Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (December 9, 2018)
1. Cloud over key Tibetan meet as Delhi stalls Karmapa’s return
The indefinite postponement of the 13th Religious Conference of the Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Tradition, which was scheduled for November 29 and 30 in Dharamsala, has once again turned the spotlight on differences between the government and the Karmapa, the head of one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism, over his return to India, officials confirmed to The Hindu.
According to officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs, the two sides have reached an impasse over the 34-year-old Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s decision to acquire citizenship of Dominica earlier this year. As a result, despite several requests from the Karmapa for a visa, he has been unable to visit India as planned.
2. New wave of protest hits Paris
Armoured vehicles rolled through central Paris on Saturday as riot police clashed with ‘yellow vest’ demonstrators, who set fire to barricades and hurled rocks in the latest demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.
Shouts of “Macron, resign” mingled with teargas on the Champs-Elysees avenue, the scene of the worst rioting in Paris in decades last week. Thick plumes of black smoke from fires could be seen rising high into the sky over the city.
Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said 31,000 people were taking part in protests nationwide, including 8,000 in Paris.
3. Piers placed for world’s tallest railway bridge
The Northeast Frontier Railway Construction Organisation has put in place tall piers near Manipur’s Noney for the tallest railway bridge in the world. The bridge, across the valley of river Ijai, is part of the 111 km Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal project. Once completed, it will have a pier height of 141 m.
The record for the tallest railway bridge is now held by the 139 m Mala Rijeka viaduct, Montenegro. “The total length of the bridge will be 703 m. Its tall piers have been made with a specially designed technique to ensure efficient and continual construction,” said Susen K. Ojah, spokesperson of the NFR Construction Organisation.
4. Mekedatu dam will affect 5 crore people: Vaiko
MDMK general secretary Vaiko on Saturday claimed that around five crore people in the State would be adversely affected and deprived of access to drinking water, and more than 25 lakh acres of land would not have the means of irrigation, if the Mekedatu dam project in Tamil Nadu became a reality.
5. Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002
Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted by the NDA government to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from money-laundering. PMLA and the Rules notified there under came into force with effect from July 1, 2005.
6. Trainspotting from the steam age to the Metro era
A locomotive carrying coal from East Pakistan crossed over to the Indian territory when the war with Pakistan broke out in 1971. The single-coach, green-coloured locomotive, with clear markings in English and Urdu, had been lying in the shed at Bandel in Hooghly district for over three decades, before it was brought to the Railway Museum in Howrah a few years ago.
Pradeep Kumar, Chief Signal and Telecommunication Engineer, Eastern Railway, and member of the Railway Board’s Heritage Committee, said the locomotive was the first of its kind at any museum in the country, and that it was a chance sighting by some officials that resulted in the locomotive coming to the Eastern Railway Museum.
Right next to it is the coach of the first Metro Railway rake, which marked the beginning of the first metro services in the city in 1984. A narrow gauge steam loco (popularly called a toy train), built by the North British Company Ltd. at Glasgow in the early 20th century, is among the exhibits at the museum spread over four acres.
However, on a Saturday morning, there were not many visitors at the museum, next to the oldest and busiest passenger terminus in the country, the Howrah Station.
Representatives of different consulates in the city — Japan, Bangladesh, France and Russia — were the only visitors, who went across dozens of heritage locomotives and the collection of memorabilia, relating to 164-year colonial and post-colonial heritage of the Railways during a ‘Historic Railway Heritage Walk’.
The museum at the Eastern Railway headquarters at Fairlie Place has documents featuring different names and logos (East Indian Railway in 1854 to Eastern Railways in 1952), documents dating from 1844 relating to R.M. Stephenson, the ER’s first managing director, on the practicability and advantages of introducing railways in the country.
Earlier this year, the Eastern Railway assessed all the tangible heritage spread across its jurisdiction. It plans to bring several important documents and machinery to its museum and heritage gallery.
7. Huge progress in U.S. partnership: Minister
India and the U.S. are global partners in defence and regional security, a top American Commander has said, as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman toured the headquarters of the strategic Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii before concluding her maiden visit to America.
Ms. Sitharaman described her U.S. visit as part of her endeavour to “take forward the bilateral defence cooperation”.
Noting that the India-U.S. relationship in defence had acquired the dimensions of a strategic partnership over the last decade, she said the two countries had made considerable progress.
The Minister capped her trip with a visit to Hawaii, the headquarters of what earlier this year was renamed the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command or INDOPACOM.
Officials said the U.S. was learning a way forward” in meeting India’s needs and aspirations.
8. 8 December 2018
Fuelled by anger: Paris was in lockdown on Saturday as thousands of French security forces braced to meet renewed rioting by “yellow vest” protesters in the capital and other cities in the fourth weekend of confrontation over living costs. Reuters reported the Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks were shut, shops were boarded up to avoid looting and street furniture removed to avoid metal bars from being used as projectiles. Protesters, using social media, have billed the weekend as “Act IV” in a dramatic challenge to President Emmanuel Macron and his policies. The protests, named after the high-visibility safety jackets French motorists have to keep in their cars, erupted in November over the squeeze on household budgets caused by fuel taxes.
9. IISER Kolkata develops simulation to predict solar activity over 10 years
Astronomers have observed sunspots on the surface of the Sun for nearly 400 years. It is known that sunspots follow a cyclic pattern of growing in number and disappearing in approximately 11 years, known as the sunspot cycle or the Sun’s activity cycle. We are currently in the 24th sunspot cycle since the observation of this cycle began, in 1755. A team of researchers from IISER Kolkata have developed a way of predicting the intensity of activity in the next solar cycle (approximately from 2020 to 2031) using data spread over the last 100 years.
Contrary to other calculations, they find that the Sun’s activity would not dip during the next cycle, but it would be similar to the current cycle, perhaps even stronger. They expect the cycle to peak around 2024. The paper is published in Nature Communications. “This is a unique data driven simulation work,” says Dipankar Banerjee, Solar physicist from Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, who was not involved in this research.
The researchers simulate the behavior of the Sun using magnetic field evolution models and observational data. They simulate solar activity, and using inputs from observed data from one cycle, predict the behaviour of the Sun over the next cycle, about ten years in advance. Comparing their simulations with recorded data from 1913 to present, they show a remarkable agreement in most cases. Using the same method, they predict solar activity over the next cycle, about ten years into the future.
An important reason to understand sunspots is that they affect space weather. This refers to the effect of radiation, particle flux and magnetic flux in the region around the Sun. During extreme events, space weather can affect electronics-driven satellite controls, communications systems, air traffic over polar routes and even power grids. The other reason sunspots are interesting is the belief that they are correlated with climate on earth. A lot of the research in this area focusses on predicting the way the next sunspot cycle will shape up – whether the Sun will be extremely active and produce many sunspots or not.
There have been predictions that the next cycle (cycle 25) will show reduced sunspot activity. There have even been speculations that the Sun may be heading towards a period of prolonged low activity – what solar physicists describe as a ‘Maunder-like minimum’. The Maunder minimum refers to a period from 1645 to 1715 where observers reported minimal sunspot activity — the number of sunspots reduced by a factor of nearly 1,000, over a period of 28 years. During this and other such periods of low activity, some parts of Europe and North America experienced lower-than-average temperatures. While the connection between the Maunder minimum and the climate on earth is still debated, it gives another reason to watch the sunspots.
10. Descent into hell
The working conditions of manual scavengers — those who manually clean drains, sewers and septic tanks and remove human excreta — has not changed for decades. Many of them make their way down a manhole wearing next to nothing, and clean sewers with minimal equipment. Once they finish, they cart away the waste without wearing any protective gear. Manual scavenging is considered to be hazardous and could lead to death.
This deplorable practice was banned in India in 1993 but the specific piece of legislation banning it was ineffectively implemented by State governments. In 2012, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill was passed but this too has been criticised for significant loopholes. Even today, people continue to die from the practice of manual scavenging.
Media reports, citing data from the government’s National Commission for Safai Karamcharis — a government body — say that 123 people employed to undertake different forms of manual scavenging have lost their lives since January 2017. At least six deaths were reported in mid-September in Delhi this year.
The law states that employment without any protective gear is a cognisable, non-bailable offence. A large majority of manual scavengers face serious health hazards such as poor general health, a high mortality rate, poor nutrition and increased communicable diseases. Surveys show that only 10% of these patients feel positive about their health status and most of them have a very poor quality of life with respect to general health. Physical injuries are among the most common health issues they face followed by infections and lung diseases. The aeration and de-watering process involved in cleaning also introduces droplets and particles into the air, which are inhaled into the lungs, coughed up and swallowed leading to an array of lung and gastro-intestinal diseases.
Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is the main determinant of health problems. In low concentrations, it is an eye and a lung irritant. H2S gets absorbed in the lungs and is oxidised to form compounds that are toxic. In higher doses, it can trigger headaches that may last for several hours, trigger a pain in the legs and even lead to a loss of consciousness. Inhaling large amounts rapidly produces anoxia resulting in convulsions and death by asphyxiation.
Other infections that are common are leptospirosis which affects people coming into contact with animals and their excrement. Rodents commonly infest sewers and carry leptospira which is found in the urine of infected rodents. Sewage workers are also exposed to other infectious agents such as Helicobacter pylori and the hepatitis virus. Inhaled aerosols contain pseudomonas, streptococcus, clostridium, mycobacterium and enteric viruses.
11. The vanishing night
Hong Kong is believed to be the most light polluted city in the world with local studies showing that levels in certain areas to be as much as 1,000 times brighter than international norms. Researchers have said the light pollution is thought to be much worse here than in London, Frankfurt, Sydney and Shanghai, as the city, which is filled with high-rise buildings, office blocks and neon advertisements, has no laws to control external lighting. Studies suggest that light pollution can cause adverse health effects for humans, such as insomnia and headaches, and also disrupt body clocks and hormones. However, with light pollution studies still in the early stages and without strict international standards on quantifying the extent of light pollution, there has not been an accurate claim to the position. Other cities on the light pollution list include Las Vegas, Tokyo, Seoul, and New York, cited by those with the best view — astronauts.
12. New technique to test TB drug effectiveness
A new imaging technique that can safely and accurately track the distribution of a drug for tuberculosis (TB) in the brain has been developed.
A study claims that it can potentially improve the treatment of TB and other infectious diseases by enabling researchers to determine the optimal drug dosages needed to penetrate hard-to-reach brain tissue. Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is the most dangerous form of TB and occurs when the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium infects tissues in the central nervous system. The disease, which disproportionately affects young children and HIV-infected individuals, is extremely difficult to treat because antimicrobials such as the first-line drug rifampin cannot adequately penetrate the blood-brain barrier that protects the nervous system. The new approach uses an imaging probe based on a radioactive equivalent to rifampin named 11C-rifampin to better understand the distribution of rifampin in TBM brain lesions. The findings have been published in Science Translational Medicine.
13. Antibodies that delay ALS
A novel class of antibodies has been created in the laboratory by a team of researchers in Switzerland and Germany that counteracts motor impairments and the degeneration of nerve cells in rodent models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a chronic neurological disease. The authors say the findings could potentially lead to new treatments for a subset of ALS cases that have been tied to genetic mutations. ALS is characterised by the progressive death of neurons throughout the nervous system, resulting in muscle wasting, paralysis and eventual death. Some ALS are linked to mutations in the gene that encodes for the SOD1 enzyme, which plays a critical role as an antioxidant within cells. These mutations cause the enzyme to “misfold” during assembly and accumulate in a manner that is harmful to neurons. In a study, the researchers reported getting around the problem. The findings have been published in Science Translational Medicine.
14. What are memristive cells?
These cells are made from nanowires and mimic biological nerve cells. The component is able to save and process information as well as receive numerous signals in parallel. Reportedly, such cells have been ascribed the best chances of being capable of taking over the function of neurons and synapses in ‘bio-inspired’ computers. They alter their electrical resistance depending on the intensity and direction of the electric current flowing through them. In contrast to conventional transistors, their last resistance value remains intact even when the electric current is switched off. Memristors are thus fundamentally capable of learning.
Book – Modern South India: A History from the 17th Century to Our Times
Writer – Rajmohan Gandhi
Description – This sweeping narrative of four powerful cultures, Kannada, Malayali, Tamil and Telugu, explores the ties that bind diverse peoples
Book – Emergency Chronicles: Indira Gandhi and Democracy’s Turning Point
Writer – Gyan Prakash
Description – Why the Emergency cannot be adequately understood without situating it in the context of modern India’s past and present
Book – The Leapfroggers: An Insider’s Account of Isro
Writer – Ved Prakash Sandlas
Description – Recording early days of India’s space odyssey
Book – Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication
Writer – Thomas Abraham
Description – Geopolitical and other realities of the battle against polio
Book – The Anatomy of Hate
Writer – Revati Laul
Description – Investigations into mass violence in India, and Gujarat 2002 in particular, have focused on the consequences, the victims, the political apparatus. The mob has always been a faceless, unidimensional machine. Laul’s narrative, built on a decade’s worth of research and interviews, is an account of the perpetrators of 2002, and a crucial addition to the literature on violence.
Book – A People’s Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic
Writer – Rohit De
Description – Exploring how the Constitution enfranchised the largest population in the world, this volume considers ways that ordinary citizens produced, through litigation, alternative ethical models of citizenship. De examines four important cases that set legal precedents including a Parsi journalist’s contestation of new alcohol prohibition laws and Muslim butchers’ petition against cow protection laws.
Book – The Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-1919
Writer – Edited by J. Guite, T. Haokip
Description – This book explores the Kuki uprising against the British Empire during World War I in the Northeast frontier of India (then the Assam-Burma frontier). The three-year war (1917-1919) had far-reaching consequences for the indigenous population as well as for British attitudes and policy towards the region, including military strategy, politics, gender, culture and tactics.
Book – The Line of Control: Travelling with the Indian and Pakistani Armies
Writer – Happymon Jacob
Description – Given the unique opportunity to see the border between India and Pakistan from both sides, Jacob travelled with the armies of rival countries to study the Line of Control. The journey “along the site of one of the most treacherous theatres of conflict in the world,” he writes in the Prologue, also turned out to be a lesson in humanism.
Book – City of My Heart
Writer – Rana Safvi
Description – A chronicle of the period that led to the revolt of 1857, and culminated in the fall of the Mughal Empire, tells the story of a city and a people experiencing the end of life as they know it. These first-hand accounts in Urdu, selected and translated by Safvi, provide an insight into the life of royals and their subjects.
16. Melnikova bags title
Marina Melnikova outclassed Jia Jing Lu 6-1, 6-2 to lift the title at the Oasis Solapur Open ITF women’s championships, organised by MSLTA and Solapur District Lawn Tennis Association, at the MSLTA School of Tennis.
The unseeded Russian prevailed in 57 minutes, extending the form which saw her register wins over second-seeded Ankita Raina, fifth-seeded Quirine Lemoine and the fourth-seeded Chinese in the final. This was Melinkova’s maiden title of the year.
The result (final): Marina Melnikova (Rus) bt Jia Jing Lu (Chn) 6-1, 6-2.
17. Halep wins Fan Favourite award again
World No.1 Simona Halep secured the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Fan Favourite Award for a second straight season on Friday night.
18. Sri Lanka appoints Rixon as fielding coach
Sri Lanka on Saturday announced the appointment of former Australian cricketer Steve Rixon as its fielding coach, in a bid to boost preparations for the World Cup next year.
Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command or INDOPACOM
National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET)
20. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – A foolish or contemptible person.
Example – ‘you’ve really got to be some schmuck to fall for that one’
Synonyms – idiot, ass, halfwit, nincompoop, blockhead, buffoon, dunce, dolt, ignoramus, cretin, imbecile, dullard, moron, simpleton, clod