9 PM Current Affairs Brief – February 11th, 2020

Pangolin

News: Scientists investigating the animal origins of the novel coronavirus said pangolins could be responsible for the spread of the virus to humans in China.

Facts:

About Pangolin

  • Pangolin is the only scaly mammal on earth

Habitat: There are a total of eight pangolin species across Africa and Asia.

  • Asian species: Sunda Pangolin, Philippine Pangolin, Chinese Pangolin and Indian Pangolin. 
  • African species: Long-tailed Pangolin, Tree Pangolin, Giant Pangolin and the Ground Pangolin. 
  • Of the eight species of pangolin, two are found in India: Chinese pangolin mostly found in northeast India and Indian pangolin is found in the rest of India.

Conservation Status:

  • Chinese pangolin – Critically Endangered
  • Sunda pangolin – Critically Endangered 
  • Indian pangolin– Endangered
  • Philippine pangolin – Endangered

Web Portal Launched for Star Rating of Mines in India

News: Ministry of Coal (MoC) has launched a web portal for star rating of coal mines. The portal will work as a tool to promote green, safe and sustainable coal mining practices.

Facts:

Star Rating Policy for Coal Mines

  • It envisages 50 evaluation parameters in Opencast Mines and 47 in Underground Mines as star rating criteria.
  • Based on seven broad modules:
    • Mining Operations Related Parameters,
    • Environment related parameters,
    • Adoption of Technologies: Best Mining Practices,
    • Economic performance,
    • Rehabilitation & Resettlement related parameters,
    • Worker related Compliance
    • Safety and security related parameter
  • Starring System:
  • 91 to 100%: 5 star
  • 81 to 90%: 4 star,
  • 71 to 80%: 3 star,
  • 61 to 70%: 2 star,
  • 41 to 60%: 1 star
  • 0 to 40%: No star

 What is SuperCam?

News: In the Mars 2020 mission, NASA will send a laser-toting robot, called Supercam, as one of seven instruments aboard the rover.

Facts:

About Supercam

Objective: To identify the chemical composition of rocks and soils, including their atomic and molecular makeup.

Functions of Supercam:

  • It can fire a laser to study rock targets smaller than a pencil point.
  • It looks at rock textures and chemicals to find those that formed or changed in water on Mars
  • It looks at different rock and “soil” types to find ones that could preserve signs of past microbial life on Mars, if ever existed
  • For the benefit of future explorers, SuperCam identifies which elements in the Martian dust may be harmful to humans.
  • It can measure air and scientists can learn about how atmospheric molecules, water ice, and dust absorb or reflect solar radiation

Additional Information:

Mars 2020 Mission 

  • It is a Mars rover mission by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program scheduled be launched in July 2020

Objectives:

  • Assess ancient habitability
  • Characterize the climate of Mars
  • Characterize the geology of Mars

BSNL, Air India, MTNL highest loss-making PSUs in FY19: Survey

News:  Public Enterprises Survey 2018-19 has been released.

Facts:

About Public Enterprises Survey

  • 7It maps the annual financial performance of all central PSUs
  • Released by: Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises

Key takeaways from Public Enterprises Survey 2018-19

  • There were total 348 CPSEs as on31.3.2019 out of which 249 were operational.
  • Total paid up capital in all CPSEs as on 31.3.2019 stood at Rs. 2,75,697crore as compared to Rs. 2,53,977 crore as on 31.3.2018, showing a growth of 8.55%.
  • BSNL, Air India and MTNL incurred highest losses for a third consecutive year. 
  • ONGC, Indian Oil Corporation and NTPC were the top three profitable PSUs in 2018-19

UN Conference on Migratory Birds

News: United Nations Conference on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (COP13) will be inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister on February 17 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Facts:

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) or the Bonn Convention

  • It is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the aegis of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). It acts as a framework convention and encourages its States Parties to conclude global or regional agreements.
  • It was signed in 1979 in Bonn, Germany, and entered into force in 1983
  • Aim: conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats
  • It is the only global convention specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes.

Appendices of CMS:

  • Appendix I – Threatened Migratory Species
  • Appendix II – Migratory Species requiring international cooperation

Parties to the Convention: 129 parties including India

CMS COP13 Theme: ‘Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home’.

Image result for Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals map

Explained: What is a jet stream, which helped a flight beat speed record?

News: The Boeing 747-436 plane was able to achieve a speed of 1,327 kph as it was aided by a strong jet stream generated due to Storm Ciara.

Facts:

  • Jet streams are relatively narrow bands of strong wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere.
  • The winds blow from west to east in jet streams but the flow often shifts to the north and south.
  • Jet streams follow the boundaries between hot and cold air. Since these hot and cold air boundaries are most pronounced in winter, jet streams are the strongest for both the northern and southern hemisphere in winters.
  • The greater the difference in air temperature, the faster the jet stream. It can reach speeds of up to 250 mph or greater, but average speed is 110 mph.
  • South of the jet stream, the air is usually warmer than average. North of the jet stream, the air is usually cooler than average.

Types:

  1. Sub-Tropical Jet Streams: Forms at latitudes of 20 to 30 degrees North and South.
  2. Polar Front jet streams: Form between the latitudes of 50 and 60 degrees north and south of the equator
  3. Tropical Easterly Jet Stream: occurs near the tropopause over Southeast Asia, India, and Africa during summer

Influence on Weather

  • help in maintaining latitudinal heat balance 
  • influence the path of temperate cyclones
  • Polar Front Jet influence the mid-latitude weather disturbances
  • Subtropical westerly jet stream, tropical easterly jet stream and Somalia low level jet stream impact monsoons in India.
Image result for types of jet stream

United Nations World Pulses Day

News:Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has inaugurated the celebrations of World Pulses Day in New Delhi.

Facts:

About World Pulses Day:

  • The United Nations World Pulses Day resolution was adopted in 2013 claiming the year 2016 as International Pulses Day.
  • Since 2019,World Pulses Day is celebrated by the Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) of the United Nations to recognize the importance of pulses as a global food.
  • The day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition.
  • The official designation is also linked to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Additional information:

About Pulses:

  • Pulses also known as legumes are the edible seeds of leguminous plants cultivated for food.They are the major source of protein in a vegetarian diet.
  • The major pulses grown in India are tur (arhar), urad, moong, masur, peas and gram.
  • India is the largest producer as well as the consumer of pulses in the world.The major pulse producing states are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

  • It is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.It was established in 1945 and is headquartered in Rome,Italy.

National Deworming Day(NDD)

News:The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is conducting the tenth round of National Deworming Day(NDD).

Facts:

About National Deworming Day(NDD): 

  • The National Deworming Day(NDD) is observed bi-annually since 2015 on 10th February and 10th August in all states and UTs followed by mop-up activities.
  • Objective:To reduce the prevalence of Soil Transmitted Helminths(STH) commonly called the parasitic intestinal worms among all children and adolescents.
  • The day was started in 2015 by the Ministry Of Health And Family Welfare.
  • It is implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • During the day, the children and adolescents aged 1-19 years are administered Albendazole across government, government-aided schools, anganwadis and other educational institutions.

Additional information:

About Soil-transmitted helminth(STH):

  • Soil-transmitted helminth(STH) infections are among the most common infections worldwide and affect the poorest and most deprived communities. 
  • They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor.
  • The main species that infect people are the roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and the hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale).

Exercise AJEYA WARRIOR-2020

News:The fifth edition of Joint Military Exercise AJEYA WARRIOR-2020 between India and the United Kingdom will be conducted at Salisbury Plains, United Kingdom.

Facts:

About the exercise:

  • Exercise Ajeya warrior is a joint military exercise between India and the UK.It was held for the first time in 2013.
  • Aim:To conduct company level joint training with emphasis on counter terrorists operation in Urban and Semi Urban areas.
  • Further,it will also promote defence cooperation and enhance interoperability while sharing experiences between both the armies.

Additional information:

Other exercises between India and UK:

  • Exercise Konkan: It is an annual maritime bilateral exercise between Indian Navy and the Royal Navy of Britain.
  • Exercise Indradhanush:It is a joint bilateral air exercise between India and the UK.

Explained: What is Safer Internet Day?

News:Every year,February 11 is observed as a Safer Internet Day(SID).

Facts:

About Safer Internet Day:

  • Safer Internet Day is an international event which was first initiated in 2004.
  • The day aims to promote a safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones by children and young people across the world.
  • It is organised by the Insafe/INHOPE network of awareness centres that is spread across 30 countries and is funded by the Connecting Europe Facility program(CEF) of the EU.
  • To expand the initiative’s reach,Safer Internet Day(SID) Committees were introduced in 2009.In India,the NGO DISC (Developing Internet Safe Community) Foundation is the SID Committee.

Mount Aconcagua

News:Recently,Kaamya Karthikeyan, a twelve year old Indian student has become the youngest girl in the world to summit Mt. Aconcagua.

Facts:

About Mt. Aconcagua:

  • Aconcagua is a mountain in the Principal Cordillera of the Andes mountain range,Argentina.
  • It is the highest peak in South America and outside of Asia with a height of 6962 metres.
  • Further,Mt.Aconcagua is of volcanic origin but it is not an active volcano currently.

Kerala to host global meet on climate change, ocean health

News:Kerala will be hosting a three-day international conference called ClimFishCon 2020.

Facts:

About the conference:

  • Aim:To study the impact of climate change on the Hydrological cycle, ecosystem, fisheries and food security.
  • It is organised jointly by the CUSAT School of Industrial Fisheries and the Department of Fisheries,Kerala.
  • Theme:Climate Change-Effective Adaptation for a Secure Future.

Kakinada Port

News:Recently,eighteen people were rescued after an iron barge on which they were shifting broken rice sank at the Kakinada port.

Facts:

About Kakinada Port:

  • Kakinada Port is an all-weather deep water port.It is located on the East Coast of India, Andhra Pradesh which is about 170km south of the Visakhapatnam Port.
  • The seaport was commissioned by the Andhra Pradesh Government in November 1997.However,the Port was privatized in the year 1999.

Supreme Court upholds constitutional validity of SC/ST Amendment Act,2018

News:The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act,2018.

Facts:

Background:

  • In Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra 2018, the Supreme Court had diluted the stringent provisions of SC/ST Act.
  • The court had ruled that preliminary sanction would be needed before charging officials under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989.It had also allowed anticipatory bail.
  • Following this,the government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court and subsequently amended the 1989 Act through SC/ST Amendment Act,2018.

About SC/ST Amendment Act,2018:The amendment inserted the following provisions to the to the original Act:

  • Preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.
  • The arrest of a person accused of having committed an offence under the Act would not require any approval.
  • The provisions of Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which deals with anticipatory bail shall not apply to a case under this Act, notwithstanding any judgment or order of any Court.

Maharashtra records highest number of missing women:NCRB

News:National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) has released the data on the missing children and women trafficking.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the Data:

  • The common causes of trafficking are sexual exploitation, child labour and domestic help.
  • The highest trafficking was observed from the cities of Mumbai and Kolkata.
  • Maharashtra reported the maximum number of missing women and Madhya Pradesh reported the maximum number of cases of missing children.
  • Among all the states, Odisha reported maximum rise in missing women cases and Assam in missing Children.

Additional information:

  • According to UNODC Global report 2018 on trafficking,women and girls make up most trafficking victims worldwide.Almost three-quarters of them are trafficked for sexual exploitation and 35% (women and girls) are trafficked for forced labor.

India-Bangladesh rail link to be ready by 2021

News:Indian Government has announced that the Agartala – Akhaura Rail Link will be ready by the end of 2021.

Facts:

About the Rail link:

  • The rail line between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura in Bangladesh will be the first train to run from the northeastern region to Bangladesh.
  • The Ministry for Development of the North Eastern Region(DoNER) will bear the cost of laying 5.46 km track on the Indian side while the cost of laying 10.6 km track on the Bangladesh side is being borne by the Ministry of External Affairs.
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