The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Forty Second 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, Ayush Harlalka, and Divyansh Gupta)

Politics

UN accuses Iran of attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Tehran denies
The United Nations on Friday said that it had determined that Iran was the source for several items in two shipments of arms seized by the United States and for debris left by attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations and an international airport, according to a new report. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said some of the items seized by the US in November 2019 and February 2020 were identical or similar to those found after the cruise missiles and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2019.Read More The secretary-general was reporting on the implementation of the 2015 resolution enshrining the nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It includes restrictions that took effect on Jan. 16, 2016, on transfers to or from Iran of nuclear and ballistic missile material as well as arms. The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the resolution’s implementation on June 30, and the U.S. is expected to press for the UN arms embargo against Iran, which is part of it, to be extended indefinitely before it expires in October. Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report and said in the statement that the UN might have prepared the report under the “political pressures” of the United States.

Maharashtra government inks MOUs worth Rs 16,000 crore with 12 companies
In order to restart the economy which has taken a hit by coronavirus pandemic, the Maharashtra government on Monday signed MoUs worth Rs 16,000 crore with companies spanning various industries, including two Chinese units, under its “Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0” initiative. The companies are from diverse sectors like automobile, logistics, banking, engineering, and mobile production, a state government official said. Read MoreThe aim is to facilitate all the companies that are willing to set up their plants in various parts of Maharashtra. The prime focus would be on the fact that the companies face no hurdles in setting up their units. The business pacts were signed by Industries Minister Subhash Desai of the Shiv Sena on behalf of the state government. The total investment is Rs 16,030 crore. The MOU signing was part of the ‘Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0’ initiative and it was the first such program after Thackeray became CM last November.

Russia to avoid joining G-7 without China
Konstantin Kosachev, who is the chair of Russia’s Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs and an influential parliamentarian from the ruling party, United Russia, pointed out that Russia will not be a part of G7 expansion provided that the expansion is aimed at isolating and building a strong position against China. Read MoreUS President Donald Trump has invited India, South Korea, Russia, and Australia to be a part of G7. The parliamentarian said that the decision was problematic as these nations will be mere witnesses without any influence on decision making. The lawmaker further added that the invite is more focused on the exclusion of China. The anti-Chinese campaign by the US is bound to bring Russia and China closer.

Nepal passes Second Constitution Amendment Bill
Nepal’s Lower House of Parliament, The House of Representatives, passed the Second Constitution Amendment Bill to update its new political map in its national emblem. Out of the casted 258 votes, all the votes were in favor of the Bill being passed. The new political map of Nepal claims the disputed territory of Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura. Read MoreThe Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) claimed that the artificial enlargement of claims by Nepal is not based on any historical evidence or fact and is not tenable. Lack of ample information on the actual point of origin of the Kali River is the main reason behind the territorial dispute between both countries. The bill however needs to be endorsed by the National Assembly and authenticated by the President of Nepal to come into effect.


Society and Culture

Duterte Critic and Journalist Maria Ressa Found Guilty of ‘Libel’
The head of a Philippine news website known for its tough scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte was convicted of libel and faces a lengthy jail term in what is being seen as a blow to media freedom in the country. Maria Ressa, chief executive of Rappler (www.rappler.com) and a former CNN journalist, was charged with “cyber libel” over a 2012 article that linked a businessman to illegal activities. Ressa, a dual US-Filipino citizen, faced up to six years in jail, the judgment states. Read MoreThe verdict comes after the telecoms regulator last month caused widespread shock by shutting down the country’s leading broadcaster ABS-CBN Corp, which had regularly criticized Duterte after its license expired. President Duterte is also expected to sign into law soon an anti-terrorism bill, which activists fear could be used to suppress free speech and harass those challenging the government. The administration has said the bill is modeled on those used in countries that had dealt effectively with extremism. The Philippines slipped two places in the World Press Freedom Index to 136 this year out of 180 countries, down from 134 in 2019

Law Forbidding Workplace Discrimination Applies to LGBT Too, US Supreme Court Rules
The US Supreme Court on Monday delivered a watershed victory for LGBT rights, ruling that a landmark federal law forbidding workplace discrimination protects gay and transgender employees. The 6:3 verdict represented the biggest moment for LGBT rights in the United States since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. In the new ruling, the justices decided that gay and transgender people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin, and religion. Read MoreThe ruling was authored by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017. Chief Justice John Roberts, another conservative, along with the court’s four liberal justices, joined Gorsuch’s opinion. Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented from the ruling. The court ruled in two consolidated cases about gay people who have said they were fired due to their sexual orientation. One involved a former county child welfare services coordinator from Georgia named Gerald Bostock. The other involved a New York skydiving instructor named Donald Zarda who died after the litigation began, with the matter then pursued by his estate. Trump’s Justice Department reversed the government’s position taken under Democratic former President Barack Obama that Title VII covered sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lonar Lake turns pink
Water in the crater formed Lonar Lake in Buldhana district of Maharashtra has turned pink in a mysterious manner. The 50000 years old lake spread over an area of 3.66 sq. km is famous as the world’s largest basaltic impact crater. According to locals, it is not the first time that the bluish-green color of the lake has changed to pinkish-red shade. However, the intensity this time is much larger than earlier. Read MoreThe water has a pH level of 10.5 and his highly alkaline. Some scientists regard the increased presence of algae and higher alkalinity as the reason behind the pinkish red shade. The Bombay High Court has asked the Geological Survey of India and NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) to submit their reports in this matter.

Johnson forms the commission to tackle racism
Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new cross-governmental commission to tackle all forms of inequality including racism in the United Kingdom. This decision came in response after the UK witnessed thousands of protesters in the “Black Lives Matter” movement that erupted following the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis. Read MoreThe commission will look after racism in employment, health needs, academic opportunities, and all other day to day activities. The Prime Minister has not yet revealed the details of the make-up, remit and timetable of the new commission. It will be managed by the UK Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch and some independent members. Public evidence session and legislation is also expected to follow after the commission begins working.

Science and Technology

NASA picks a lander to carry its water-hunting robot to the moon
Space robotics company Astrobotic will carry a water-hunting rover to the Moon in late 2023, NASA announced. Which rocket will launch the commercial mission is still being decided, but the golf-cart sized rover will head down to the Moon’s surface using an Astrobotic lunar lander. NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, will hunt for water ice at the lunar south pole and try to figure out how much water is lurking in permanently shadowed craters in the region. NASA wants to map out where water is, in the hopes that it could extract water for future missions. Read MoreAstrobotic was chosen from a pool of other commercial providers as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. CLPS is designed to help NASA send payloads to the Moon in support of the agency’s Artemis program, which aims to put the first woman on the Moon by 2024. The VIPER rover will ride down to the lunar surface on Astrobotic’s Griffin lander, a lander that’s six feet tall and nearly 15 feet across. Once it lands, the solar-powered rover will start a 100-day mission. Researchers plan to cover about 12 miles with VIPER, and it’ll use a drill to try to locate and map out water resources on the Moon. Unlike Mars rovers, VIPER can be directly controlled by operators from Earth, allowing them to explore the area in near real-time. Since it will be exploring shadowed spaces, VIPER will be the first rover to feature headlights.

FDA approves the first prescription video game for kids with ADHD
Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRX, formerly Project EVO, is the first video game that can legally be marketed and prescribed as medicine in the US. The landmark decision from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is authorizing doctors to prescribe the iPhone and iPad game for kids between ages eight and 12 years old with ADHD after it underwent seven years of clinical trials that studied over 600 children to figure out whether a game could actually make a difference. Read MoreImprovements in ADHD impairments following a month of treatment with EndeavorRx were maintained for up to a month,” the company cites, with the most common side effects being frustration and headache — seemingly mild compared to traditional drugs, as you’d hope from so-called virtual medicine. Nintendo also tried to create a Wii Vitality Sensor back in 2009 but ended up shelving the project by 2013.

Unidentified structures Found near Earth’s Core
Thousands of recordings of seismic waves traveling through the Earth were analyzed by Geophysicists from the University of Maryland which revealed echoes from the boundary between molten core and solid mantle. Echoes revealed more widespread areas of dense, hot rock (heterogeneous structures) at the boundary than estimated earlier. Read MoreThe sound waves from 1990-2018 of earthquakes of 6.5 magnitudes and greater in the Pacific Ocean basin were fed into a machine learning algorithm named Sequencer that analyzed the waves similar to bats’ use of sonar. A totally new perspective has been attained by looking at the bigger picture instead of focusing on a few sound waves at a time, according to Doyeon Kim, the lead author.

Astronomers spot green glow around Mars
European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted an emerald glow in the Red planet’s atmosphere. The glow is believed to come from oxygen atoms that get charged up by sunlight. Predictions say that the emissions have existed around Mars for more than 40 years, however, it is the first time such a phenomenon has been detected beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. According to Dr. Manish Patel, co-author of the study, the glow is different from that of Earth and is able to tell the thickness of the atmosphere around Mars. Read MoreThe green oxygen glow was present at all heights that the team scanned between 20-400 kilometers of the atmosphere. The light was strongest at the 80 km mark and varied with the planet’s distance from the sun.

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