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

(By Ankita Punjani, Mehak Gupta and Divyansh Gupta)

Politics

G7 Summit amidst COVID-19
The President of the USA made an announcement to host the 46th G7 summit in-person instead of remotely by video conference. Originally, the annual G7 summit was scheduled to be held on June 10 to June 12, 2020 in Camp David, United States. Donald Trump has said he may seek to revive a face-to-face meeting of Group of Seven leaders near Washington, after earlier cancelling the gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic. Read MoreInternally the G7 has a number of disagreements, e.g. clash of the USA with other members over taxes on imports and action on climate change. The organisation has also been criticised for not reflecting the current state of global politics or economics. There are no G7 members from Africa, Latin America or the southern hemisphere. It is also facing a challenge from fast-growing emerging economies, like India and Brazil are not members of the G7. Amidst the COVID19 Pandemic drastically affecting the world policies, economies and all the other affairs, meeting of the top political leaders holds paramount importance.

Indo-Nepalese Border Dispute
Recently, Nepal has released a new political map that claims Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh of Uttarakhand as part of Nepal’s territory. The area of Susta (West Champaran district, Bihar) can also be noted in the new map. India has rejected the new map of Nepal saying that Nepal’s new map involves artificial enlargement of territories, which is not based on historical facts and evidence. Read MoreIndian officials stated that Nepal’s act is an unilateral act and is contrary to the bilateral understanding to resolve the outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue. India has also urged the Government of Nepal to refrain from such an unjustified cartographic assertion and respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and has asked Nepal to return to dialogue. Nepal’s move came after India’ Defence Minister recently inaugurated a motorable link road that connects India and China, significantly reducing the time of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. The road passes through territory at the Lipulekh pass that Nepal claims as its own territory.

Increased Chinese transgression concerns India
Recently, there has been a marked increase in the number of Chinese transgressions across the disputed India-China border in Ladakh. In Ladakh, a surge of 75% have been observed in 2019 compared to 2018 and the first four months of 2020 have also witnessed an increase compared to 2019. The border between India and China is not fully demarcated and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is neither clarified nor confirmed by the two countries. Read MoreThis leads to different perceptions of the LAC for the two sides while soldiers from either side try to patrol the area. Official data shows that 80% of Chinese transgressions across the LAC since 2015 have taken place in four locations of which three are in eastern Ladakh in the western sector. India is worried about the tensions at Naku La in Sikkim and at Galwan river and Pangong Tso in Ladakh.The increased transgressions lead to more tensions between both countries which are already struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Recently, Chinese media accused India of building defence facilities in the Galwan Valley region of the contested Aksai Chin area. On 1st April, 2020 India and China completed their 70 years of diplomatic relations.

Kim Jong Un aims to strengthen North Korea’s nuclear force
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened a key military meeting to discuss bolstering the country’s nuclear arsenal and putting its armed forces on high alert, state media reported Sunday, in Kim’s first known public appearance in about 20 days. Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation, the Korean Central News Agency said. Read MoreKim said he would unveil “a new strategic weapon” and would no longer be bound by a self- imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

Virtual rallies, conferences is how BJP plans to celebrate first anniversary of Modi Govt 2.0
To mark the completion of the first year of BJP-led government in its second term in office on May 30, the party is planning to hold over 1,000 virtual conferences by national and state leaders, who will deliver a letter written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his resolve to make ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ and suggestions to combat the virus. Read MoreThe party is also planning 750 “rallies through video-conferencing” to take achievements of the government to people. The virtual rallies will be held all over the country. They will also hold 150 press conferences at media centres in a week.

China likely to face US sanctions over Hong Kong national security bill
China’s latest move to introduce national security legislation in Hong Kong-a semi-autonomous city that was guaranteed its own legal system and certain democratic freedoms until 2047 under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework has sent shockwaves across the world. A US Government official said that it could lead to sanctions from the United States and threaten the city’s status as a financial hub. Read MoreNational Security Adviser Robert O’Brien predicted if the bill is passed it would result in ‘brain drain’ of Hong Kong residents. He also added that as a consequence US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would likely be unable to certify that the city maintains a “high degree” of autonomy.


Society and Culture

Star Rating of Garbage Free Cities of India
Recently, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MOHUA) has announced the results of the Star Rating of Garbage Free Cities for the assessment year 2019-2020. A total of six cities have been certified as 5-Star, 65 cities as 3-Star and 70 cities as 1-Star.The 5-Star cities include Ambikapur (Chattisgarh), Surat and Rajkot (Gujarat), Indore (Madhya Pradesh) and Navi Mumbai (Maharashtra). The Star Rating Protocol was launched by the Ministry in 2018 to institutionalize a mechanism for cities to achieve Garbage Free status, and to motivate cities to achieve higher degrees of sustainable cleanliness. Read MoreIt is one of the various initiatives which intends to make Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) as a successful project. It is based on 12 parameters which follow a SMART framework – Single metric, Measurable, Achievable, Rigorous verification mechanism and Targeted towards outcomes. It is a comprehensive framework that assesses cities across 24 different components of Solid Waste Management (SWM) and is graded based on overall marks received.

Unique interactive audio games spreading public health messages in many countries
With Covid-19 infecting almost 5 million people and killing more than 300,000, in a bid to flatten the curve in the global south, a new game has been developed. The format is based on the popular “choose-your-own-adventure” tales of the 1980s, and it can be played on a basic cell phone without internet access. The game, named “Wanji”, is being played in local dialects in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Madagascar and Nepal, where many people survive hand-to-mouth and health systems are already fragile but mobile phones are ubiquitous. Read MoreTo get started, players call a toll-free number, which offers information via interactive voice response (IVR) technology. They’re presented with a life-or-death scenario. Like “You are shopping and your eyes begin to itch. Should you rub them or resist touching them? Press 1 to rub them with your finger. Press 3 to resist.” The wrong choice – and the press of the wrong button on their phone – not only ends the game, but has catastrophic (virtual) consequences for the player and their family. The game has been created by non-profit Peripheral Vision International (PVI) and mobile communications provider Viamo. The two organisations had previously created similar games, which were played in rural and remote parts of Africa and Asia, with themes centred around trafficking, farming, domestic violence and sex education. They’d been well-received, with 771,000 unique callers in the first nine months of 2019, and the platform being used by The British Council, UNFPA and BBC Media Action. With more funds, it’s hoped that PVI will soon launch the games in Rwanda, Niger and Mali. Meanwhile partners are coming on board in Cambodia, Indonesia and other countries to launch similar projects adapted to the needs of the local populations.

High stress related to coronavirus is the new normal for many parents
Nearly half of parents of children under age 18 say their stress levels related to the coronavirus pandemic are high, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA). For many parents, it is overwhelming to face competing demands at home and work along with possible financial challenges during this unprecedented crisis. Read MoreWith schools closed and many parents working from home while coordinating their children’s schedules, 71% of parents say managing online learning for their children is a significant source of stress. We need to prepare for the long-term implications of the collective trauma facing the population, APA’s chief executive Evans said.

Two billion people without proper sanitation at high risk for coronavirus
Without access to soap and clean water, more than 2 billion people in low- and middle-income nations which form a quarter of the world’s population have a greater likelihood of acquiring and transmitting the coronavirus than those in wealthy countries. More than 50% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania lacked access to effective handwashing, according to the study published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Read MoreIn Nigeria, China, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Indonesia, more than 50 million persons in each were estimated to be without access to clean water and soap

Science and Technology

Long-term data show hurricanes are getting stronger
According to a new study by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centre for Environmental Information and University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, who analysed nearly 40 years of hurricane satellite imagery, research has revealed that In almost every region of the world where hurricanes form, their maximum sustained winds are getting stronger and a warming planet may be fuelling the increase. Read MoreTo increase confidence in the results, the researchers extended the study to include global hurricane data from 1979-2017. Using analytical techniques, including the CIMSS Advanced Dvorak Technique that relies on infrared temperature measurements from geostationary satellites to estimate hurricane intensity, scientists were able to create a more uniform data set with which to identify trends. In 2018, same scientists demonstrated that hurricanes are moving more slowly across land due to changes in Earth’s climate. This has resulted in greater flood risks as storms hover over cities and other areas, often for extended periods of time.

Scientists fear that up to 220 million people globally may be at risk of arsenic-contaminated water
As many as 220 million people around the world may be at risk of drinking arsenic-contaminated groundwater, a new study finds. Combining climate, environmental and geologic data with machine learning, researchers made a global map that predicts where groundwater arsenic concentrations are likely to exceed 10 micrograms per liter, a safe drinking water limit set by the World Health Organization. Arsenic is present in trace amounts in many different types of soil and rock. Read MoreIt becomes harmful to people when it leaches out of these soils and into groundwater, which can occur due to a variety of chemical processes. Long-term exposure can lead to skin lesions and cancer. Scientists have previously identified many hot spots of arsenic contamination in groundwater, including regions of Bangladesh, Argentina and Vietnam however data on groundwater arsenic are lacking for many other regions. The newly released arsenic water map shows many of the expected hot spots for arsenic contamination, particularly in Asia and South America. It also highlights possible elevated risk in less well-studied regions, including central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Mongolia, a broad swath of countries around the Sahara as well as in the Arctic.

Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, believe scientists
Earth’s magnetic field is weakening in an area between Africa and South America, termed as the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’, scientists with The European Space Agency (ESA) say. This field forms the Earth’s magnetosphere and spans tens of thousands of kilometres into space. It is causing technical disturbances in satellites orbiting Earth. Read MoreThe findings are consistent with recent studies asserting that the earth’s north magnetic pole is slowly moving towards Siberia. The Swarm satellite constellation is playing a crucial role in recording and monitoring these changes. Unlike geographical poles, that are stationery, the earth’s magnetic poles continue to wander.

 Scientists for the first time spot an alien planet as it is being formed
Astronomers are observing for the first time within a huge disk of dense gas and dust surrounding a newly formed star a planet in the process of being born. This large young planet is forming around a star called AB Aurigae that is about 2.4 times the mass of the sun and located in our Milky Way galaxy 520 light years from Earth, researchers said. Read MoreThe scientists used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to spot a “twist” pattern of gas and dust in the spiral structure marking where the planet was coalescing. The planet is located about 30 times further from its star than Earth’s distance from the sun.

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