Facts Corner-Part-66

Disease X

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a global alert for ‘Disease X’. In its 2018 annual review of the Blueprint priority diseases, the organisation has listed this new and potentially dangerous pathogen as part of eight others that could possibly spark an international epidemic. 

Disease X is a mystery pathogen, that has been added to the WHO’s blueprint for the first time. The organisation has described it as representing the “knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.” It could reportedly emerge from multiple sources and may strike at any time.

What is the International Solar Alliance?

The International Solar Alliance is the first international treaty-based organisation that enables co-operation among sun-rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, as this is the region worldwide with a surplus of bright sunlight for most of the year, who are seeking to ramp up solar energy, thereby helping to bend the global greenhouse emissions curve whilst providing clean and cheap energy.

When was the International Solar Alliance formed?

It was established following the Paris Declaration at the UN Climate Change Conference on November 30, 2015. The International Solar Alliance was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French President Francois Hollande. The idea was to form a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to collaborate on addressing the identified gaps in their energy requirements through a common approach.

What are the goals and focus areas of the International Solar Alliance?

The ISA has set a target of 1 TW of solar energy by 2030, which would require $1 trillion to achieve. India has set an ambitious target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which includes 100 GW of solar and 60 GW of wind energy. The key focus areas of the alliance are promoting solar technologies, new business models and investment in the solar sector, formulate projects and programmes to promote solar applications, develop innovative financial mechanisms to reduce cost of capital build, a common knowledge e-Portal to facilitate capacity building for promotion and absorption of solar technologies and R&D among member countries.

Who are the member countries?

The ISA is open to 121 member countries, most of them located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. So far, 61 countries have joined the alliance and 32 have ratified the framework agreement.

What is Ides of March?

  • Ides of March is the date on the Roman Calendar that corresponds with March 15. In 44 BC, the date became notorious as the date of assassination of Roman General Julius Caesar. 
  • The death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. 
  • Legend has it that Caesar met his demise shortly after being warned by a seer that harm would come his way during the Ides of March. 
  • However, this day also became notorious for being one in which bad things happen. As per the Gregorian calendar, this day falls on March 15.

What is Neuroendocrine Tumour?

  • A tumor begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control, forming a mass. Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are neoplasms that arise from cells of the endocrine (hormonal) and nervous systems. Many are benign, while some are malignant (cancerous).  They most commonly occur in the intestine, where they are often called carcinoid tumors, but they are also found in the pancreas, lung and the rest of the body.
  • cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body if it is not found early and treated. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread. A benign tumor usually can be removed without it causing much harm.
  • A neuroendocrine tumor begins in the hormone-producing cells of the body’s neuroendocrine system, which is made up of cells that are a combination of hormone-producing endocrine cells and nerve cells.

Types of neuroendocrine tumors

  • Pheochromocytoma: Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor that begins in the chromaffin cells of the adrenal gland. These specialized cells release the hormone adrenaline during times of stress.
  • Symptoms: high blood pressure, anxiety attacks, fever, headaches, sweating, nausea, vomiting, clammy skin, rapid pulse, heart palpitations.
  • Merkel cell cancer: Merkel cell cancer is a highly aggressive, or fast-growing, rare cancer. It starts in hormone-producing cells just beneath the skin and in the hair follicles. It is usually found in the head and neck region.
  • Symptoms: Painless, firm, shiny lumps on the skin that can be red, pink, or blue.
  • Neuroendocrine carcinoma: Around 60 per cent of neuroendocrine tumors cannot be described as anything other than “neuroendocrine carcinoma”. Neuroendocrine carcinoma can start in a number of places in the body, including the lungs, brain, and gastrointestinal tract.
  • Symptoms: Hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, diarrhea, persistent pain in a specific area, loss of appetite or weight loss, a cough or hoarseness that does not go away, thickening or lump in any part of the body, changes in bowel or bladder habits, unexplained weight gain or loss, jaundice, unusual bleeding or discharge, persistent fever or night sweats, headaches, anxiety, gastric ulcer disease, skin rash. Some people also experience nutritional deficiencies before a diagnosis, such as niacin and protein deficiency. Others develop this symptom later. The neuroendocrine tumour is a rare occurrence, with incidence much lower than breast cancer. “Ordinarily it can be found in multiple location in abdomen, such as in pancreas or intestine, but rarely do we find the tumour in lung or brain.
  • The neuroendocrine tumour is of two grades even in abdomen. “A low grade cancer patient can live for several years. In high grade, it requires chemotherapy, and surgical procedures, but life expectancy is still less.”.

Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill 2017

The 2017 bill seeks to amend the Act on two issues.

  • First, it empowers the government to notify the period of maternity leave eligible for qualifying as continuous service and determine the amount of gratuity available to employees.
  • Under the Act, the maximum maternity leave (Section 2A) was based on the maternity leave stated under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. After the amendment of the Maternity Act in 2017, the maximum maternity leave under the Maternity Act was changed from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The present bill sought to remove the reference of 12 weeks in the Act and empowers the government to notify the maximum maternity leave.
  • Secondly, the Act had introduced a ceiling of Rs. 10 lakh on the maximum amount of gratuity payable to an employee through an amendment in 2010. The provision was based on the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 enacted for government employees. After the implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission, the ceiling gratuity for Central Government employees has been enhanced from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh. Seeking to amend the current provision (Section 4) of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, the bill empowers the government to notify the ceiling proposed instead of amending the Act. This amendment was sought so that the limit can be revised from time to time with the increase in wage and inflation and future pay commissions.
  • Gratuity is calculated based on 15 days of wages for each year of continuous and complete service, subject to a ceiling.

What is Tiangong-1?

  • The Tiangong-1, also known as Heavenly Palace 1, is a space station launched by China in 2011 as part of the country’s ambitious space programme. It lost contact with ground control in 2016 and crashed in the Pacific Ocean.
  • According to Chinese tabloid Global Times, the worldwide media hype surrounding the Tiangong-1 reflected overseas “envy” of China’s space industry.
  • “It’s normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some Western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China’s fast-growing aerospace industry,” it said.
  • The huge interest surrounding the space station is partly due to the odds of any of the crash debris landing over civilian areas. The European Space Agency had earlier put down the probability of being hit by a piece of debris from the Tiangong-1 to “10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning”.

What is Earth Day?

  • Earth Day, a day meant to emphasise on the need to protect the planet and preserve its environment. Several events and campaigns are being held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. 
  • This year, Earth Day focuses on putting an end to plastic use and thereby reducing pollution.
  • According to Earth Day Network, Earth Day 2018 will focus on fundamentally changing human attitude and behaviour about plastics and catalyzing a significant reduction in plastic pollution.

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