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-Eigthth 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

The U.S. Sets Visa Restrictions on China Officials Over Tibet Policy
The U.S. has imposed travel restrictions on Chinese officials determined to be “substantially involved” in restricting access to Tibet. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo stated that Beijing has continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas by U.S. diplomats and other officials, journalists, and tourists, while Chinese officials and other citizens enjoy far greater access to the USA. Read MoreThus, the US announced visa restrictions on Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party officials suspected to be substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas. The statement didn’t identify the officials who were subject to the new restrictions. Yet the move is the latest example of the rapid erosion of U.S.-China ties as the world’s two largest economies exchange charges over who’s to blame for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. escalates criticism of the Beijing government’s crackdown in Hong Kong and its treatment of Muslim Uighurs. Last month, the U.S. designated four Chinese media companies as “foreign missions,” doubling down on its strategy that’s aimed at calling attention to President Xi Jinping’s strict controls over news organizations. In response, China ordered more American news outlets to declare their finances and staff. China’s authority over Tibet has long been an irritant in U.S.-China relations, with support

Donald Trump administration signals formal withdrawal from WHO, effective 6 July 2021
The Donald Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations that the United States will withdraw from the World Health Organisation, a move that would cut off one of the largest sources of funding from the premier global health organisation in the middle of a pandemic. The United States’ notice of withdrawal, effective 6 July 2021, has been submitted to the UN secretary-general, who is the depository for the WHO. Read MoreThe departure would take effect sometime next year, should the United States meet established conditions of giving a one-year notice and fulfilling its current financial obligations. The notification completes a threat that President Donald Trump began making months ago, as the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States mounted and Trump sought to blame the Chinese government for not doing enough to stop the spread of the disease. Trump has accused Beijing of hiding the true scope of infections from the WHO, targeting the agency in the process. The United States played a central role in creating the WHO in 1948 and has since been one of its largest sources of financial support. The biennial budget for the WHO is about $6 billion, which comes from member countries around the world. In 2019, the last year for which figures were available, the United States contributed about $553 million.

Amid global tensions, US sends two Aircraft Carriers to the South China Sea for exercises
Two US aircraft carriers, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz conducted exercises in the international waters of the South China Sea. This comes after China carried out military drills near the Paracel Islands that are claimed by both China and Vietnam. The two aircraft carriers are 1 Lakh ton ships, much larger than Chinese aircraft carriers, and each carries around 90 aircraft. Read MoreWhile the exact location of the exercise was not specified, the U.S. Navy stressed on a free and open Indo-Pacific. According to Admiral George M. Wikoff, the entire purpose of the exercise was to send a strong signal that the US is “committed to regional security and stability” of its allies. China dismissed all criticism on its drills and instead accused the United States of rising tensions. Despite opposition and protests from many countries, China claims around 9/10th of the South China Sea through which trade worth $3 trillion passes each year.

Russian President Putin to stay in power until 2036
Russian President, Vladimir Putin is all set to stay in power until 2036 after voters backed a referendum on constitutional changes that allowed him to remain as president. Putin was to step down in 2024 after completion of his six-year term, but with 78% votes for a “yes”, among the 65% of eligible voters that voted, he is to stay in power for a couple of more terms post-2024. While some groups argued that the vote was flawed and illegal, Kremlin addressed Putin’s win as a triumph. Read MoreThe referendum was to be held on 22nd April but was postponed in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On the results, Putin said that people felt in hearts that the amendment was what the country needed. Putin earlier stepped down when the two-term limit was completed and became prime minister for a term from 2008-2012. However, he had almost entire control over the presidency during this period.


Society and Culture

Expat quota bill set to impact 8 lakh Indian foreign workers in Kuwait
Kuwait’s National Assembly approved a draft expat quota bill seeking to reduce the number of foreign workers in the Gulf country, putting in jeopardy the status of eight lakh Indians in the Gulf country. According to the bill, Indians, currently, the largest expat community in Kuwait with a population of 1.45 million, should not exceed 15 percent of the population. Read MoreThe current population of Kuwait is 4.3 million, with Kuwaitis making up 1.3 million of the population and the expats account for 3 million. The draft bill has been approved a month after Kuwait’s Prime minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah proposed reducing the number of expats from 70 percent to 30 percent of the population. According to the Indian embassy in Kuwait, there are about 28,000 Indians working for the Kuwaiti Government in various jobs like nurses, engineers in national oil companies and a few as scientists. The majority of Indians (5.23 lakh) are deployed in private sectors. In addition, there are about 1.16 lakh dependents. Out of these, there are about 60,000 Indian students studying in 23 Indian schools in the country. Kuwait is a top source of remittances for India. In 2018, India received nearly US $4.8 billion from Kuwait as remittances.

Centre Gets a Month to Grant Permanent Commission to Women Officers
The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave one more month to the Centre to implement its verdict on giving permanent commission to all the Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers in the Army. A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said that the Centre will have to comply with all its directions given in its verdict. Read MoreThe top court’s direction came on an application filed by the Centre seeking an extension for six months to implement the verdict given the COVID-19 pandemic. In a landmark verdict on February 17, the top court had directed that women officers in the Army must be granted permanent commission and command postings. The Supreme Court rejected the Centre’s stand of physiological limitations of women since it was based on “sex stereotypes” and “gender discrimination against women”. The Supreme Court had directed the Centre that within three months, all serving (SSC) women officers have to be considered for Permanent Commissions (PCs) irrespective of the completion of 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.

The U.K. imposes sanctions on 49 human right abusers under New Global Human Rights Regime
The U.K. has sanctioned 47 people and 2 entities for violation of human rights in recent years under the New UK only regime. 25 Russians involved in the death of a Russian Lawyer, 2 Myanmar army officials involved in barbarity against Rohingya Muslims, 20 Saudi nationals involved in the death of a journalist and 2 organizations involved in forced labor in North Korea’s gulags make up the 49 that will be banned from entering the country and witness their assets being seized. Read MoreThey will no longer be able to benefit from the British economy. Foreign Secretary of the U.K., Dominic Raab said that the regime will allow the country to target worldwide rather than being country-specific. He added that the move sent a clear message to the violators. Since the first list includes more than two dozen Russians, Russia has threatened to retaliate with similar measures based on reciprocity.

Indian Railways sets up a solar power plant in Madhya Pradesh to run trains
Indian Railways has set up a solar power plant in Madhya Pradesh’s Bina that can generate close to 1.7 megawatts of electricity. This energy will be a step towards reducing pollution as it will be used to run trains. The power plant has been set up as a pilot project in association with Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL). Read MoreThe specialty of the plant is that 25,000 volts of electricity will be generated, which will be fed on the overhead power lines of Railways to power the pulling system of locomotives. According to railway officials, it is the first time when solar power will be used to run trains. Solar power today is being used for electricity requirements of stations, colonies, and offices. Foundation for the project was laid in last November and testing started last month. Railways estimate to save Rs. 1.37 crore annually from the plant in the power bill.

Science and Technology

Earth’s annual e-waste could grow to 75 million metric tons by 2030
The planet’s hefty pile of discarded electronics is getting a lot heavier, a new report finds. In 2014, the world collectively tossed an estimated 44.4 million metric tons of unwanted “e-waste” battery-powered or plug-tethered devices such as laptops, smartphones and televisions. By 2030, that number is projected to grow to about 74.7 million tons, according to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2020. That’s roughly equivalent to eight times the weight of China’s Three Gorges Dam. Read MoreThe findings come from a partnership formed in 2017 between the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, the International Solid Waste Association, and other groups to track the accumulation of electronic debris. The projected e-waste for 2020 and other future years doesn’t include any economic consequences that might be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher consumption rates of electronics, as well as shorter life cycles for many devices, are contributing to the rapid pileup. And most people also are not properly and safely recycling their devices, the report found. Of the 53.6 million tons of e-waste generated in 2019, only 9.3 million tons, or 17.4 percent, were recycled. E-waste also contains so many valuable recoverable metals, such as iron, copper, and gold, that it essentially represents an “urban mine,” the report states. The value of the raw materials in 2019’s e-waste could be as much as $57 billion — only about $10 billion of which was recovered through recycling.

A newfound exoplanet may be the exposed core of a gas giant
A dense, scorched planet around a faraway star may be the naked core of a gas giant. Satellite and Earth-based telescope observations show that the newly discovered exoplanet has a radius of nearly 3.5 times Earth’s and a mass of about 39 times as big. Those dimensions combined point to a density roughly the same as Earth’s, suggesting that the exoplanet is mostly rock.Read More Unlike other massive planets, this world, called TOI 849b, has a barely-there atmosphere, making up 4 percent of its mass at most, a new study suggests. Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, the team spotted TOI 849b as it passed in front of a sunlike star about 734 light-years away. Follow-up observations with the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile revealed the planet’s mass, which is more than twice that of Neptune. Combining those observations with the planet’s inferred volume showed that TOI 849b is the densest planet of its size discovered so far. The exoplanet whips around the star once every 18 hours, orbiting so close that its surface sizzles around 1500° Celsius. That puts it in a rare class: Most planets that lie so close to their stars are Jupiter-sized and larger, or Earth-sized and smaller. The exoplanet’s thin atmosphere might be gases released from inside the planet itself. Looking at the spectrum of starlight filtering through that atmosphere with future space telescopes could reveal what the planet is made of.

 Hundreds of scientists urge WHO to recognize the airborne spread of coronavirus
239 scientists from 32 countries have outlined the possibility of airborne spread of the novel coronavirus. They have urged WHO to take the possibility seriously and revise the existing recommendations. In an open letter, the scientists outlined evidence that they believe shows floating virus particles that can infect when someone breathes them in. Read MoreWHO has pointed out that they have several times considered airborne transmission as a possibility but the evidence is not convincing enough, as is the case this time with the evidence from 239 scientists. According to earlier guidelines, WHO has said that COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small respiratory droplets which once expelled from the nose or mouth during coughing, sneezing, or speaking fall on the floor quickly.

Magnetic Field of Earth may change 10 times faster than earlier believed, says study
According to a study by the University of Leeds and the University of California, changes in the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field may happen 10 times faster than what was previously believed. The magnetic field of Earth is maintained and generated by convective flow of molten metal which forms the outer core. Read MoreAccording to the researchers, the fastest variation currently recorded is up to 1 degree per year. Researchers combined the computer simulations with the reconstruction of time variations in the magnetic field of Earth spanning the last 100,000 years to obtain their result. A sharp change in the geomagnetic field direction of 2.5 degrees per year was observed from 39,000 years ago. This is faster than that was earlier believed. The study is significant as it provides information on the influence of the movement of iron from 2800 kilometers below the surface on the magnetic field for thousands of years.

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