Current Affairs for NDA/CDS/AFCAT/Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (October 07, 2018)
1. EC sets month-long poll schedule for 5 States
The Election Commission on Saturday announced that the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana will be held from November 12 to December 7. The results for all the five States will be declared on December 11.
The model code of conduct came into effect in four States — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan — immediately. The guidelines are already in place in Telangana, as directed by the Commission on September 27, following the premature dissolution of the Assembly.
Chhattisgarh goes to the polls first, with voting scheduled in two phases. The 18 Naxal-affected constituencies in the southern part of the State will go to the polls on November 12, while 72 other constituencies will be covered in the second phase on November 20, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O.P. Rawat said.
In Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram, the elections will be conducted on a single day — November 28. Finally, Rajasthan and Telangana will hold elections on December 7, also on a single day.
Teams from the Election Commission will visit Mizoram and Telangana within the next 15 days to review the preparedness.
A serious infection of the nose and throat that’s easily preventable by a vaccine.
What causes diphtheria?
A type of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae causes diphtheria. The condition is typically spread through person-to-person contact or through contact with objects that have the bacteria on them, such as a cup or used tissue. You may also get diphtheria if you’re around an infected person when they sneeze, cough, or blow their nose.
3. Putting first-time flyers at ease
With the aim of dispelling any fear in first-time flyers and educating them about the mandatory security drill, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has recreated an airport experience at an international exhibition here.
The AAI, which manages 130 airports in the country, has replicated the security hold area by displaying a door frame metal detector, baggage scanning machine and explosive trace detector so that visitors get a taste of the security protocol followed at airports.
CISF personnel from the Indira Gandhi International Airport brief visitors on the procedure to be followed, take them through the drill, and explain how each of the machines work.
4. NCLT orders liquidation of Rathna Stores
The Chennai Bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has ordered liquidation of prominent retailer Rathna Stores Pvt Ltd. According to sources,
the firm owed ₹80 crore to banks and ₹1 crore to operational creditors and had a tax liability of ₹25 crore. Its major lenders include ICICI Bank and UCO Bank. The insolvency proceedings were filed by ICICI Bank.
5. ‘cVigil’ on the trail of poll fraudsters
The Election Commission on Saturday said the “cVigil” mobile application for citizens to share proof of malpractices by political parties, candidates and activists would be available for use soon after the notification of polls in five States.
The Commission had launched the application’s beta version in July, following a pilot project in Bengaluru in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly polls in May. It provides facilities for uploading geo-tagged photographic and video evidence, which can also be done without disclosing the sender’s identity.
The evidence will be sent to a control room, which will then alert the field units and flying squads for immediate action. The EC hopes to launch the application ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, by improving it further on the basis of the findings during the conduct of the Assembly polls.
6. India leaves out offset clause for S-400
The ₹40,300-crore deal between India and Russia for five S-400 air defence missile systems does not have any offset clause. India has decided to drop it so as to advance deliveries, though it was Russia that initially did not want offsets.
“They [Russia] agreed for offsets later, but we decided not to include them as it would drive up the cost and delay the delivery schedule,” a defence source said.
As per the schedule, Russia will start deliveries after 24 months, which is 2020-end. Contract negotiations started after an inter-governmental agreement was concluded in October 2016. Speaking to a group of presspersons at Aero India 2017 in Bengaluru, Victor N. Kladov, director, international cooperation and regional policy, Rostec State Corporation of Russia, said there was no offset component in the S-400 deal and this would be a “strategic system” and “no offset package is the best choice” because it would cause delays.
Under the defence procurement procedure, deals worth ₹2,000 crore or more have a 30% offset clause. This is meant to bring technologies to the country and build domestic defence manufacturing capabilities. As a result, manufacturers add the cost of fulfilling the offset obligations to the deal.
7. Is Facebook data breach serious?
On September 16, Facebook noticed an unusual spike in the number of times the platform’s ‘View As’ feature was being used. The feature allows users to see how their Facebook page will appear to another user. On September 25, Facebook announced that it had identified this as a malicious activity in which the access tokens of 50 million users were appropriated by unknown hackers, and certain personal details possibly accessed.
What is an access token?
An access token is a digital key that allows users to stay logged into Facebook on a device or browser without having to sign in repeatedly using their password. It extends its reach to other apps or services that users sign into using their Facebook account. If hackers have the access tokens, they do not require passwords to get into Facebook accounts or apps like Instagram that utilise the Facebook login.
What did hackers do?
The ‘View As’ feature was introduced by Facebook as a privacy control feature, allowing users to check the information they were sharing with others. But this proved to be an Achilles’ heel because of some bugs that were introduced in the software in July 2017. According to Techcrunch, while using the ‘View As’ feature, Facebook’s video uploader tool also appeared on the page at times, generating an access token that was not the user’s but of the person the user was looking up. For example, if Hacker A selected User B for ‘View As,’ and the video uploader appeared on the page, it generated an access token for User B which was then available to Hacker A.
What was Facebook’s response?
Facebook had to force the affected 50 million users, and an additional 40 million users who had used the ‘View As’ feature since last July to log in again so that their access tokens changed. Facebook has since said it has resolved the bugs that caused what is said to be the largest breach in the history of the platform. Facebook is said to be working with the FBI on the issue. It also informed the Irish Data Protection Commission, since the European Union’s strict new data protection law states that it has to be informed within 72 hours if anyone in the European Economic Area is affected. The Commission has started a probe, and Facebook faces a fine that could go over a billion dollars.
Why is it significant?
This breach again puts the spotlight on the vulnerabilities of Facebook, the digital behemoth that claims over two billion users and along with Google controls more than half of the global digital advertisement revenue. It was caught on the wrong foot earlier this year when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, revealing that data of up to 87 million users were harvested and used for political campaigning. There are ongoing investigations into that scandal, and the new breach is not helping Facebook redeem itself. Aside from the direct impact of private data being accessed, massive data sets allow for psychological profiling a la Cambridge Analytica. This could lead to targeted political advertising and manipulation, especially at a time when crucial mid-term elections are due in the United States and in India. It also undermines the faith in the ‘single sign-in.’ The Facebook sign-in has been utilised by a whole set of services, from gaming apps to news apps, as a way to log in to their sites or apps based on the idea that large digital entities like Facebook and Google provide better security. This trust now stands shaken. While Facebook has reportedly refreshed the access tokens of all affected parties, the extent to which the hackers had access to connected third-party apps remains unclear.
8. Opening doors to women at Sabarimala
With a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court lifting the decades-old ban on women in the 10-50 age group from entering the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, it is up to the Kerala government and the Travancore Devaswom Board to ensure that women who may choose to offer prayers at the temple during the coming pilgrim season are given protection. The season starts on November 18.
What did the court rule?
On September 28, Chief Justice Dipak Misra (now retired) and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Rohinton F. Nariman and D.Y. Chandrachud held that the ban on women in the temple was a smear on their dignity and the consequence of a hegemonic patriarchy. In her dissenting judgment, Justice Indu Malhotra took the position that the court could not impose its morality or rationality on the form of worship of a deity. Doing so, she felt, would negate the freedom to practise one’s religion according to one’s faith and beliefs.
What does the verdict imply?
The parties to the dispute are likely to seek a review of the verdict. A protest against the ruling is gathering momentum in the State. As things stand, there is no way of knowing how many women would turn up at the temple during the season. With the political colour that the issue has acquired, the State government is treading cautiously, hoping that there would not be a sudden inflow of women devotees. The police will deploy 500 additional personnel at the temple.
The temple is situated atop a hill in the deep forests of the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats in Pathanamthita district. Steeped in legend, this ancient forest shrine, situated 210 km from Kochi, draws pilgrims from different parts of the country. With the development of road transport and communication facilities, Sabarimala has been witnessing a phenomenal increase in the number of pilgrims. The Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the temple, estimates that around 5 crore devotees had visited the temple during the last pilgrim season. The season normally begins in mid-November and ends in January. The revenue from the temple last year was ₹255 crore.
9. Neurodegeneration to neuroregeneration: Exercise helps!
As we grow older, our brains change. The neural cells in the hippocampus, the part associated with learning, acquiring and maintaining memory, are damaged. If one were to find means of protecting this part of the brain and find ways to regenerate these neural cells, it should be possible to overcome and win over this problem and regain cognitive normalcy.
What are the factors leading to dementia? Some studies across the world had suggested that a ‘risk gene’ called APOE4, and another one termed presenilin might play some role here. But the frequency of APOE4 (and presenilin) is too low to be of major consequence (data from Dr. G. Chandak from CCMB Hyderabad and Dr. Mathuranath from Thiruvananthapuram), though there appears to be a regional variation across India (data from Dr. P.P. Singh of Punjabi University, Patiala).
10. Eastern Ghats face loss of forest cover, endemic plants
The Eastern Ghats spread across Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, has lost almost 16% of its forest area over a span of 100 years, a recently published study shows.
Researchers from the University of Hyderabad studied historical maps and satellite images from 1920 to 2015 to understand the changes in land use and land cover. The forest cover, which was 43.4% of the total geographical area in 1920, has reduced drastically to 27.5% in 2015. Over the years, about 8% of forest area was converted into agricultural fields, while about 4% converted into scrub or grassland.
They also found that the number of patches of land had increased indicating fragmentation. In 1920 there were about 1,379 patches which kept steadily increasing over the years reaching a whopping number of 9,457 in 2015.
11. Homing snakes
University of Kent researchers have seen what appears like a homing instinct in snakes. In a study, the researchers tracked adders (Vipera berus) that were moved from a development site in order to protect them. Radio tags were attached on some of the snakes to keep track. The movement of the translocated snakes were compared with that of resident snakes. The researchers found that the males among the translocated snakes exhibited more movement than the resident ones. To their surprise they found that one male snake actually managed to move back to the original location. This was despite the fact that it had to cross a distance of over half a kilometre and also involved crossing unsuitable short grassland habitat which would expose it to predators.
12. Last verses
Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn for 13 years before it went on a Grand Finale orbit to be destroyed. Six research papers in Science describe the spacecraft’s findings during its last journey, which include evidence of a complex, dynamo process inside the planet and the composition of its atmosphere.
October is ‘World Dyslexia Awareness’ month. Dyslexia is broadly described as difficulty in acquiring age-appropriate reading skills in spite of opportunity and instruction. Neuroscience has firmly established that dyslexia is due to neurobiological differences in brain wiring and structure; it also has a strong genetic basis. Individuals with dyslexia might have challenges with reading and spelling but many of them have exceptional pattern recognition, art, nursing and entrepreneurial abilities. Goal 4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) says that universal literacy in education (of which reading is a primary component) must be achieved by 2030. Given that population statistics indicate that the incidence in dyslexia is as high as 8-10 % (which means 8 to 10 people in a room of 100) cannot read well, it will be impossible to achieve Goal 4 for ‘universal literacy’.
Developments in the ‘science of learning’ have shown that reading is acquired because of a process called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections. In short, there is no region in the brain designated for reading. Reading happens because children learn to map sounds (of a language) to symbols (writing systems) and then form words. Reading research shows that this happens best in a language that the child speaks.
14. New antibody for cancer treatment
A team of researchers in Spain, Switzerland and the U.S. has homed in on a specific antibody, called the p95HER2-T cell bispecific antibody (TCB), that can successfully guide immune cells, known as lymphocytes, directly to cancerous ones for their targeted killing. Among the key hurdles in cancer immunotherapy — an emerging approach to cancer medicine — is to ensure that these therapeutics only target cancerous cells and not healthy tissue. This direct delivery is achieved thanks to the p95HER2 protein, which is only located in tumour cells. The study represents a new therapeutic avenue and fresh hope for patients who have ceased to respond to current therapies. This novel immune-based approach, say the researchers involved, can be used to tackle certain HER2+ breast cancers through its exclusive targeting of cancerous cells. The findings have been published in Science Translational Medicine.
15. Cheaper way to make vaccines
Researchers in the U.S. claim to have developed a less expensive way to produce vaccines that cuts the costs of vaccine production and storage by up to 80% without decreasing safety or effectiveness. Their solution has been to engineer a live-attenuated Zika vaccine in the DNA form. Once the DNA is delivered into the body, it launches the vaccine in cells, leading to antibody production and other protective immunity. Thus, there is no need to manufacture the vaccine in cell culture or eggs at factories — the traditional approaches to making vaccines. Because DNA molecules are shelf stable, the vaccine will not expire at warm temperatures and could be stockpiled at room temperature for years. Using the Zika vaccine as a model, the research group has shown that the DNA platform worked very efficiently in mice. After a single low dose, the DNA vaccine protected mice from Zika virus infection, mother-to-foetus transmission during pregnancy and male reproductive tract infection and damage. The findings have been published in EBioMedicine.
16. What are turbidity currents?
They are fast-moving currents that sweep down submarine canyons, carrying sand and mud into the deep sea. However, there is more to them than just sediment-laden seawater flowing over the sea floor, and they also involve large-scale movements of the sea floor itself. This discovery could help ocean engineers avoid damage to pipelines, communications cables, and other sea floor structures. Geologists have known about turbidity currents since at least 1929, when a large earthquake triggered a violent current that travelled several hundred kilometres and damaged 12 trans-Atlantic communications cables. Turbidity currents are still a threat today, as people place more and more cables, pipelines, and other structures on the sea floor. Turbidity currents are also important to petroleum geologists because they leave behind layers of sediment that comprise some of the world’s largest oil reserves. — Science Daily
17. Gene network found for spinal cord injury
Scientists have determined a gene signature that is linked to the severity of spinal cord injury in animals and humans, according to a study. The discovery of key genes that are switched on or off in response to spinal cord injury could inform the development of biomarkers that predict recovery and possibly pinpoint new targets for treatment. The team first reviewed past experiments to find genes associated with the response to spinal cord injury, searching through more than 500 studies, and found 151 human genes were linked in more than one study. Further analysis showed that the genes are biologically and functionally related, coding for groups of protein molecules that physically interact with one another. The findings have been published in the open access journal eLife.
Book – Fear: Trump in the White House
Writer – Bob Woodward
Description – The Watergate journalist pieces together a damning account of the chaos that pervades the Trump administration
Book – The RSS: A View to the Inside
Writer – Walter K. Anderson & Shridhar D. Damle
Description – Walter Anderson and Shridhar Damle’s book The RSS: A View To The Inside is a useful primer for journalists seeking information on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh resolutions or its affiliates and a source of talking points for RSS supporters.
Book – Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East
Writer – David D. Kirkpatrick
Description – A ringside view of Arab Spring and its aftermath in Egypt
Book – Mappillai: An Italian son-in-law in India
Writer – Carlo Pizzati
Description – How an ‘outsider’ made himself at home in Chennai
Book – Mapping Power: The Political Economy of Electricity in India’s States
Writer – Edited by Navroz K. Dubash & others
Description – In spite of several decades of reform, the Indian electricity sector is unable to provide high-quality and affordable electricity for all, and grapples with the challenge of poor financial and operational performance. Scholars examine the condition in 15 States and map the political and economic forces that constrain and shape decisions in electricity distribution.
Book – The Economics of Religion in India
Writer – Sriya Iyer
Description – The tools of economics can offer an insight into how religious groups compete, deliver social services, and reach out to potential converts. Iyer puts these tools to use to carry out an expansive study of religiously diverse India. She explores how growth, inequality, education, technology and social trends affect and are affected by religious groups.
Book – The Ferment: Youth Unrest in India
Writer – Nikhila Henry
Description – The youth agitations around the country after Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad were not sporadic protests but expressions of discontent and outrage, argues the writer. From caste to class, gender to sexuality, students have “interrogated deeply problematic ideas and attitudes embedded in the heart of India,” says Henry, as she gives us a guided tour of youth battles.
Book – Crashed
Writer – Adam Tooze
Description – In September 2008 the financial crisis, triggered by the collapse of Lehman brothers, shook the world. A decade later its spectre haunts us. This is an analysis of what happened and how the rescue came at a price. Over and over again, the end of the crisis has been announced, but it hounds us, whether in Greece or Ukraine or elsewhere.
Book – Retro India
Writer – R.M. Rajgopal
Description – India has changed — the latter half of the 20th century has seen the country turning digital, and moving on to the world of mobiles among other crucial economic indicators. The writer shares the extensive knowledge gained over years in the HR field and documents the positive and negative changes of the time and its impact on human lives.
19. Japanese GP: Hamilton grabs 80th pole
World champion Lewis Hamilton roared to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel slumped to eighth after a horror showing in Saturday’s qualifying.
Hamilton, who leads Vettel by 50 points with five races left this season, led a Mercedes front-row lockout and will start as the hot favourite to tighten his stranglehold on the Formula One championship in Sunday’s race at Suzuka.
The Briton’s record-extending 80th career pole never looked in doubt after his rampant form in completing a clean sweep of free practice earlier in the day.
20. Keerthana Pandian takes the honours
India’s Keerthana Pandian won the IBSF World under-16 girls’ snooker championship at St. Petersburg on Saturday. The Karnataka girl defeated compatriot R. Anupama 3-1 in the semifinals before prevailing over Albina Leschuk of Belarus 53-44, 16-49, 62-42, 72-39 in the final.
Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)
India Meteorological Department (IMD)
National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT)
22. Things to Remember:
Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat
CM of Jharkhand – Shri Raghubar Das
Governor of Jharkhand – Shrimati Droupadi Murmu
CM of Karnataka – Sri H.D. Kumaraswamy
Governor of Karnataka – Shri Vajubhai Vala
CM of Kerala – Shri Pinarayi Vijayan
Governor of Kerala – Shri Justice (Retd.) Palaniswamy Sathasivam
CM of Madhya Pradesh – Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Governor of Madhya Pradesh – Smt. Anandiben Patel
CM of Maharashtra – Shri Devendra Fadnavis
Governor of Maharashtra – Shri Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao
23. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning 1 – (especially of a smell) spread through and be perceived in every part of.
Example – ‘a smell of stale cabbage pervaded the air’
Synonyms – spread through, permeate, fill, suffuse, be diffused through, diffuse through, imbue, penetrate, pass through, filter through, percolate through, infuse, perfuse, extend throughout, be disseminated through, flow through, run through
Meaning 1.1 – Be present and apparent throughout.
Example – ‘the sense of crisis which pervaded Europe in the 1930s’