Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 11 May, 2021

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NASA’s “OSIRIS-REx Mission” to begin return from “Asteroid Bennu”

What is the News?

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission will depart from asteroid Bennu and start its two-year-long journey back to Earth.

About OSIRIS-REx Mission:

  • OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.
  • The mission was launched in 2016. It was the first U.S. mission to successfully collect a sample from an asteroid.
  • Aim: To travel to a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu and bring a small sample back to Earth for study.
  • Instruments: The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu. This includes cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter.
  • Duration: The mission is essentially a seven-year-long. The mission will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth.

Asteroid Bennu:

  • Asteroid Bennu is named after an Egyptian deity. It is as tall as the Empire State Building. It is located about 200 million miles away from the Earth.
  • The asteroid was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999.

Characteristics of Asteroid Bennu:

  • Bennu is a B-type asteroid. It contains significant amounts of carbon and various other minerals.
    • Because of its high carbon content, the asteroid reflects about 4% of the light that hits it. The reflection is very low when compared with Venus(reflects about 65% of the light). Earth reflects about 30%.
  • Around 20-40% of Bennu’s interior is empty. This means that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s creation which is roughly around 4.5 billion years old.
  • Bennu is classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO). So, it has a possibility to strike the Earth in the next century between the years 2175 and 2199.
    • NEOs are comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets orbits. This allows them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.

Why study Asteroid Bennu?

  • Asteroid Bennu is considered to be an ancient asteroid. Further, it has not gone through a lot of composition-altering changes for billions of years. This means that below the surface of Bennu the chemicals and rocks lie in the same form since the birth of the solar system.
  • Therefore, scientists and researchers are interested in studying this asteroid. As it might give them clues about the origins of the solar system, the sun, the Earth and the other planets.

What are Asteroids?

  • Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun. They are much smaller than planets, so they are also called minor planets. According to NASA, there are around 994,383 known asteroids.
  • Scientists study asteroids to:
    • Asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system. So, the scientists will look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun
    • Another reason for tracking them is to look for potentially hazardous asteroids.

Source: Indian Express

“Nature in a Globalised World” – An IUCN report on Conflict and Conservation

What is the News?

International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) has released a report titled “Nature in a Globalised World: Conflict and Conservation”.

 About the Nature in a Globalised World Report:

  • The report focuses on complex relationships between nature and armed conflict.
  • Objective: To bring nature conservation into the mainstream of economic and political decision-making.

Key Findings of the Nature in a Globalised World Report:

  • Armed Conflicts have numerous negative effects on nature. These include:
    • Direct killing of wildlife for food or trade
    • Degradation of ecosystems as both a tactic and a consequence of war
    • Disruption of conservation, e.g. through attacks on protected area staff and other conservationists.
  • Greater conflict risk: The report gave examples about the impact on a range of species from conflicts:
    • During the 1994 war in Rwanda, 90% of the large mammals in the Akagera National Park were killed for food or trade.
    • The Vietnam War almost certainly accelerated the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros.
  • Further, the report has found that armed conflicts are particularly prevalent in some of the more biodiverse regions of the world.
  • Moreover, civil unrest and military exercises pose a risk to more than 200 Endangered species. This includes even the iconic species such as the Critically Endangered Eastern gorilla.
  • However, conflicts were less frequent within the boundaries of the natural reserves and other protected areas.

 Recommendations of the Nature in a Globalised World:

The report has recommended a series of suggestions such as:

  • Strengthening the natural resource governance through measures like inclusive decision-making
  • Improving accountability and transparency
  • Recognising the rights of indigenous peoples and of women
  • Establishment of explicit protections for protected area staff, environmental defenders and other conservationists and
  • Sanctions against those who commit environmental war crimes.

Source: Livemint

WHO classifies Indian variant as “Variant of Concern”

What is the News?

The World Health Organization has classified the B.1.617 (variant first identified in India in 2020) as a Variant of Concern(VoC).

Variant Classifications: Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate it from the other variants that are in circulation.

Types: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies variants into three categories:

Variant of Interest(VOI):

A variant is classified as Variant of Interest, based on the following possible attributes:

  • Associated with changes to receptor binding
  • Reduced neutralization by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination
  • Reduced efficacy of treatments
  • Potential diagnostic impact
  • A predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity.
Variant of Concern(VoC):

A variant is classified as Variant of Concern if there is any evidence of:

  • Increase in transmissibility
  • More severe disease (e.g. increased hospitalizations or deaths)
  • Significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination
  • Reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines or diagnostic detection failures.

Note: The most frequent Variant of Concern(VOC) named by WHO by their geography of origin are

  • ‘U.K. variant’ for B.1.1.7;
  • ‘South Africa variant’ for B.1.351;
  • ‘Brazil variant’ for P.1. and
  • ‘Indian Variant’ for B.1.617
Variants of High Consequence
  • This is classified when there is clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures do not work on curbing the virus compared to other variants.
  • Currently, there are no SARS-CoV-2 variants that rise to the level of high consequence.

Source: The Hindu

“Volcanic eruption” occurs in Indonesia’s “Mount Sinabung”

What is the News?

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung has erupted releasing a massive column of volcanic ash and smoke up to 3,000 metres(3 km) into the sky.

About Mount Sinabung:

  • Mount Sinabung is located in North Sumatra in Indonesia. It is among more than 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia. (Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific’s Ring of Fire).
  • The volcano was dormant for 400 years before exploding in 2010. It exploded again in 2014 and 2016.

About Ring of Fire:

  • The Ring of Fire also referred to as the Circum-Pacific Belt is a path along the Pacific Ocean. It is characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.
  • Boundaries: It traces boundaries between several tectonic plates including Pacific, Cocos, Indian-Australian, Nazca, North American and Philippine Plates.
  • Significance:
    • 75% of Earth’s volcanoes i.e. more than 450 volcanoes are located along the Ring of Fire.
    • 90% of Earth’s earthquakes occur along its path.
  • The abundance of volcanoes and earthquakes along the Ring of Fire is due to the frequent movement of tectonic plates in this area.

What is Volcano?

  • A volcano is an eruption in the earth’s crust through which the lava, volcanic ash and gases escape to release pressure.

Why Volcanic Eruption takes place?

  • Magma is a thick flowing substance. It is formed during the melting of Earth’s crust and Mantle.
  • Volcanic eruption takes place when magma rises to the surface.
  • As magma is lighter than rock, it is able to rise through vents and fissures on the surface of the earth. After the eruption, the magma is called lava.

Types of Volcanoes: Volcanoes are classified as active, dormant, or extinct:

  • Active volcanoes have a recent history of eruptions. They are likely to erupt again.
  • Dormant volcanoes have not erupted for a very long time but may erupt at a future time.
  • Extinct volcanoes are not expected to erupt in the future.

Risk From Volcanic Eruptions:

  • The most common cause of death from a volcano is suffocation. People with respiratory conditions such as asthma and other chronic lung diseases are susceptible to suffocation.
  • People living close to the volcano or in low-lying downwind areas are also at higher risk in case of an explosion. As the ash may be coarse-grained and abrasive, even small particles can scratch the surface of the eyes.
  • Further, volcanic eruptions can result in additional threats to health such as floods, mudslides, power outages, drinking water contamination and wildfires.

Source: Indian Express

Ex-Defence doctors to provide online consultation on “e-Sanjeevani OPD”

What is the News?

Ex-Defence doctors will also now provide online consultation on e-Sanjeevani OPD to the needy patients in Rajasthan. This facility will be extended to other states shortly.

E-Sanjeevani: It is a telemedicine platform of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare(MoHFW). The platform has enabled two types of telemedicine services:

  • eSanjeevani: It is a doctor to doctor telemedicine system being implemented under the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre(AB-HWCs) programme. It seeks to connect all 1,50,000 HWCs using the hub-and-spoke model by December 2022.
  • eSanjeevaniOPD: It was launched amid the Covid-19 pandemic to enable patient-to-doctor teleconsultation.

e-ICU Platform:

  • e-ICU has been launched on the e-Sanjeevani platform. It has been developed by the Medical Branch of Integrated Defence Staff in coordination with C-DAC Mohali.
  • Purpose: The portal will help the Medical Officers to get real-time consultations from specialists doctors in managing their patients.
  • The portal is based on the Hub & Spoke model. Under this, Medical Specialists are at the Hub and the Medical Officers are at the Spokes. This will help to leverage technology for overcoming the specialist shortages as part of the Digital India mission.

Source: PIB

Puducherry becomes ‘Har Ghar Jal’ UT under “Jal Jeevan Mission”

What is the News?

Puducherry has become the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ Union Territory by ensuring that every rural home gets a household tap connection.

Note: Puducherry has become the fourth state or UT after Goa, Telangana and Andaman and Nicobar Islands to provide assured tap water supply to every rural home under Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM).

About Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM):

  • Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM) was launched by the Ministry of Jal Shakti in 2019.
  • Objective: To provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India.
  • The goal of the mission: The goal is to have ‘Har Ghar Jal’- every house in the village is to be provided with a Functional tap connection.

Fund Sharing Pattern under the mission:

  • The fund sharing pattern between Center and State under the mission is as follow:
    • 90:10 for Himalayan (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh) and North-Eastern States
    • Total fund for UTs will be provided by Center.
    • 50:50 for the rest of the States.

 Key Features of the mission:

  • The mission is a decentralized, demand-driven and community-managed programme. The Gram Panchayat will play a key role in planning and implementation.
  • The mission includes extensive Information, Education and communication as a key component of the mission.
  • The mission will also implement source sustainability measures as mandatory elements. This includes measures such as recharge and reuse through greywater management, water conservation, rainwater harvesting.
  • Further, States will give priority to
    • Water quality-affected areas,
    • Villages in drought-prone and desert areas,
    • Scheduled caste/scheduled tribe majority villages,
    • Aspirational districts and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana villages.

Source: PIB

One lakh tonnes of food grains distributed within 10 days under “PMGKAY”.

What is the News?

The government is distributing food grains under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. According to the Department of Food and Public Distribution, one lakh tonnes of food grains have been distributed so far under the new phase of the Yojana.

About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana(PMGKAY):

  • PMGKAY was first announced in 2020 as a part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package(PMGKP). It aims to help the poor to fight the battle against Covid-19.
  • Aim: The scheme is aimed at providing each person who is covered under the National Food Security Act(NFSA) with an additional 5 kg of grains (wheat or rice) for free. This is given over and above their monthly entitlement
  • Duration of the Scheme: The scheme was announced in 2020 for three months till July 2020. Later it was extended till November 2020.
    • However, the scheme is functional once again. Under this phase, around 80 crore beneficiaries would be covered for the months of May and June 2021.

Note: The new phase of the PMGKAY Scheme does not provide free-of-cost 1 kg pulses per month to each household covered under the NFSA. This one of the important components available in the earlier phase of the program.

Performance of the PMGKAY scheme till now:

  • The government allotted a total monthly allocation (for May) of 40 lakh metric tonnes (MT) under the PMGKAY. Of these one lakh, tonnes have been distributed so far.
  • Thirteen States and union territories have started distribution under the PMGKAY Scheme.
  • In the first 10 days, PMGKAY grains have reached 2.03 crore
  • Further, 15 lakh MT has been lifted by states from the Food Corporation of India’s stock for distribution.

Petition in Supreme Court:

  • Despite the government intervention, a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a resumption of the 2020 scheme. In 2020 the government provided food grains to those without ration cards also.
    • Note: The Government has ruled out the possibility of a similar scheme in 2021.
  • The petitioners have also asked for the payment of minimum wages as cash transfers and appropriate transport facilities for migrant workers.

Source: The Hindu

The pandemic won’t impact India’s “credit rating” for 2 years – Standard & Poor(S&P)

What is the News?

Standard & Poor’s Global Credit Ratings has organized a webinar titled “What A Drawn Out Second Covid Wave Means For India”. During that, the S&P clarified that the pandemic won’t impact the ‘BBB-‘ rating of India for 2 years. 

What are the key outcomes of the webinar?

  • An increase in coronavirus cases in India could threaten the strong economic recovery of India.
  • India’s GDP would decrease to 9.8% under a moderate scenario and 8.2% under a severe scenario based on when the wave peaks. This is in comparison with the baseline forecast of 11% growth for the period.
  • India’s sovereign rating will remain unchanged at the current level of BBB- for the next two years.
  • However, the pandemic will impact household consumption and retail activity due to
    • Increase in Covid-19 cases,
    • Limited healthcare system capacity.
    • The localized lockdowns.
  • The second Covid-19 wave will not have any major impact on the government’s fiscal position in a moderate downside scenario. But there could be upside pressure on the fiscal deficit as revenue generation could be weaker.

What is a Credit Rating?

  • A credit rating is a quantified assessment of the creditworthiness of a borrower in general terms or with respect to a particular debt or financial obligation.
  • A credit rating can be assigned to any entity that seeks to borrow money. An entity can be an individual, a corporation, a state or provincial authority, or a sovereign government.
  • The three big Global Credit Rating Agencies are Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service, and Standard & Poor’s(S&P).
  • Credit rating agencies in India came into existence in the late 1980s. Some credit rating agencies registered under SEBI are CRISIL, ICRA CARE, and Fitch India.
  • A higher credit rating boosts the investor’s confidence in a country. Because the higher rating will interpret low risk and higher financial stability.

What is Investment Grade Ratings?

  • An investment-grade rating signifies the rating agency’s belief that the rated instrument is likely to meet its payment obligations.
  • In the Indian context, debt instruments rated ‘BBB-‘ and above are classified as investment-grade ratings.
  • Instruments that are rated ‘BB+’ and below are classified as speculative-grade category ratings
    • Instruments rated in the speculative grade are considered to carry materially higher risk and a higher probability of default compared to the investment grade.

Source: The Hindu


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