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30 April Current Affairs

USCIRF Annual Report

In News:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its annual report recently.

Details:

The report, released by the federal government commission that functions as an advisory body, placed India alongside countries, including China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

It has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report.

India was categorized as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing, this is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in this category.

“India took a sharp downward turn in 2019,” the commission noted in its report, which included specific concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register for Citizens, anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The commission also recommended that the U.S. government take stringent action against India under the “International Religious Freedom Act” (IRFA).

It called on the administration to “impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations”.

Global Terrorism Index (GTI)

In News:

Global Terrorism Index is released by Australian Think Tank Institute for Economics and peace.

Details:

The GTI report issued by the IEP is based primarily on the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, besides other sources.

India has moved to the seventh position from the previous year’s eighth in the annual Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2019.

The countries ahead of it are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia.

GTI scores are directly used in the Global Peace Index, the Global Slavery Report published by the Walk Free Foundation, and indirectly used in computing country scores in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness and Global Competitiveness Indices and compilation of Safe Cities Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Nano-Microbial Disinfectant

In News:

INST scientists find low-cost metal-free nanomaterial towards disinfection of garments under visible light exposure

Details:

It can be an alternative to silver and other metal-based materials.

A research team from the institute have tested carbon nitride quantum dots (g-CNQDs) for visible-light-driven antibacterial activity and found it to be efficient, apart from being biocompatible with mammalian cells, thus making it cost-effective.

Scientists have explained that aerosol droplets generated during sneezing have enough moisture that might help in reactive oxygen species (ROS) mediated disinfection of any infectious agents in the droplet, once it comes into contact with the nanomaterial sewn fabric under sunlight or ambient white light exposure.

According to the INST team, these nanomaterials possess enhanced biocidal activity attributed to larger surface area of g-CNQDs having more reactive sites and optical absorption both in the ultraviolet and visible region.

The g-CNQDs have the ability to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS).

The ROS rapidly interact and damage the immediately available biological macromolecules such as lipids present on the cell membrane or envelope and proteins present on the cellular surface, towards inactivation of the microorganism.

The mechanism of inactivation is non-specific to a particular pathogen, as lipid and protein are major components of the inhabitants of the microbial world.

The scientists are exploring ways of incorporating doped and undoped carbon nitride-based materials into cloth fabrics that can continuously produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) under optimal humidity and temperature for the antimicrobial activity.

Quantum Dots

In News:

Quantum dots (QDs) are man-made nanoscale crystals that that can transport electrons.

Details:

When UV light hits these semiconducting nanoparticles, they can emit light of various colors.

These artificial semiconductor nanoparticles that have found applications in composites, solar cells and fluorescent biological labels.

Electrons orbit the center of a single quantum dot similar to the way they orbit atoms, the charged particles can only occupy specific permitted energy levels.

At each energy level, an electron can occupy a range of possible positions in the dot, tracing out an orbit whose shape is determined by the rules of quantum theory.

A pair of coupled quantum dots can share an electron between them, forming a qubit.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have for the first time created and imaged a novel pair of quantum dots.

These are tiny islands of confined electric charge that act like interacting artificial atoms.

Such “coupled” quantum dots could serve as a robust quantum bit, or qubit, the fundamental unit of information for a quantum computer.

Moreover, the patterns of electric charge in the island can’t be fully explained by current models of quantum physics, offering an opportunity to investigate rich new physical phenomena in materials.

They could perform much larger, more complex operations than classical bits and have the potential to revolutionize computing.

The Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2020)

In News:

The Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2020) has been released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The centre is a part of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Key findings:

Displacements in India:

Nearly five million people were displaced in India in 2019 — the highest in the world so far.

The displacements in India were prompted by increased hazard intensity, high population and social and economic vulnerability.

More than 2.6 million people suffered displacement due to the southwest monsoon. 2019 was the seventh warmest year since 1901 in India; its monsoon was the wettest in 25 years.

Eight tropical storms hit in the year fuelling further destruction. These include Maha and Bulbul.

In addition to displacement due to natural disasters, over 19,000 conflicts and violence also prompted the phenomenon.

Unrests and communal violence triggered displacement in the second half of the year. For example, political and electoral violence, especially in Tripura and West Bengal, led to the displacement of more than 7,600 people.

Global scenario:

Globally, around 4 million people faced new internal displacements because of conflicts and disasters in about 145 countries in 2019.

Nearly three-quarters of the global displacements, accounting for 24.9 million of the total, were triggered by disasters in 2019. Out of these, about 95 per cent took place due to weather hazards like storms and floods.

A majority of conflict displacements took place due to armed conflict; communal violence accounted for significant portion of the global total of 8.5 million displacements.

Disaster displacement was recorded in low and high-income countries

Most of the disaster displacements were triggered by tropical storms and monsoon rains in South Asia and East Asia and Pacific.

Bangladesh, China, India and the Philippines each recorded more than four million displacements in 2019.

Conflict continued unabated in countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Syria. Violence increased sharply in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Natural disasters in Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen forced many people, already displaced by conflict, to flee for the second time.

Study on China dams brings the Brahmaputra into focus

In News:

China’s upstream activities along the Mekong River have long been contentious — but a recent study has sparked fresh scrutiny over its dam-building exercises, reigniting warnings that millions of livelihoods could be destroyed.

Details:

The US funded study was carried out by research and consulting firm, Eyes on Earth.

The report was published by the UN-backed Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership, and the Lower Mekong Initiative — a multinational partnership of the U.S. with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Key findings and observations:

China built its first dam on the upper Mekong in the 1990s and currently runs 11 dams along the river. The country has plans to build more dams, which are used to generate hydropower.

These dams are holding back large amounts of water upstream on the Mekong, which exacerbated a severe drought in the Southeast Asian countries downstream last year.

Some of those dams have compounded the alteration of the river’s natural flow, resulting in the Lower Mekong recording some of its lowest river levels ever throughout most of the year.

China’s dam management is causing erratic and devastating changes in water levels down stream.

Unexpected dam releases caused rapid rises in river level that have devastated communities downstream, causing millions in damage shocking the river’s ecological processes.

 

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