9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 4, 2019

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‘RTI scrutiny will ruin judicial independence’

  1. The Supreme Court has commenced hearing on its own appeal whether the Chief Justice of India’s office is covered under the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI).
  2. The issue has arisen from an appeal filed by the Supreme Court against the January 2010 judgement of the Delhi High Court that declared the CJI’s office a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
  3. The Attorney General explained to the Supreme court that there are three issues in the case (a)one is relating to disclosure of correspondence between Collegium and Centre (b)Second is relating to disclosure of assets of judges and (c)third is about to disclosure of letters exchanged in the matter of appointment of a Madras High Court judge.
  4. Attorney General said that Information on the elevation and non-elevation of judges should not be made public under the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it would be against the public interest and would put an end to the Collegium system itself.
  5. The Collegium which comprises the five most senior judges of the Supreme Court selects judges to the higher judiciary.However,he favoured disclosure of information about the assets of judges.
  6. Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to (a)empower the citizens (b)promote transparency accountability in the working of the Government (c)contain corruption and (d)make our democracy work for the people in real sense

Group chats: WhatsApp users get more control

  1. WhatsApp has unveiled its ‘Checkpoint Tipline’, where people can check the authenticity of information received as the messaging giant looks to crack down on fake news ahead of the general election in the country.It has been developed in collaboration with PROTO,an Indian based skilling start up.
  2. WhatsApp users can submit all the information received through the messaging platform that they are uncertain about to the ‘Tipline’ on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888).
  3. Following this,PROTO’s verification centre will “seek to respond and inform the user if the information received is verified or not.The response will indicate if information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available.
  4. The verification centre, in turn, will be able to review rumors in the form of pictures, video links or text. Apart from English, it will cover four regional languages – Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.
  5. Earlier,Facebook owned Whatsapp had faced criticism from the Indian government after a series of mob-lynching incidents triggered by rumours circulating on WhatsApp.
  6. Since then,WhatsApp had restricted forwarding messages to five chats at once.It has also been putting out advertisements in newspapers and running television and radio campaigns offering tips to users on how to spot misinformation.
  7. However,WhatsApp has so far resisted the government’s demand for identifying message originators,arguing that such a move would undermine the end-to-end encryption and the private nature of the platform,creating potential for serious misuse.

U.S. State Department approves $2.6 billion chopper sale to India

  1. The United States has approved the sale of 24 multi-role MH-60R Seahawk maritime helicopters to India at an estimated cost of USD 2.6 billion.
  2. The Seahawks are multi-mission maritime helicopter developed by Lockheed Martin.These multi-role helicopters can perform a variety of functions including (a)anti-submarine warfare (b)anti-surface warfare, (c)surveillance (d)communications relay (e)combat search and rescue, (f)naval gunfire support and (g)logistics support.
  3. Further,these helicopters are designed to operate from frigates, destroyers,cruisers and aircraft carriers.These helicopters are expected to boost the Indian Navy’s anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations as China expands its presence in the Indian Ocean.
  4. Once inducted,the Seahawk helicopters will replace India’s ageing British-made Sea King fleet that has been in service since 1971. Currently,Seahawk helicopters are deployed with the US Navy as the primary anti-submarine warfare anti-surface weapon system for open ocean and littoral zones.
  5. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s 2018 report,India is the second-largest importer of arms worldwide,just behind Saudi Arabia.Leading arms sellers to India include Russia,Israel and the US.

Skymet expects a ‘below normal’ monsoon

  1. Private weather forecaster Skymet has said that it expects the 2019 monsoon rains to be “below normal”. It expects monsoon rains to be about 7% short of the long period average rainfall (89cm) that India receives from June to September. It has also predicted the onset of monsoon to be late.
  2. The general duration of the monsoon in India is between 100-120 days from early June to mid-September. The monsoon arrives at the southern tip of the Indian peninsula generally by the first week of June.
  3. Skymet has predicted that there is a 15% chance of a drought, 30% chance of normal rainfall and 55% chance of below normal rainfall.
  4. Normal rainfall is when the percentage departure of realised rainfall is within ± 10 % of the Long Period Average (LPA). Below normal rainfall is when percentage departure of realised rainfall is < 10% of the LPA. Drought is when the seasonal rainfall is less than 90% of the LPA.
  5. Skymet attributed developing El Nino phenomenon for its forecast of below normal rainfall during the monsoon. El Nino refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific. It is the periodic development of a warm ocean current along the coast of Peru as a temporary replacement of the cold Peruvian current.
  6. A strong El Nino results in reduction and uneven distribution of rainfall across the Indian sub-continent. This is because the trade winds coming from South America which normally blow westward towards Asia during Southwest Monsoon gets weakened due to the warming of the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, moisture and heat content gets limited and this leads to poor rainfall in the region.

‘Air pollution shortened lifespan by 30 months’

  1. The State of Global Air 2019 has stated that exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017 and is the 3rd largest cause of death among all health risks. The report is a systematic annual study of the health effects of global air pollution and is published by Health Effects Institute (HEI).
  2. The report has added that the present high level of air pollution has shortened the average lifespan of a South Asian child by two-and-a-half years. Globally the reduction in life expectancy due to air pollution stands at 20 months.
  3. Air pollution had led to 5 million deaths in 2017 across the globe and he South Asian region (Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan) alone had accounted for over 1.5 million deaths.
  4. According to the Health effects Institute, if the major steps taken in India to curb air pollution are fully implemented could result in significant health benefits in coming years. Important steps taken to combat air pollution in India include a) Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, b) accelerated Bharat Stage VI clean vehicle standards, and c) National Clean Air Programme
  5. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna seeks to replace unclean cooking fuels used in the most underprivileged households with clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). A major objective of the scheme is to ensure smoke-free houses and thus curb indoor air pollution.
  6. The Indian government has also decided to skip BS-V and directly move to BS-VI from 2020. It has further agreed to advance the proposed date for Euro-VI from 2026 to 2020.
  7. In 2019, National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) has been launched for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution in India. It aims at 20%–30% reduction of PM2.5and PM10 concentration by 2024, taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration. The programme targets 102 non-attainment cities.

Bleaching hits world’s southernmost coral reef

  1. Australian scientists have said that corals in Lord Howe Island Marine Park, Australia has started showing signs of bleaching due rising sea temperatures from climate change. However, bleaching is highly variable across Lord Howe Island. Severe bleaching of up to 90% has been found at Lord Howe’s inshore, shallow lagoon reefs. While, deeper-water corals in the marine park has been reported healthy.
  2. It is the world’s southernmost coral reef and is the coral reef closest to a pole. Lord Howe Island was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. The Lord Howe Island is located in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.
  3. Corals are small (0.25-12 inches), soft-bodied marine organisms that live in colonies called reefs that they build using a limestone skeleton (calicle) lying at their base. Despite covering less than 0.1% of the ocean floor, reefs host more than 25% marine fishes and many other marine animals. They are called “Rainforests of the Oceans”
  4. Coral bleaching occurs when corals lose the highly productive algae (termed zooxanthellae) from their tissues due to stress from high sea temperatures and solar radiation. Corals then turn white in colour.

BSNL gets licence for WiFi on flights

  1. India’s state run telecom operator,Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has procured the in-flight and maritime connectivity(IFMC) license from the Department of Telecommunications to provide Internet and mobile services on flights.
  2. BSNL and its satellite partner Inmarsat will be able to offer IFMC services to (a)Indian airlines operating within and outside India (b)foreign airlines transiting through Indian airspace and (c)shipping companies operating within Indian waters.Further,Inmarsat and BSNL are expected to commence services later this year once the ground infrastructure and associated approvals are in place.
  3. According to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) rules, passengers can make phone calls or use the Internet when a flight is at a minimum height of 3,000m in Indian airspace to avoid interference with terrestrial mobile networks.
  4. Inmarsat is a British satellite telecommunications company.It offers global mobile services.It also provides telephone and data services to users worldwide via portable or mobile terminals which communicate with ground stations through thirteen geostationary telecommunication satellites.

First secure link between India, US navies set up

  1. India and the US have set up the first ever secure communication link between the naval headquarters in New Delhi and US Central as well as Pacific Naval Commands.The link has been setup under the landmark Indo-US Communications,Compatibility & Security Agreement (COMCASA) signed by both the countries in the year 2018.
  2. The US has also activated the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module GPS system in some of C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft as a result of the implementation of the COMCASA.
  3. In the case of the C-130s and C-17s, the systems were purchased but not activated because the US said it could not part with the encryption codes until the enabling COMCASA pact is signed.The two upgrades will allow both sides to share real-time operational intelligence.
  4. Further,the establishment of a secure active link between the two navies is being seen as a significant step forward as India will gain access to latest US naval intelligence besides conducting joint operations in the future.
  5. COMCASA is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).It comes into force immediately and is valid for a period of 10 years.
  6. COMCASA is one of the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.
  7. India had signed the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016. The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
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