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 Thirty Fourth Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Society and Culture 
3. Science and Technology

(By Gunika Vij, Ashika Deb and Shitij Goyal)

Politics

Nepal approves new map incorporating Kalapani, Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh
Nepal’s Cabinet has endorsed a new political map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura under its territory, amidst a border dispute with India. The move announced by Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali came weeks after he said that efforts were on to resolve the border issue with India through diplomatic initiatives. The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Read MoreBoth India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory – India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of the Dharchula district. Gyawali last week summoned the Indian Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra and handed over a diplomatic note to him to protest against the construction of a key road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand. India has said that the recently-inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand lies completely within its territory. The new map includes 335-km land area including Limpiyadhura in the Nepalese territory. The new map was drawn based on the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 signed between Nepal and then the British India government and other relevant documents, which suggests Limpiyadhura, from where the Kali river originated, is Nepal’s border with India, The Kathmandu Post quoted an official at the Ministry of Land Reform and Management as saying. President Bidhya Bhandari, addressing Parliament last week, reiterated that Limpiyadhura, Kalapani, and Lipulekh belong to Nepal and appropriate diplomatic measures will be adopted to resolve the existing issues with India.

India among 10 nations elected to WHO’s Executive Board
India was on Tuesday elected to the WHO’s Executive Board for a period of three years. Botswana, Colombia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Oman, Republic of Korea, Russia and the UK are the other nations elected to the Executive Board. The WHO Executive Board is comprised of 34 individuals technically qualified in the health sector designated by member states which are elected by the World Health Assembly. The Board holds two meetings annually- the first one in January and a shorter meeting in May immediately after the World Health Assembly. Read MoreThe principal functions of the Executive Board is to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and to facilitate its work. Currently, Dr. Hiroki Nakatani of Japan is the Chairman of the WHO Executive Board. On May 22, 2020, the 147th session of the Board shall be conducted where the election of the chair, vice-chairs, and rapporteurs will take place. 

Kerala, Telangana Slam Centre’s Financial Package for States amid Coronavirus Lockdown
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the five-phased financial package announcements by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had nothing for the public healthcare sector. During this pandemic situation, a substantial public healthcare package was required, he told reporters. Read More“Many international agencies have pointed out that the package will cost an additional Rs 1.5 lakh crore from the central budget this year. Even if we add free ration and direct cash transfer to ordinary people, it would not have been five per cent of the total package”, he said. The bulk of the Rs 20 lakh crore was the amount made available to banks as part of the RBI’s monetary policy and the amount that these banks are expected to pay to farmers and small businesses, he said. The government will take immediate steps to make maximum use of the credit facilities announced by the central government for MSMEs. While welcoming the increase in borrowing limit of states from three to five per cent of the GDP, he said the pre-conditions laid down by the Centre, however, were not acceptable in the federal set up.

Telangana slams package as well
Telangana Chief Minister K Chadrasekhar Rao described the union government’s stimulation package as bogus and it is a jugglery of the numbers. Rao said the Union government had announced Rs 20 lakh crores as support, but the amount is not even Rs 1 lakh crore in reality. Read More“Money should get into the hands of the states. They should not treat the states as a beggars. The Centre is trying to seize the powers of the states,” he said. Rao slammed the Centre for increasing the Fiscal Responsibility and Business Management (FRBM) by 2% with “ridiculous” conditions amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Covid-19: Second Brazilian health minister resigns, says prez in denial
Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich has resigned after being in office for less than a month, even as the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge in the country. Teich became the second Brazilian health minister to resign after replacing Nelson Mandetta, who was at odds with Bolsonaro’s decisions regarding social distancing measures, The New York Times reported.Read More “Life is made up of choices, and today I chose to leave,” Teich was quoted as saying by NYT. “I didn’t accept the job for the position itself. I accepted it because I thought I could help the country and its people,” he said. Although Teich did not give a reason for his resignation, he did not shy away from rebuking President Jair Bolsonaro. ” I am disappointed by a president who denies reality,” he said. As he announced his decision to step down, he warned the people of Brazil that the country was not ready to deal with the projected number of cases of the novel coronavirus.

Israel SC allows PM Netanyahu to form govt despite corruption charges
Israel Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government despite having corruption charges against him. The court unanimously rejected petitions that sought to disqualify Netanyahu because he faces prosecution on felony corruption charges, The New York Times reported. The court has also declined to block the unusual power-sharing between Netanyahu struck and Benny Gantz, the former army chief. Read MoreThe two agreed to swap roles after 18 months. Netanyahu will take oath on May 13. The decision will also Netanyahu to be sworn in for a fourth straight term, his fifth total even after his opponents won a majority in the most recent election. This comes weeks before a trial against Netanyahu on the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges is set to begin on May 24. Their agreement calls for a narrow focus on issues related to the coronavirus at first, with one exception: Their government may take up the annexation of land in the occupied West Bank, a long-sought goal of the Israeli right, as early as July. As per the deal, Netanyahu will remain the Prime Minister for 18 months and Gantz will take over the reins in a rotation deal that will be bound by country’s laws. Until then, Gantz will serve as Israel’s Defence Minister and Blue and White Party member Gabi Ashkenazi will serve as the country’s Foreign Minister.


Society and Culture

Chennai Aanganwadis
Aaganwadis play a crucial role in the Indian childcare system, these are located in the rural areas of the country and form a part of the integrated childcare services. Two of these aaganwadis located in Chennai have got a recent make over in terms of both visual appeal and security patches. Read MoreThe initiative was undertaken jointly by the Greater Chennai Corporation and the Federal Bank. Although the work was put to a halt due to the recent lockdown, the organization has again called for artists to engage in planning for the work if not physical work. The plan includes not only the cleanup and repaint that began in March, but a host of additions including fencing, water purifiers, warm lighting, farmpreneur sessions, and of course, items to play with.

Calligrapher’s of Old Delhi
They are the proud carriers of a heritage and a lineage that goes back centuries, but to our utter dismay only the last of them now remain in Old Delhi. The once stars of the vernacular press, which relied on Katibs to transcribe material for newspapers and magazines, now forsee the end of an era. Arabic calligraphy (Khat) is held in high regard by Muslims because of its association with the Holy Quran. Read MoreMost Katibs learn both Arabic and Urdu calligraphy as the scripts are similar, though the latter often deals with non-religious subjects. The computerisation of print media even though provided livelihood to many it also took away the jobs of artists and craftsmen like those of the calligraphers of Old Delhi. The art of calligraphy requires years of practise and precision, these craftsmen are still sought out by lawyers and other professionals to decipher text written in Urdu, but the lockdown has taken away that ray of hope too!

Yoga in times of COVID-19
While the cure or vaccine of COVID-19 has yet not been developed, people all across the globe have been coming up with home remedies, they claim to work, to cure the virus. While almost all of these have been denied by the medical experts one remedy or practise they support and suggest everyone do without fail is- ‘yoga’. Read MoreIt helps improve the body’s immunity level which the doctors claim is the only way till now to fight the virus. And just like everything else, people and the masses have realised that yoga holds an immense business opportunity. And hence, yoga has gone online, there are a number of youtube channels and other platforms that have come up with online yoga videos that help people become an expert at in the field.

Science and Technology

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine shows promise in early trials
This vaccine, first tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers. The data comes from eight people who took part in a 45-subject safety trial that kicked off in March. Their approach uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, a genetic molecule that cellular machinery reads in order to build proteins. In this case, the mRNA contains instructions for building the coronavirus’ spike protein. Read MoreThe vaccine induces human cells to make the spike protein. The immune system then makes antibodies to latch onto the spike proteins. The study tested three doses: 25 micrograms, 100 micrograms and 250 micrograms, measuring only one type of immunity. One person in the 100-microgram group developed redness at the injection site, and three people in the 250-microgram group developed some severe flulike symptoms, including muscle aches, headache and fatigue, after the second injection. Those symptoms could be cause for concern. The company has already gotten permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to go ahead with the second phase of human safety tests.

GPS like system for flexible medical robots
Roboticists at the University of California have developed a low-cost, highly efficient yet easy to use system to track the location of flexible surgical robots inside the human body. Unlike many current methods, this system doesn’t require exposure to radiation. The researchers embedded a magnet in the tip of a flexible robot that can be used in delicate places inside the body including but not limited to arterial passages inside the brain.Read More It has very little impact on its surroundings because the robot is soft and moves by growing. The researchers then used existing magnet localization methods, which work very much like GPS, to develop a computer model that predicts the robot’s location. The whole system costs just $100. Going a step further, they then trained a neural network to learn the difference between what the sensors were reading and what the model said the sensors should be reading. As a result, they improved localization accuracy to track the tip of the robot.

Fidget spinner device can diagnose UTIs
A new medical device can diagnose urinary tract infections (UTIs) in less than an hour without labs.  The device looks and performs almost exactly like a fidget spinner. The rapidly spinning a urine sample in the device will force the urine — but not any UTI-causing bacteria — through a thin membrane and if bacteria is present, it will interact with dye on the membrane to offer a diagnosis after just two spins and  within 45 minutes. Read MoreThe team of researchers found that in many cases, patients who went to a doctor for a UTI test were prescribed antibiotics while they were waiting for their results, even if those antibiotics wouldn’t help with a UTI. Such prescriptions can increase bacteria’s ability to resist and survive antibiotic treatments over time. It could help improve access to medical care in developing nations or underserved areas since it’s easy to operate.

Blind people can ‘see’ letters traced directly onto their brains
Scientists have developed a new way to create “sights” for blind people which is in essence like skywriting, but instead of blue sky, the letters are written on the brain itself. The new approach bypasses the eyes and delivers a sequence of electrical signals to the brain creating the perception of a glowing light tracing a shape. With more advancement, the method might one day restore aspects of vision to people with damaged eyes or optic nerves. Read MoreScientists have been able to create artificial vision by manipulating the brains of mice, but it has been slower in case of humans. Tiny jolts of electricity to the visual cortex can make a person “see” small bursts of light called phosphenes. Previous attempts to restore vision involved creating multiple phosphenes at the same time but they were hard to interpret. A clearer signal comes from using electricity as a stylus, essentially tracing lines onto the visual cortex with electric current. So far, the researchers have tested only simple shapes but outlines of common objects, such as faces, houses or cars, could be traced using the same idea.

Billions projected to suffer nearly unliveable heat in 2070
With every 1 degree Celsius increase in global average annual temperature about a billion people will end up in areas too warm to be habitable without cooling technology. In just 50 years, 2-3.5 billion people, mostly those who can’t afford air conditioning, will be living in a climate that historically has been too hot to handle. Read MoreThe number of people ending up at risk depends on how much heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions are reduced and how fast the world population grows. Under the worst-case scenarios for population growth and for carbon pollution, about 3.5 billion people will live in extremely hot areas. That’s a third of the projected 2070 population. But even in less severe scenarios, at least a billion people will suffer. This study conveys the urgency of taking up climate change measures. Currently about 20 million people live in places with an annual average temperature greater than 29 degrees Celsius. But as the world gets more crowded and warmer, large swaths of Africa, Asia, South America and Australia will likely be hotter. Impoverished places Nigeria — with a population expected to triple by the end of the century — would are less likely to be able to cope.

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