9 PM Current Affairs Brief – December 4, 2018


Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


GS-1

Weak El Nino conditions developing in the Pacific this winter: IMD

Weak El Nino conditions developing in the Pacific this winter: IMD

News

According to an India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast there is a strong possibility of weak El Nino conditions developing during the current winter season.

Important facts:

IMD Observations:

  1. Equatorial sea surface temperatures across most the Pacific Ocean show an increasing trend. There is a mild El Nino -above 0.5 degree warming – in the western Pacific Ocean.
  2. The IMD forecasts that the ongoing winter season would be slightly warmer than usual in most parts of India

Concerns over warm winter

Higher warmer weather conditions during winter months is a concern as it may adversely affect wheat crop which is the principal crop of the Rabi season

Additional Information:

What is El Nino?

  1. The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction associated to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  2. El Nino during winter results in development of warm conditions in India. During summer, it leads to dry conditions and deficient monsoon
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 GS-2

Beyond Binaries

Beyond Binaries

Article:

The article discusses the plight of transgender community in India

Important Analysis:

Who are transgenders?

  1. Transgenders are people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.
  2. They are referred to as transsexuals if they desire medical assistance in order to make the transition from one biological sex to another.

Transgender community in India:

  1. As per the Census of 2011, the total population of Transgender in India is 4.9lakh
  2. There are various types of transgender communities in India- Hijras, Eunuchs, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc.

Problems faced by transgender communities in India:

  1. Forced to leave parental home: Boys who do not conform to the societal gender construct are unaccepted and forced to leave home live in vulnerable conditions
  2. Lack of educational facilities: Transgender children are forced to drop out of schools as Indian schools remain unequipped to handle children with alternative sexual identities.
  3. Discrimination: Transgenders are socially excluded, mistreated and discriminated in terms of employment, justice, health etc.
  4. Economic hardships: They are economically marginalised and forced into professions like prostitution and begging for livelihood.
  5. Gender-based violence: Transgenders are often subjected to sexual abuse and rape
  6. Health issues: The community remain highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV AIDS. According to a recent UNAIDS report, the HIV prevalence among transgenders in India is 3.1% (2017).

Steps taken:

  1. In 2009, in a move to improve voter registration of transgender people, the Election Commission issued directions to all provinces to amend the format of the registration forms to include an option of “others”.
  2. In 2014, the Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India recognised the transgenders as the “Third Gender”
  3. Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016: The bill seeks to bring social, educational and economic empowerment to the transgender community
  4. Increasing HIV services to the community: The National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) reported that 2,40,000 hijras were provided with HIV prevention and treatment services in 2015, compared to 1,80,000 in 2014

Way Forward:

A multi-prolonged approach with focus on public awareness campaigns, generating avenues for dignified employment, gender sensitisation is needed for socio-economic empowerment of the transgender community in India

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International Disability Day.

International Disability Day.

News:

India celebrated International Disability Day on 3rd December.

Facts:

  • 2018 Theme: Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality
  • It is organised by National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and American India Foundation(AIF).
  • International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution.
  • It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development

Additional Facts:

  • Important Features of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill Act, 2016
  • The number of recognized disability conditions has been increased from 7 to 21.
  • Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time.
  • The new list of recognized disabilities includes three blood disorders (Thalassemia, Hemophilia and Sickle Cell disease) and acid attack survivors have also been included in the list. Intellectual disability, Parkinson’s disease, Cerebral Palsy, Dwarfism and Autistic Spectrum disorders also find place in the list.
  • For children with disabilities aged between 6 and 18 years; education will be free
  • Reservation in vacancies in government establishments has been increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons
  • Punishment by imprisonment has been mandated for those who intentionally insults or a person with a disability in any place within public view.
  • The New Act will bring our law in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.
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GS-3

The boundaries of ethics

The boundaries of ethics

News:

In November 2018, Chinese researcher He Jainkui claimed to have made world’s first gene edited babies, a pair of twin girls, genetically edited with CRISPR/cas9

Important Facts

  1. Researcher He have used a gene-editing technique, known as CRISPR, to artificially induce a mutation in human cells and make them resistant to HIV.
  2. The research work has been subjected to wide criticism for being unethical, unnecessary and risky

What is Gene Editing?

Gene editing is a technique through which genes can be deleted or replaced from one’s genome (the genetic material of an organism).

What is CRISPR/Cas 9 technology?

  1. CRISPR (stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat”) isthe most widely used technique of gene editing. It allows for genes to be deleted, modified, or inserted in such a way that the altered gene is always inherited in the offspring.
  2. The CRISPR system has two primary components: The Cas9 protein and a molecule called a guide RNA.

How does it work?

  1. The guide RNA directs Cas9 to a specific gene, where Cas9 then cuts DNA at the specified location.
  2. Once the DNA is cut, a gene can be modified at that location. The cut is then repaired by enzymes already present in cells.
  3. In the gene-edited baby case, the researcher had targeted a gene which produces a protein on the surface of cells called CCR5. The HIV virus uses this protein to attach to and infect the cell.
  4. CCR5 was then genetically changed so that HIV can no longer infect cells, thus making the babies resistant to the virus.

Health Concerns involved with embryo editing:

  1. Non-target effects: When genetic modifications are made, other non-intended edits can occur at other locations of the genome. Modifications at wrong place can lead to developmental problems such as abnormal organ development, metabolic problems, cancer in later life etc.
  2. Mosaicism:Mosaicism is a condition in which cells within the same person have a different genetic makeup. For example, due to gene editing, a baby might have liver cells that contain edited gene and heart cells that have the normal version which may lead to dire complications.

Ethical Concerns involved:

  1. Social Disparity: A major concern is that gene editing being an expensive technology, will be used only by the rich to genetically engineer a baby which will further aggravate social disparity.
  2. Consent Process: Critics have raised concerns about undue inducement to parents to take part in embryo editing researches. Paying research participants, a large amount of money distorts their assessment of the risks and benefits and manipulates free and informed consent.
  3. Super Humans: There have been concerns over intentional modification of the human genome so as to produce individuals or entire groups endowed with particular characteristics and required qualities.
  4. Effect on next generation:Editing ‘germ line’ (or reproductive) cells of healthy humans is considered unethical as it could mean introducing unknown and potentially harmful changes in subsequent generations or even the entire population

Way Forward:

  1. Currently, the risks of embryo editing outweigh its benefits and therefore more responsible research and innovation is needed before proceeding with experiments
  2. for gene editing to proceed to human trials, a robust public discussion is first needed to establish its legitimacy.
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Govt may ban antibiotic colistin used to fatten chicken

Govt may ban antibiotic colistin used to fatten chicken

News:

The government has proposed a ban on the use of antibiotic Colistin that is widely used in the meat and poultry industry in India to make animals grow faster.

Facts:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, and Ministry of health and family welfare and the Drug Controller General of India recommended the ban on Colistin.
  • The indiscriminate use of Colistin in farming increases the chance that bacteria would develop resistance to the drug, making it useless when treating patients.
  • Antibiotic misuse in food-animal production is one of the key causes of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It not only spreads resistant bacteria but is also carried into human food stream.
  • While the European Union banned Colistin in 2006, Malaysia and China joined the list this year and do not permit the use of the antibiotic, both for therapeutic and growth promotion in animals.

About Colistin

  • Colistin is a polypeptide antibiotic from the group of polymyxins. This antimicrobial is predominantly used in veterinary medicine in the treatment of intestinal diseases as well as other infections.
  • Colistin has been effective in treating infections caused by Pseudomonas, Escherichia, and Klebsiella species
  • It’s being used increasingly as a ‘last-line’ therapy to treat infections caused by multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, when essentially no other options are available.
  • Antibiotics help the chickens remain free of disease or gain weight faster

What Does Colistin resistant mean

  • If an antimicrobial no longer works against certain bacteria, these bacteria have developed resistance to the active ingredient.
  • Colistin resistance exists if the minimum concentration of Colistin as the active ingredient for inhibiting the growth of a bacteria type is above the defined threshold value. Escherichia (E.) coli and Salmonella are considered resistant.

Additional Info:

  • National Programme on Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance
  • The “National Programme on the Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance” was launched under the aegis of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) under the 12th Five Year Plan (2012 – 2017).
  • The objectives of this programme were to establish a laboratory-based AMR surveillance system of 30 network laboratories, generating quality data on AMR for pathogensof public health importance
  • NCDC is the focal point for implementation of the programme.
  • Seven priority bacterial pathogens are – Klebsiella spp., Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococcus species, Pseudomonas spp, Acinetobacter spp., Salmonella enterica serotypes Typhi and Paratyphi
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MHA releases booklet on cyberbullying

MHA releases booklet on cyberbullying

News:

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) releases booklet “Cyber Dost” on cyberbullying for teens

Facts:

  • The booklet, with graphics, in English deal with a variety of subjects like cyber threats, cyber bullying, cyber grooming, online gaming and email fraud among others
  • It advices youngsters not to forward or share any message on social media or messaging App before confirming its authenticity from other sources, not to share any personal details, including their date of birth, passwords, photos and other details as well as keeping a stranger at arms-length.
  • To avoid cyber bullying, the booklet advises, “never install unwanted software and Apps like dating App, online games from unknown sources
  • Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has reported that there were over 53,000 such cases reported last year
  • Cyberbullying defined as intentionally harassing someone with rude, mean and hurtful messages;
  • Cyber Grooming where someone builds an emotional bond with children through social media with an intention to gain their trust for sexually exploiting them.
  • Information Technology Act, 2000 was enacted to protect the citizens from cybercrime Indian

About Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In)

  • CERT-In is the national nodal agency for responding to computer security function under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • In the recent Information Technology Amendment Act 2008, CERT-In has been designated to serve as the national agency to perform the functions in the area of cyber security:
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Soyuz heads to ISS

Soyuz heads to ISS

News:

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft has taken off from Kazakhstan for a six-and-a-half-month mission on the International Space Station

Facts:

  • A Soyuz rocket carrying Russian, American and Canadian astronauts took off from Kazakhstan for six-and-a-half-month-long mission to the International Space Station
  • A Soyuz rocket carrying the first Russian woman (Oleg Kononenko) to fly in space.
  • The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the International Space Station since the United States retired the space shuttle in 2011
  • It is the first successful manned mission to the space lab since an aborted Soyuz launch in October 2018.
  • The last female astronaut on the ISS was American Karen Nyberg who was in orbit for six months in 2013.

About Soyuz

  • The Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station, but Russia stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner crew capsules.

Additional facts:

  • About International Space Station
  • The International Space Station is a large spacecraft orbiting some 240 miles (390 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.
  • Built by 15 different countries and overseen by 5 space agencies, among them NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos agency, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
  • It is about four times as large as the Russian space station Mir and five times as large as the U.S. Skylab.
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5.8-tonne GSAT-11 ready for launch

5.8-tonne GSAT-11 ready for launch

News:

India’s heaviest satellite, GSAT-11, is set for lift-off on a European Space Agency rocket from French Guiana.

Facts:

  • Gsat-11 is a high-throughput communication satellite meant to provide multi-spot beambroadband connectivity over India’s mainland and nearby islands
  • A spot beam is a satellite signal that is especially concentrated so that it covers only a limited geographical area. The narrower the beam greater the power.
  • There is another communication satellite GSAT-20 which is to be launched next year
  • Launch of four high-throughput satellites (GSATS 19, 29, 11, 20) will provide the country broadband connectivity of over 100 gigabits per second by 2019.” Of the four, two satellites Gsat-19 and Gsat-29 have already been launched.
  • The HTSs will be the backbone of India’s Internet-based programmes and services — such as Digital India, BharathNet for rural e-governance, and commercial and public sector VSAT Net service providers.
  • Along with GSAT-11, South Korea’sGEO-KOMPSAT-2A, a meteorology satellite is also launched.

 

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Services agree on Permanent Chair

Services agree on Permanent Chair

News:

According to Chief of the Naval Staff, the three services- Army, Navy and Air force have agreed on the appointment of a Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC)

Important facts

What is CoSC?

  1. The CoSC is like a forum where head of three services come together to discuss important matters related to any military issue or any task given by the defence ministry.
  2. At present, the senior-most of three services acts as the ex-officio of CoSC till the time he retires.

About Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC)

The permanent chairman, CoSC will be a four-star officer, who will be equivalent to chiefs of army, air force and navy.

Role and functions of Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (PCCoSC)

  1. The PCCoSC will be a single-point military adviser to the government.
  2. The officer would look into joint issues of the services like training of troops, acquisition of weapon systems and joint operations of the services
  3. He would also be in-charge of the tri-services command at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the strategic command of nuclear weapons and the proposed cyber and space command.

Background:

The Naresh Chandra Task Force (2011)established to review the national security management system, had recommended the creation of permanent post of chairman, chiefs of staff committee (CoSC).

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