minutes.

Recommendations of ICMR:

According to ICMR, individuals that test negative to COVID-19 in rapid antigen test should be tested with RT-PCR. On the other hand, individuals testing positive under the rapid antigen test are considered to be positive.

Antigen Test Kits:

The Antigen Test kits were developed by a South Korea based company SD Biosensor.

Why SD Biosensor kit was chosen?

The USFDA had earlier authorized US based antigen kit called sofia 2 SARS Antigen kit. Also, Japan had authorized the Fujirebio’s Antigen test kit. However, with tests and analysis conducted by AIIMS and ICMR, India was satisfied with the performance of SD Biosensor antigen kit. The selection was done based on the specificity and sensitivity of the kits.

The specificity of the test is 99.3% to 100%. The sensitivity of the test ranged between 50.6% and 84%.

What is Antigen test?

Just like the RT-PCR test of COVID-19, the antigen testing also looks for virus rather than the antibodies. Antigens are foreign substances that induce immune system in the body.

What is the plan?

The Antigen Test is to be used in three categories as follows:

  • Persons showing influenza like symptoms
  • Asymptomatic patients hospitalized for the treatment of malignant disease, immunosuppressed patients, transplant patients, etc.
  • Asymptomatic patients undergoing aerosol and surgical interventions such as surgical procedures, dialysis and bronchoscopy.

Limitations of Antigen test:

According USFDA, the antigen testing is not as sensitive as that of RT-PCR testing. The sample collected for COVID-19 testing stays stable only for an hour. Therefore, its is essential to conduct the antigen testing at the  site of sample collection.

India to supply Pneumonia Vaccine to low-income nations

In News:

The Pune based Serum Institute of India is to supply Pneumonia vaccine to low-income countries. The Institute is one of the leading manufacturers of vaccines and immunobiological drugs.

Details:

The Serum Institute of India and UNICEF have signed an agreement to supply pneumonia vaccine to low income countries. Under the agreement, the institutes are to provide 10 million Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine that will help prevent pneumonia to low income countries every year.

GAVI Alliance:

The Serum Institute of India along with UNICEF and GAVI alliance are to supply the vaccine at 2 USD per does. This is 43% less than GAVI price of 3.50 USD under the Advance Market Commitment

Advance Market Commitment:

Under Advance Market Commitment, the GAVI alliance provided incentives to the pharmaceutical companies to develop and produce suitable vaccines. This was done to provide sustainable prices to the vaccines.

The AMC was launched in 2009. It has so far prevented deaths of 700,000 children in 60 developing countries. The AMC programme is set to end this year (2020). The programme was launched by Canada, UK, Russia, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Norway.

Background:

Pneumonia is the biggest killer of children in the world that takes the life of a child every 39 seconds.

750 million USD loan approved by AIIB to India

In News:

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) approved 750 million USD loan to India. The fund granted is to be used by the GoI to strengthen battle against the impact of COVID-19 on the poor and vulnerable.

Details:

The aid was cofinanced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The funds are to be used for improving informal sector, safety nets for the needy and strengthen heath care system of the country.

India and AIIB:

The total sovereign loans to India that were already approved by AIIB amounts to 3.6 billion USD. This includes the recent emergency response of the bank that amounted to 500 million USD.

The loan allocated is the second for the country under AIIB COVID-19 Crisis Recovery Facility (CRF).

Crisis Recovery Facility:

The AIIB does not have an exclusive policy-based financing. The bank is currently extending its support to its members through projects under CRF that are cofinanced either with the World Bank or ADB.

The CRF was set up with an initial investment of 5 billion USD. Later it was doubled to 10 billion USD in order to make sure the funds are available to the member countries to fulfill their financial, economic and public health pressures.

The AIIB has in total approved 4.05 billion USD under CRF. Of this, China received 355 million USD, 750 million USD to Indonesia and Philippines each, 250 million USD to Bangladesh and 500 million USD to Pakistan.

High Court seeks EIA on Lonar lake colour change

In News:

The Bombay High court recently sought report on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Lonar lake from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and GSI (Geographical Survey of India).

Details:

The expert team from Geographical Survey of India and NEERI are to examine the findings of glass formation on the surface of the lake.

Lonar Lake:

The Lonar Lake in Maharashtra is an oval shaped lake that was formed by a meteorite hit on the earth around 50,000 years ago. The colour of the lake had recently turned pink. The area around the lake is an eco-sensitive zone as it consists of the Ejecta Blanket that is made up of the same material as that found on the moon.

The lake is a National Geo-Heritage monument.

National Geo-Heritage Monument:

The National Geo-Heritage Monument areas of national importance and are notified under Geological Survey of India for protection, maintenance, promotion and enhancement of geotourism. There are 34 National Geo-Heritage Monuments in India. The respective state governments are responsible to protect these sites.

Why did the lake turn pink?

Experts believe that the Lonar lake turned pink due to increased salinity in the water and also due to the presence of algae. The amount of water in the lake has reduced thereby increasing its salinity and turning the lake pink.