23rd Oct, 2020

US Justice Department sues Google in Antitrust Case 

Recently, the US Justice Department sued Google. 

It has accused the company of illegally abusing its dominance in internet search. 

It has been harming competitors and consumers.

The action against the company comes after a report by the US House of Representatives panel. 

The panel had found that Google, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Inc all abused their power as gatekeepers in the digital economy to diminish competitive threats.

Google is illegally protecting its dominant position in the market for search and search advertising through the deals it has signed with tech companies.

Google has contracts with smartphone makers that use its Android operating system. These require them to install its search engine as the default.

All this stifles competition and innovation from smaller startups and harms consumers by reducing the quality of search and limiting privacy protections and alternative search options.

Many countries have broad laws that protect consumers and regulate how companies operate their businesses.

The goal of these laws is to provide an equal playing field.

These are called antitrust laws.

Also, various antitrust probes are going on against Google in India. 

Google has had run-ins with regulators, especially the Competition Commission of India (CCI).


Punjab becomes the first State to reject Farm Acts

Recently, Punjab became the first State  to reject the Central government’s three Farm Acts. 

It also passed three Bills to negate the Union laws.

It also rejected the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill and demanded their immediate annulment.

Three farm Bills introduced by the Punjab assembly

The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020:

(1) Seeks to ensure that sale or purchase of wheat or paddy in Punjab is not allowed below the Minimum Support Price (MSP);

(2) Seeks to provide for punishment for harassment of farmers or payment of less price to the farmers.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment Bill, 2020: 

(1) It provides for imprisonment of not less than three years and fines for sale-purchase of wheat or paddy under a farming agreement below the MSP.

The Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020:

(1) It prevents hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce;

(2) Seeks to ensure status quo ante with regard to implementation of ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’.

The Punjab bills have reintroduced market fees or licenses for private players outside the APMCs which the central law had abolished.

The Assembly also introduced Code of Civil Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020.

It seeks to exempt agricultural land not exceeding 2.5 acres from Section 60 of The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, which provides for attachment of various properties. 

It also seeks to exempt the Properties of the farmers such as cattle, implements, cowsheds, etc from attachment.


China objects to official exchanges between India and Taiwan

Recently, China objected to any official exchanges between India and Taiwan.

China also objected to India wishing Taiwan “Happy National Day” (October 10) and referring to it as a country. 

China is also opposing inclusion of Australia in the upcoming Malabar naval exercise. 

Taiwan – the Republic of China (ROC)

It is an island off the southern coast of China that has been governed independently from mainland China since 1949.

It is not a member of the United Nations and is the largest economy outside the UN.

China views it as a province only. 

It has its own democratically elected government


Russia proposes to Extend New START Treaty

The Russian President has proposed to extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) by one year. 

It is a Treaty between the USA and Russia expiring in February 2021.

It is a treaty on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.

It came into force on 5th February, 2011.

It is a successor to the START framework of 1991 (at the end of the Cold War) that limited both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads.

It continues the process of verifiably reducing the USA and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by limiting both sides to 700 strategic launchers and 1,550 warheads.

It will expire in February 2021 unless extended for five more years.


State of Global Air 2020 released by the Health Effects Institute

Recently, State of Global Air 2020 was released by the Health Effects Institute (HEI).

HEI is an independent, nonprofit research institute funded jointly by the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency and others.

It highlights that air pollution is the largest risk factor for death among all health risks. 

It is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of air pollution’s global impact on new-borns.

India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are among the top ten countries with the highest PM2.5 (particulate matter) exposures in 2019. 

All these countries also experienced increases in outdoor PM2.5 levels between 2010 and 2019.

India is also among the top ten countries with highest Ozone (O3) exposure in 2019. 

Among the 20 most populous countries, India recorded the highest increase (17%) in O3 concentrations in the past ten years.

Long-term exposure to outdoor and household (indoor) air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019.

High PM contributed to the deaths of more than 1, 16, 000 Indian infants who did not survive their first month. 

More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5 and others were linked to the use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.


Government working on the formation of Integrated Theatre Command

The government is working on the formation of integrated theatre commands after the appointment of the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS).

An integrated theatre command envisions a unified command of the three Services, under a single commander, for geographical theatres (areas) that are of strategic and security concern.

Such a commander will be able to bear all resources at his disposal with greater efficiency.

The commander will not be answerable to individual Services.

Integration of the three forces will also avoid duplication of resources. 

The integration will strengthen cohesion in the defence establishment.

The Shekatkar committee has recommended the creation of 3 integrated theatre commands — northern for the China border, western for the Pakistan border, and southern for the maritime role.


Government expands Production-Linked Incentive Scheme

The government will extend the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to eight more sectors to boost domestic manufacturing.

All the sunrise and important sectors are proposed to be covered in this.

The sectors may be automobile, networking products, food processing, advanced chemistry and solar PV manufacturing.

Through PLI Scheme, incentives will be paid only if the manufacturers make the goods.

This scheme will give cash incentives for five to seven years.

PLI Scheme for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing

The scheme proposes a financial incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in the electronics value chain including electronic components and semiconductor packaging.

Under the scheme, electronics manufacturing companies will get an incentive of 4 to 6% on incremental sales (over base year) of goods manufactured in India for a period of next 5 years.

The scheme shall only be applicable for target segments – mobile phones and specified electronic components.

With the help of the scheme, domestic value addition for mobile phones is expected to rise to 35-40% by 2025 from 20-25%. 

It shall also generate 8 lakh jobs more, both direct and indirect.
The government has launched the PLI scheme for mobile phones (electronic manufacturing) and it was also extended to pharma products and medical equipment sectors.


Tubarial Salivary Glands: Potential new organ in the human throat

Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered a potential new organ in the human throat. 

The discovery was made while carrying out research on prostate cancer.

Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute have identified a set of salivary glands deep in the upper part of the throat and have named them “tubarial salivary glands”.

The discovery may be important for cancer treatment. 

Till now, this nasopharynx region (behind the nose) was thought to host only microscopic, diffuse, salivary glands.

However, the newly discovered glands are about 1.5 inches (3.9 centimeters) in length on average. 

Location: These are located over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius.

Function: The glands probably lubricate and moisten the upper throat behind the nose and mouth.

Till now, there were three known large salivary glands in humans: one under the tongue, one under the jaw and one at the back of the jaw, behind the cheek.