Date: 5/7/2019

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  • The era of doctors prescribing patients powerful antibiotics while they wait for lab reports could soon be numbered, with a new device returning results within minutes instead of days.
  • It was invented by a team at Penn State university and described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 6th May.
  • Co-developed by Pak Kin Wong, a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, the device uses microtechnology to trap single bacteria cells that can then be viewed under an electron microscope.
  • The approach allows clinicians to determine in as little as 30 minutes whether bacteria is present and its susceptibility to drug treatment as opposed to the three-to-five days such lab work currently takes.
  • "However, over 75 per cent of urine specimens sent to a clinical microbiology laboratory are negative. Rapidly ruling out or confirming the presence of bacteria at a clinically relevant concentration will dramatically enhance patient care.
  • " He added that the team had applied for a provisional patent and could bring their device, which they hope to scale down in size so that it can be used in hospitals and doctors' offices, to market in three years' time.
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  • US President Donald Trump on 6th May bestowed Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honour, describing the golfer as "one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports."
  • Woods, 43, is only the fourth and the youngest golfer ever to have received the highest American civilian award. Calling Woods, "a global symbol of American excellence, devotion and drive," the president said, "Tiger's determination and work ethic drove golf to new heights of athletic competition and popularity."
  • In his remarks, Trump praised Woods as "one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports." Trump said, "we were in the presence of a true legend" who is "also a great person, a great guy". "We can't wait to see what's next, Tiger," said Trump, an avid golfer and owner of several golf courses around the world.
  • Woods choked up as he thanked his mother, his two children, his girlfriend and his caddy during the ceremony on Monday in the White House Rose Garden.
  • Woods's Masters victory was his 15th major championship, during which he weathered a marital infidelity scandal that ended in divorce, a debilitating spine injury, an addiction to prescription painkillers and grave doubts about his athletic longevity.
  • Trump has long been a fan and recently, a business partner of Woods. He announced his decision to give the award to Woods in a tweet, after Woods won the Masters tournament last month, his first major title since the 2008 US Open, capping a remarkable comeback from personal turmoil and physical injuries.
  • Trump praised Woods' "relentless will to win, win, win". "These qualities embody the American spirit of pushing boundaries and defying limits," Trump said.
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  • India and the United States have agreed to strengthen economic co-operation and bilateral trade by ensuring greater collaboration amongst stakeholders, including government, businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • A bilateral trade meeting was held between the two countries in New Delhi on 6th May. Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu and US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross co-chaired the meeting.
  • An official release said, both leaders appreciated the strong, robust and growing bilateral ties across the entire spectrum of trade and commerce.
  • Both sides also expressed satisfaction over
  • last year's progress, with bilateral trade in Goods and Services registering a growth of 12.6 per cent.
  • India and US also discussed various outstanding trade issues.
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  • German prosecutors have imposed a fine of 535 million euros ($598.99 million) on German luxury carmaker Porsche AG for neglecting supervisory obligations linked to diesel emissions cheating, they said in a statement on Tuesday.
  • Prosecutors in the southern city of Stuttgart said that the company’s development department had neglected its legal obligations, which ultimately led to the sale of diesel cars in Europe as well as other regions that did not comply with emissions rules.
  • Porsche, a subsidiary of Germany’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen, has not appealed, they added.
  • Porsche confirmed the fine and said that prosecutors’ proceedings against the company had now come to an end.
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  • India scored another victory at the United Nations 7th May when Jagjit Pavadia was re-elected to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) for another term, posting the highest tally of 44.
  • Next were the candidates fielded by Morocco and Paraguay with 32 and 31 votes respectively. Voting was on till the filing of this report, with two more members remaining to be elected. There were in all 15 candidates competing for 5 seats.
  • Pavadia has been a member of the International Narcotics Control Board since 2015, and second vice-president and chair of the standing committee on estimates since 2015 and 2017.
  • The INCB says its a is an independent, quasi-judicial expert body established in 1968 as a monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions.
  • “Thanks to the support extended by many friends of India,” Syed Akbaruddin, permanent representatives to the United Nations, wrote on Twitter, announcing Pavadia’s victory.
  • It has 13 members, each elected for a period of five years.. “Once they have been elected, INCB members serve impartially in their personal capacity, independently of Governments,” says the INCB website.
  • India has been on roll at UN elections in recent year, including the most celebrated re-election of Dalveer Bhandari to the International Court of Justice in 2017, beating the UK nominee in a testimony to India’s growing clout globally.
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  • The US on 7th May agreed with India that the gains made in Afghanistan over the past 18 years must be preserved in any possible deal in talks with the Taliban a key concern for the government in New Delhi.
  • The matter figured in meetings between the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and his Indian interlocutors, including external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and India’s envoy to Kabul, Vinay Kumar.
  • Khalilzad, who held talks with the Taliban at Doha in Qatar before travelling to New Delhi, held “consultations with Indian government officials and other stakeholders on the Afghan peace process”, according to a statement from the US embassy here.
  • Besides preserving the gains made since the Taliban regime was removed after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US in 2001, measures to prevent the use of Afghanistan by terror groups as a “platform for attacks” also figured in the talks. Khalilzad and his counterparts “agreed that Afghan gains of the last 18 years must be preserved and built upon”, the statement said. “Afghanistan’s political future is for Afghans to decide through an inclusive and legitimate process,” it added.
  • The two sides discussed the “many important benefits that peace would bring, including: preventing international terrorist use of Afghanistan as a platform for attacks; improved prospects for regional peace and security; and increased regional connectivity and trade”.
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  • A devastating pest native to tropical and subtropical North America has been detected for the first time in northeastern states including Manipur, scientists from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Manipur Centre have disclosed.
  • The insect called Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) which lays to waste crops like maize was detected in the maize research farm of ICAR, Manipur Centre in the outskirt of Imphal city and also at Chandonpokpi village farm in Chandel district.
  • “We have detected and started monitoring the new insect since last month and can now officially confirm its presence,” said scientist (Entomology) Dr Arati Ningombam of ICAR Manipur centre.It was also reported from Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura this month.
  • In India, it was detected for the first time in Karnataka in May 2018 and rapidly spread to other parts of India including Chhattisgarh in January this year.
  • This pest was earlier confined to America until 2015 and by 2017 spread to some African countries, wreaking havoc in the continent.
  • On the rapid spread, Arati said, “These insects can fly more than 100 km a night. Besides being an exotic species, they have no natural enemies in the new environment which is similar to their native tropical and sub-tropical America.”
  • It is a pest that can feed on many host plants, she added. It can cause complete devastation of a field within short time if appropriate control measures are not taken. It has been reported to feed on rice, sorghum, sugarcane and many economically important vegetables.
  • Any invasion by a new, exotic insect is always a threat to the farmers and biodiversity of a place, another ICAR scientist (Agronomy) Dr MA Ansari said.
  • “This new invasion should be considered seriously and knowledge about this new insect is the only way to manage the insect pest rather that blindly using insecticides recommended by pesticide dealers to control it,” he said.
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  • India and nations like Germany, Brazil and Japan are “absolutely needed” as permanent members of a reformed and enlarged UN Security Council to better reflect contemporary realities and the addition of these key members to the UN high-table is among France’s “strategic” priorities, the French envoy to the UN has said.
  • India is at the forefront of efforts at the UN to push for the long-pending reform of the Security Council, emphasising that it rightly deserves a place at the UN high table as a permanent member.
  • “In terms of policy, France and Germany have strong policy which is to work together to enlarge the Security Council and to succeed in terms of the negotiations that should lead to the enlargement of the Security Council that we consider absolutely needed to better reflect the world as it is.
  • There is no question about it,” France’s Permanent Representative to the UN François Delattre told reporters here last week.
  • Noting that when France and Germany launched their alliance for multi-materialism, he said it signifies that the two nations strongly believe in the UN as the core of today’s global governance and that they strongly believe in “multi-lateralism and means that we are actively working to reform and in some respects to refound, reinvent multi-lateralism so that it is really efficient for the decades to come.”
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  • An Indian student trio has emerged the first runner-up in Microsoft's prestigious Imagine Cup World Championship final held in Seattle for their innovative smart automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask.
  • Aakash Bhadana and his friends Vasu Kaushik and Bharat Sundal developed "Caeli", the world's first smart automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask specifically designed for asthmatic and chronic respiratory patients, which won the first position in the Asia Regional Final contest held in Sydney in February.
  • The championship was won by the Team EasyGlucose from the United States which won USD 100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
  • "Huge congratulations to team EasyGlucose from the USA, our 2019 ImagineCup World Champion! His DeepLearning non-invasive blood glucose level monitor won USD 100K and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella," Microsoft Imagine Cup tweeted.
  • "Congratulations to our 2019 ImagineCup 2nd place winners, Team Caeli from India, who developed a smart automated anti-pollution drug delivery mask and won Surface laptops and USD 40,000 in Azure Grants. We can't wait to see what you do next!," it said
  • "This year's 3rd place ImagineCup winner was team Finderr from the UK for their solution to empower visually impaired users to find lost items with a phone. They won USD 30,000 in Azure Grants. Keep on innovating," it said.
  • Every year, Imagine Cup celebrates the top student teams that bring their biggest, boldest ideas to life. Each team creates an original technology project from start to finish while competing on a global stage for the title of World Champion.
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  • An Indian origin journalist G D ‘Robert’ Govender has been honored with 2019 V Krishna Menon award in the United Kingdom for his outstanding contribution as a pioneer of decolonized journalism.
  • Marking the 123rd birth anniversary of an Indian diplomat and politician V K Krishna Menon, the South Africa-born journalist was awarded posthumously during an event on 3rd May.
  • Govender developed a reputation as a campaigning journalist and author during a career spanning nearly 60 years. He was also the first journalist to call for an international boycott of South Africa’s whites-only sports teams.
  • Speaking after the event, V K Krishna Menon Institute (VKKMI) Board Member Tony Slater said the board decision was unanimous to name Govender as the first posthumous recipient of the award.
  • Menon stood for something other than himself and spent his entire life trying to achieve that. Govender’s work over 60 years displayed similar qualities of selflessness and a determination to do the right thing, Slater said.
  • He ensured that the authentic voice of the Indian diaspora was heard regardless of where he worked.
  • While he may have been reluctant to accept such an award during his lifetime, it is fitting that his memory and his outstanding contribution as a pioneer of decolonized journalism gets honored by the Krishna Menon Institute, Slater said.
  • Govender’s books include ‘The Martyrdom of Patrice Lumumba’ which exposed the role of Western intelligence agencies in the homicide of the Congolese independence leader
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  • Known as the Global Assessment, the report found that up to one million of Earth’s estimated eight million plant, insect and animal species is at risk of extinction, many within decades.
  • Relentless pursuit of economic growth, twinned with the impact of climate change, has put an ”unprecedented” one million species at risk of extinction, scientists said on 6th May in a landmark report on the damage done by modern civilisation to the natural world.
  • Only a wide-ranging transformation of the global economic and financial system could pull ecosystems that are vital to the future of human communities worldwide back from the brink of collapse, concluded the report, which was endorsed by 130 countries, including the U.S., Russia and China.
  • “The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” said Professor Josef Settele, who co-chaired the study, launched in Paris on 6th May by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
  • “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”
  • 145 authors, 50 countries -Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the study is a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new “post-growth” form of economics if it is to avert the existential risks posed by the mutually-reinforcing consequences of pollution, habitat destruction and carbon emissions.
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  • For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel, an endangered species listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 at Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in the Eastern Ghats.
  • The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu. Owing to habitat loss and poaching, the species has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES.
  • A team of researchers and wildlife activists from Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF), a non-profit organisation were conducting a survey in the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee when they spotted grizzled giant squirrels. Over 300 nests of the endangered species were spotted by the group.
  • K. Raman of IBF said that the group had earlier spotted a pair of squirrels while trekking through the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests in 2016.
  • “We had photographed an individual but it disappeared among the trees. But this was the first time we spotted as many as 363 nests in the reserve based on grid mapping.
  • The sighting of the squirrels was surprising as it had previously not been recorded. While nests were also spotted in adjoining Anandapuram Reserve, a majority of the nests were found only in Pakkamalai,” he said.
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  • Researchers at TIFR say the chemical can impact the manner in which neurons grapple with stress and affect ageing In a surprising discovery, researchers at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) Mumbai have found a novel function for serotonin (a chemical that signals between neurons).
  • The recent discovery establishes that serotonin is involved in the generation of new mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) in neurons, increased cellular respiration and fuel (ATP) in the cell.
  • Serotonin’s newly indentified function has been studied in mice and rats. If found to be true in humans, which is likely to be the case, it may have important medical implications.
  • “We cultured neurons and looked at the effects after adding serotonin, and found really unexpected results. We knew we had stumbled on something very interesting. These finds were confirmed and validated through extensive experiments,” Prof. Vaidya recalls.
  • The results of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
  • Underlying mechanism - At the level of an organism, serotonin is known to be involved in coping with stress. However, the underlying mechanism of its neuro-protective role was unknown.
  • The team, jointly led by Vidita A. Vaidya and Ullas Kolthur-Seetharam from TIFR, in collaboration with Ashok Vaidya from KHS, provides insights into how serotonin generates more mitochondria thereby giving neurons the capacity to produce more energy and the ability to cope with stress better.
  • More than three decades ago researchers had speculated that serotonin could have antioxidant-like effects. But this was not experimentally proved.
  • “We found that serotonin reduces reactive oxygen species, thus providing neuroprotection against cellular stress. Serotonin can impact the manner in which neurons grapple with stress and affect the trajectory of ageing,” said Prof. Vaidya.
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  • Climate change and rising sea levels eventually may wipe out one of the world’s last and largest tiger strongholds, scientists warned in a new study.
  • The cats are among nearly 500,000 land species whose survival is in question because of threats to their natural habitats, according to a report 6th May by the United Nations.
  • The Sundarbans, 4,000 square miles of marshy land in Bangladesh and India, hosts the world’s largest mangrove forest and a rich ecosystem supporting several hundred animal species, including the endangered Bengal tiger.
  • But 70 per cent of the land is just a few feet above sea level, and grave changes are in store for the region, Australian and Bangladeshi researchers reported in the journal Science of The Total Environment.
  • Changes wrought by a warming planet will be “enough to decimate” the few hundred or so Bengal tigers remaining there.
  • “By 2070, there will be no suitable tiger habitats remaining in the Bangladesh Sundarbans,” concluded the study by 10 researchers.
  • The paper, which relies on climate scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its simulation models, adds to existing studies that offered similarly grim predictions for wildlife in the Sundarbans.
  • In 2010, a study led by the World Wide Fund for Nature projected that a sea level rise of 11 inches could reduce the number of tigers in the Sundarbans by 96 per cent within a few decades.
  • Climate change has harmed almost half of the world’s endangered mammals, far more than previously thought, a recent study found.
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  • Dairy major Amul will be the principal sponsor of the Afghanistan cricket team for the upcoming ICC World Cup hosted by England and Wales, its Managing Director R S Sodhi said on 7th May.
  • Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which markets dairy products under Amul brand, exports around ₹200 crore worth of products annually to the neighbouring country.
  • “Amul will be the principal sponsor of Afghanistan cricket team in the coming ICC World Cup. We believe that Afghanistan will be a strong contender as it is fastest-growing team,” Sodhi said.
  • This is the third time that Amul is sponsoring a cricket team in the World Cup, he said adding that the company had associated with New Zealand and Holland teams in earlier World Cup tournaments.
  • When asked about the sponsorship deal with the Afghanistan cricket team, he declined to comment.However, Sodhi said the company annually spends only 0.8 per cent of its annual turnover on advertisements.
  • GCMMF posted a 13 per cent increase in turnover at Rs 33,150 crore during the last fiscal year driven by strong growth in volume.
  • Elaborating more on the tie-up, Sodhi said the logo of brand Amul will appear on the team jerseys as well as on training kits throughout the World Cup.

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