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 Fiftieth 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)


Australia suspends its extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to new Chinese Law
Australia has suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong over the new controversial national security law imposed by China on the region. Prime Minister Scott Morrison centered the reason behind this move by showing his concern at the imposition of the Chinese law, adding that it “undermines the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.” The new legislation targets what authorities in mainland China define as secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. Read MoreThose violating the law could face up to life in prison. Morrison offered safe haven visas to Hong Kong residents who fear persecution as well as a “pathway to permanent residency” in Australia. The Australian government has decided to extend visas for Hong Kong nationals who are in Australia on skilled or student visas for five years. At the end of that time period, they can apply for permanent residency. The plans apply to both current and future students. Australia’s announcement followed similar moves by other countries in the wake of China’s new security law, China heavily criticized Australia’s decision, dubbing the move a “gross interference” in its affairs.

India and the European Union (EU) to hold 15th bilateral Summit
India and the European Union (EU) are set to hold their 15th bilateral Summit via video conference. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will represent India while the EU will be represented by President of the European Council Charles Michel, and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Summit will review India-EU cooperation covering political & security relations, trade & investment and economic cooperation” and “is also expected to discuss developments around the Covid-19 pandemic and contemporary global matters of interest to both sides”. Read MoreEU sources said the Summit will be an opportunity to strengthen the EU-India Strategic Partnership, based on “shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights, aiming at delivering concrete benefits for the people in the EU and India”. Bilateral, regional, and global issues are expected to be discussed and that “leaders are expected to “discuss (bilateral) cooperation in security, climate, environment, trade, and investment, digital economy, and connectivity”. The 14th India-EU Summit was held on 6 October 2017 in New Delhi while the 15th Summit was to have been originally held in the Belgian Capital Brussels in March this year but was postponed due to the COVID pandemic.

 Sachin Pilot no longer Deputy Chief Minister and Pradesh Congress Committee President
The Congress on Tuesday sacked Sachin Pilot as the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan and the president of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) amid political crisis. Along with him, two ministers of the rebel camp, Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena have also been dropped from the cabinet.Read More The Congress party has accused BJP of a conspiracy to dethrone the democratically elected state government and held Pilot a part of it. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot alleged that BJP wanted to repeat its act of Madhya Pradesh, where the Kamal Nath government collapsed. He further added that ample opportunities were given to the ministers to attend the CLP meeting on Monday and Tuesday, but they chose not to. In response to the situation, Pilot tweeted, “Truth can be harassed, but not defeated”. Govind Singh Dotsara, the State Education Minister, replaced Sachin Pilot as the new president of Rajasthan Congress Chief.

Nepali PM Oli accuses India of creating artificial Ayodhya, says real Ayodhya is in Nepal
After giving several controversial remarks in the previous months, Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has now accused India of creating an artificial Ayodhya, birthplace of Lord Ram, and further addressed Lord Ram as Nepali. Speaking on the 206th birth anniversary of first Nepali poet Bhanu Bhakta Acharya, Oli claimed that Ayodhya lies in Nepal. Read MoreHe claimed that Ayodhya was a village that lies to the west to the town of Birgunj, in the Parsa district of Nepal. He added that facts have been twisted and fake Ayodhya has been created by India. He argued that Lord Ram could not travel from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh to Janakpur in Nepal to marry Sita in an era where there were no means of communication. The Foreign Ministry of Nepal has clarified that the PM’s remarks were not linked to any political subject and had no aim to hurt the sentiment of any individual. It added that the remarks were not made to debase the significance of Ayodhya and its cultural value.

Society and Culture

Ministry of Skill Development launches ASEEM portal
The Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has launched the artificial intelligence (AI)-based Atma Nirbhar Skilled Employee-Employer Mapping or ASEEM portal. The digital platform will help the skilled workforce find suitable and sustainable job opportunities. Read MoreThe portal is expected to bridge the demand and supply gap in the skilled workforce market by improving the information flow. The AI-based platform has also been envisioned to help strengthen the career path of the skilled workforce by guiding them as they attain industry-relevant skills. The government job portal will be mapping workers based on their regions so that it can meet the demand for skilled workers in local industries. ASEEM will also help employers assess the availability of a skilled workforce and make informed decisions while crafting their hiring plans. Additionally, ASEEM will also be providing real-time information to job seekers by identifying relevant skill requirements and related employment opportunities. The portal was launched by Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

The Maldives and Sri Lanka, first two countries in WHO SEAR to eliminate measles and rubella ahead of the deadline
Recently, the Maldives and Sri Lanka have become the first two countries in the World Health Organisation’s South-East Asian Region (WHO SEAR) to have eliminated both measles and rubella ahead of the 2023 deadline. The announcement came after the 5th meeting of the SEAR Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination comprising 11 independent international experts in the fields of epidemiology, virology, and public health. Read MoreA country is verified as having eliminated measles and rubella when there is no evidence of endemic transmission of the respective viruses for over three years in the presence of a well-performing surveillance system. In September 2019, member countries of WHO SEAR set 2023 as the target for the elimination of measles and rubella.

U.S. rescinds student visa rule after a challenge by Harvard, MIT, and other universities
The Trump administration has rescinded its controversial decision on foreign student’s visas that required international students to leave the country or make transfers to offline mode of education if they were pursuing an entirely online course for the coming semester to avoid being deported amid the coronavirus pandemic. Read MoreThis comes after Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), along with other institutions sought legal action against the decision and asked the court to block the order. 17 states and the District of Columbia also filed their lawsuits and argued that the decision was a politically motivated move that was aimed at convincing people of recovery from the pandemic by holding in-person classes. Since there are more than a million international students in the U.S., universities believe that the order will harm students financially as well as personally. 

Sudan bans FGM, also scraps alcohol ban for Non-Muslims and apostasy law
Sudan has scrapped the apostasy law, abolished the use of public flogging, and allowed Non-Muslims to drink alcohol in its wide-reaching reforms. Sudan had already banned Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) earlier. This comes after ruler Omar Al-Bashir was driven out of power the previous year. Read MoreThe Justice Minister of Sudan said the country will drop all laws that violate human rights. However, the ban on Muslims to consume alcohol is still intact and Non-Muslims will be punished if found drinking with Muslims. Earlier an individual could be given the death penalty, however, after the scrapping of apostasy law, any individual can now renounce his/her religion. According to the new laws, women can now travel with their children without seeking any permission from a male relative. This announcement was followed after thousands of people took to streets asking for greater civilian rule and faster reforms.

Science and Technology

Recently discovered comet C/2020 F3 makes its closest approach to the Earth
Nasa’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission discovered an icy visitor on March 27, 2020, using its two infrared channels, which are sensitive to the heat signatures given off by the object as the Sun started to turn up the heat. This visitor, a comet, has been named by Nasa as C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. Read MoreThe comet made its once-in-our-lifetimes close approach to the Sun in July 2020 and will cross outside Earth’s orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system by mid-August. The comet cruised inside Mercury’s orbit in July. This very close passage by the Sun is cooking the comet’s outermost layers, causing gas and dust to erupt off the icy surface and creating a large tail of debris yet the comet has managed to survive this intense roasting. July 14 onwards, the comet will be visible in the evening sky and can be seen with the naked eye. The comet will be visible every evening for about 20 minutes for the next 20 days from 14th July.

Partial supernova’ blasts white dwarf star across the Milky Way
A new study has found that a strange white dwarf star hurtling through the Milky Way may be the survivor of a “partial supernova,” Previous research found that white dwarfs usually have internal structures arranged in layers. However, in a new study, scientists zeroed in on the white dwarf SDSS J1240+6710, located about 1,430 light-years from Earth. Discovered in 2015, prior work found this white dwarf had an unusual atmosphere that seemed to possess neither hydrogen nor helium but instead was composed of a weird mix of oxygen, neon, magnesium, and silicon. Read MoreResearchers in this new study used the Hubble Space Telescope to take a closer look at the white dwarf and they identified carbon, sodium, and aluminum in the object’s atmosphere. This mix sets this white dwarf apart from any other previously known, they said. In this study, the scientists also found that the white dwarf was traveling about 560,000 miles per hour (900,000 kilometers per hour) in the opposite direction of the way the galaxy is rotating. Moreover, it had an especially low mass for a white dwarf- only about 40% of the mass of our sun. Future research could also explore whether astronomers may have already detected the brief dim flashes of light Gänsicke and his colleagues suspect are linked with this kind of strange white dwarf.

NASA – Japan sign agreement for ISS and Artemis Program
NASA and the Japanese government have signed a Joint Exploration Declaration of Intent (JEDI) focusing on plans for cooperation on the continuing partnership regarding International Space Station (ISS) and NASA’s Artemis program. This also includes missions to the lunar surface and lunar space. The agreement was signed between the NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, and Japanese Minister, Koichi Haguida in a virtual summit. Read MoreJEDI focuses on laying down the groundwork on how the two will work on projects that include human and robotic exploration of the moon. Artemis program aims at landing the first woman and next man at the lunar South Pole region by 2024 and establishing lunar surface exploration with international and commercial partners by 2028. NASA is in talks with all ISS partners, Canada, Europe, and Russia to be a part of the Artemis Program to return astronauts to the moon in the coming future.

Scientists detect a new kind of ‘Ringing’ in Earth’s atmosphere
A new study has detected a type of sky waves around Earth. The gravitational action of the moon which is responsible for causing tidal waves, also pulls our atmosphere creating waves in the sky. These waves can resonate around the Earth much like the sound waves inside a bell. The authors after having a detailed analysis observed atmospheric pressure every hour for 38 years which revealed the presence of predicted wave modes. Read MoreThe waves are originated by the introduction of energy which displaces certain particles and creates a collective movement. These waves can be recognized by looking for moving pockets of more tightly packed air. When waves travel at the right speed and height, they create resonance after coming in tune with the atmosphere. The study also found a difference between predicted and observed frequencies which is believed to be caused by Doppler Shift.

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