The First Forum is an initiative which focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu with the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast changing world.
In the Twentieth Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following:
1. Politics
2. Society and Culture 
3. Science and Technology

(By Shruti Jha, Nikunj Gulati, Kanika)


AAP’s Raghav Chadha tweets against the UP CM Yogi Aditynath
An FIR has been registered against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Raghav Chadha for allegedly defaming UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath in an objectionable tweet. A Supreme Court advocate Prashant Patel filed a complaint against him. Taking to social media Chadha tweeted, “According to sources, Yogi is getting migrants going from Delhi to UP beaten up. Read MoreHe is saying why did you people go to Delhi and you will not be allowed to go to Delhi again. My appeal to the UP government is not to do this and not to increase problems in this difficult hour.” The tweet was later removed as it was considered as a deliberate act to create panic among the people who are going to their native places at this difficult time. Chadha released a statement saying, ” It is surprising that in such a situation (the COVID-19 outbreak) the UP police has used its energies to register a baseless FIR against me in Noida at the behest of some known political operations”.

Milind Deora says no time for politics
The Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Kapil Sibal attacked the centre for its inept handling of the COVID-19 threat and the exodus of the migrant labourers, the party leader Milind Deora said that this is no time for politics.  Deora wrote on Twitter, “Now it’s not time for petty and partisan politicking about which government responded when and how effectively. Read MoreWe should work unitedly with laser focus to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and treat the infected regardless of their economic background”. He compared the current crisis with the 14th-century plague, which originated from China and travelled through the silk route to Europe and killed millions of people. He said that social distancing was a cruel luxury and nationwide lockdown was imperative. PM Narendra Modi during his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ apologised for taking harsh steps to fight COVID-19 outbreak and asked people to maintain social distancing.

Xi Jinping offers help to Donald Trump in combating Coronavirus
Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered President Donald Trump China’s support in fighting coronavirus as it spreads rapidly through the US during a phone call as he called for the US to improve relations. Xi’s offers came after the number of cases in the US overtook those in China. During the call, Xi said China had shared information about the epidemic with the WHO and other countries. Read MoreEarlier this month a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing also suggested in a tweet that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan. This prompted Trump to accuse China of spreading the misinformation, and the US President repeatedly attacked China’s lack of transparency and the slowness of its initial response to the outbreak. Trump sounded a positive tone tweeting that he had a “very good connection” with Xi and that both leaders discussed the pandemic “in great detail”. “China has been through much and has developed a strong understanding of the virus. We are working closely together. Much respect” he wrote.

EU warns Hungary not to flout democracy with coronavirus laws
The European Union warns Hungary on Tuesday that emergency measures adopted by its nationalist government to fight the coronavirus crisis must not undercut democracy. Hungary’s parliament on Monday granted Prime Minister Viktor Orban an open-ended right to rule by decree and introduced jail sentences for anyone hindering measures to curb the spread of the virus or spreading false information about the pandemic. Read More“It is of utmost importance that emergency measures are not at the expense of our fundamental principles and values … democracy cannot work without free and independent media,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Any emergency measures must be limited to what is necessary and strictly proportionate. They must not last indefinitely … governments must make sure that such measures are subject to regular scrutiny,” she said in a statement. The Commission, the EU’s executive body, said it would analyse Hungary’s law and monitor its implementation. Hungary has already raised the Commission’s hackles by expanding state control over the media, academics and rights groups. Orban, a fierce nationalist who has gradually strengthened his power over a decade in office, has used legal levers, ownership changes and advertising money to create more loyal media coverage. Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the law was “congruent with the [EU] treaties and Hungarian constitution, and targeted exclusively at fighting the coronavirus. Both Poland and Hungary – formerly communist countries on the EU’s eastern flank – are involved in running battles with Brussels, which accuses them of undermining the EU’s basic democratic principles. Liberal EU legislators from the Renew Europe faction allied to French President Emmanuel Macron derided the bloc’s failure to safeguard checks and balances in Hungary after years of tussles that have mostly failed to make Orban change tack.

Society and Culture

Centre ask the state government to stop migration during the lockdown
Thousands of migrant workers from metro cities especially Delhi started moving towards their native villages soon after PM Narendra Modi announced the 21 days lockdown. “You fear the disease, but I fear hunger more, not corona”, said one of the migrant workers fleeing from the national capital to his hometown in Uttar Pradesh. Read MoreThe Centre asked the state government and Union Territory administrations to effectively steal States and Districts borders to stop the movement of workers during the lockdown. Only the movement of goods should be allowed. The massive migration has posed a huge risk of coronavirus spread and threatens to defeat the purpose of the lockdown. The Centre has urged the States to provide food and shelter to the migrant workers. And also issued orders for the use of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for this purpose. States have been also told to ensure timely payment of wages to labourers at their place of work during the period of lockdown without any cut. Houses rent should not be demanded by the workers for this period. Action should be taken who are asking to vacate the premises.

Coronavirus in India: Tablighi Jamaat meet turns Covid-19 super spreader
On March 31, the administration of Andaman and Nicobar Islands said 10 people had tested positive for Coronavirus. On March 30, six deaths related to Coronavirus were reported from Telangana. A few days before this, on March 26, a businessman died in Srinagar after battling with Coronavirus for many days. The common thread binding all these otherwise unrelated incidents, apart from the virus, is that all the victims had recently attended prayer gatherings organised by the Tablighi Jamaat – a global Islamic evangelical movement of Indian origin – at a six-storey building in South Delhi’s Nizamuddin West area. Read MoreAs the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the country reached 1,397, the gathering of preachers since early March at the building, known as the Markaz or International Headquarters of the Jamaat, has become what many call a ‘SuperSpreader’, leaving a trail of infection and death from Kashmir to the Andamans. At least 10 people present at the Markaz anytime in the first two weeks of March have succumbed to the disease. When reports last came in, more than a 100 attendees, including 50 in Tamil Nadu, 24 in Delhi, 18 in Kashmir, 15 fresh in Telangana and nine in Andaman and Nicobar had tested positive for the disease. Not to mention hundreds of others who have been sent to quarantine facilities across the country on suspicion of Coronavirus.

No plan to extend the lockdown period, says cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba
India is currently under a 21 days lockdown as announced by PM Narendra Modi on March 24. The nationwide lockdown will continue till April 14. However, there have been many floating rumours that this lockdown may be extended. Dispelling these false reports, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba said that there are no plans to extend the lockdown period beyond 21 days. Read More“I’m surprised to see such reports, there is no such plan of extending the lockdown,” he said. Press Information Bureau, the Nodal agency for communicating to the media on behalf of the Government of India, clarified the same through the tweet. The total count of COVID-19 cases in India has crossed the 1,000 marks (and 27 deaths) as of March 30.

Maharashtra, Telangana CMs announced the pay cut of all government employees
In a bid to assist the state in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Maharashtra government announced a 60 per cent cut in March salaries of the Chief Minister, all other ministers, MLAs, MLC and representatives of local governing bodies. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar said the decision has been taken consultation with Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and various unions of employees. Read MoreHe said that I hope the public representatives will cooperate with the state finance department as strong financial support is required for the state in this ongoing fight against coronavirus. And the similar move made by Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao announced that his salary would be cut by 74 per cent and the state ministers and members of legislative (MLAs) will also face a three – fourth salary cut.

Science and Technology

Orion Spacecraft Returns to Kennedy Space Center for Final Preparations
NASA’s Orion spacecraft for Artemis I returned to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 25 after engineers put it through the rigors of environmental testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. At Kennedy, the spacecraft will undergo final processing and preparations prior to launching on the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to the exploration of Mars. Read MoreThe spacecraft arrived in Ohio during the fall of 2019, where two phases of testing occurred inside the world’s largest space simulation vacuum chamber. First, the spacecraft demonstrated it could handle the extreme temperatures of space during thermal vacuum testing, simulating sunlight and shadow Orion will encounter during flight. During this test, the spacecraft was exposed to temperatures ranging from -250 to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, an electromagnetic interference and compatibility test verified all of Orion’s electronics work correctly when operating simultaneously and in the electromagnetic environments it will encounter during its mission.

NASA Prepares Powerful Xenon Thruster for Asteroid Redirection Mission
After undergoing a series of performance and environmental tests, NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C) is being prepared for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission, which will launch next year. In the past few months, the thruster, developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and designed and built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, was put through vibration, thermal vacuum and performance tests and then integrated with its power processing unit. Read MoreThe environmental testing verified that NEXT-C could withstand the extreme launch vibrations and temperatures of spaceflight. DART will be the first space mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection by kinetic impact, a technique that could prevent a hazardous asteroid from impacting Earth by changing the motion of the asteroid in space. NEXT-C’s propulsion system will be tested on that mission, along with several other technologies. When the propulsion system is successfully demonstrated on DART, NEXT-C will be considered on a variety of 10 to 15 year-long, uncrewed missions that could include going to other asteroids, comets or planets such as Venus.

Quantum Sensor Covering Entire Radio Frequency Spectrum Created by Army Scientists
A quantum sensor could give Soldiers a way to detect communication signals over the entire radio frequency spectrum, from 0 to 100 GHz, said researchers from the Army. Such wide spectral coverage by a single antenna is impossible with a traditional receiver system and would require multiple systems of individual antennas, amplifiers, and other components. Read MoreTo assess potential applications, Army scientists conducted an analysis of the Rydberg sensor’s sensitivity to oscillating electric fields over an enormous range of frequencies — from 0 to 1012 Hertz. The results show that the Rydberg sensor can reliably detect signals over the entire spectrum and compare favorably with other established electric field sensor technologies, such as electro-optic crystals and dipole antenna-coupled passive electronics. Another major advantage of these sensors is that these new sensors can be very small and virtually undetectable, giving Soldiers a disruptive advantage.

MIT Aims to Turn Wi-Fi Signals Into Usable Power With Energy-Harvesting Design
Any device that sends out a Wi-Fi signal also emits terahertz waves —electromagnetic waves with a frequency somewhere between microwaves and infrared light. These high-frequency radiation waves, known as “T-rays,” are also produced by almost anything that registers a temperature, including our own bodies and the inanimate objects around us. Read MoreImagine, for instance, a cellphone add-on that passively soaks up ambient T-rays and uses their energy to charge your phone. Now physicists at MIT have come up with a blueprint for a device they believe would be able to convert ambient terahertz waves into a direct current, a form of electricity that powers many household electronics. Their design takes advantage of the quantum mechanical or atomic behavior of the carbon material graphene by combining it with boron nitride, the electrons in graphene should skew their motion toward a common direction. Any incoming terahertz waves should “shuttle” graphene’s electrons, like so many tiny air traffic controllers, to flow through the material in a single direction, as a direct current thus being a great potential source of portable electricity supply in future.

New Protection for US Energy Grid and Nuclear Weapons Systems
To deter attempts to disable U.S. electrical utilities and to defend U.S. nuclear weapon systems from evolving technological threats, Sandia National Laboratories has begun two multiyear initiatives to strengthen U.S. responses. One is focused on defending large U.S. electrical utility systems from potential attacks by hostile nations, as well as from damage inflicted by extreme natural disasters like hurricanes and solar flares. Read MoreThe Resilient Energy Systems campaign, a multi-year research portfolio with up to $40 million in total funding, is supported by Sandia’s LDRD program, which funds exploratory work in science and technology. The second research campaign is developing enabling technical capabilities to help the U.S. maintain its strategic nuclear deterrent. The Assured Survivability and Agility with Pulsed Power research campaign is a multi-year portfolio. The mission portfolio is intended to explore technologies that use brief but powerful bursts of electrical energy to simulate nuclear explosions — without resorting to actual nuclear tests — to better understand their impact on electronics and materials. Additional benefits from both mission portfolios are expected to include more efficient electrical generation, more accurate data for astrophysicists, and a closer approach to break-even and even high-yield fusion.

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