Daily Current Affairs : 13th May

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste
  2. Supernova
  3. Asiatic Lion
  4. Apache attack helicopter
  5. Disqualification as per Tenth Schedule
  6. COMCASA
  7. Atal Pension Yojana
  8. MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative
  9. Facts for Prelims – Vacation Bench

1 . UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste

Context : Around 180 governments on Friday agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste, some eight million tonnes of which ends up in the oceans each year

About the Accord

  • The accord amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework.
  • The 1,400 representatives, meeting in Geneva reached the agreement after 12 days
  • The meeting also undertook to eliminate two toxic chemical groups — Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid, plus related compounds. The latter has been used in a wide variety of industrial and domestic applications, including non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as carpets, paper and paints.
  • Even though the U.S. and a few others have not signed the accord, they cannot ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.
  • Agreement linked to the United Nations-supported Basel Convention means that countries will have to monitor and track the movements of plastic waste outside their borders.

Importance

  • For far too long, developed countries like the U.S. and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country. Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean
  • New amendment would empower developing countries to refuse “dumping plastic waste” by others.

Basel Convention

  • The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on 22 March 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland
  • The overarching objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. Its scope of application covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash. 

Aims and provisions

The provisions of the Convention center around the following principal aims: 

  • the reduction of hazardous waste generation and the promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, wherever the place of disposal;
  • the restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management; and
  • a regulatory system applying to cases where transboundary movements are permissible.

2 . Supernova

Context : Neutrinos could be the driving force behind supernova explosions, a new theoretical study from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research finds. The study which makes a fundamental advance in modelling neutrinos inside stars puts forth the idea that “fast neutrino oscillations” could hold the key to why some stars explode forming supernovae at the end of their lives.

What is Supernova

  • A supernova is the explosion of a star. It is the largest explosion that takes place in space.

Where Do Supernovas Take Place?

  • Supernovas are often seen in other galaxies. But supernovas are difficult to see in our own Milky Way galaxy because dust blocks our view.
  • In 1604, Johannes Kepler discovered the last observed supernova in the Milky Way. NASA’s Chandra telescope discovered the remains of a more recent supernova. It exploded in the Milky Way more than a hundred years ago

About Neutrinos

  • Neutrinos are elusive subatomic particles created in a wide variety of nuclear processes.
  • They carry no electrical charge. Of the four fundamental forces in the universe, neutrinos only interact with two — gravity and the weak force, which is responsible for the radioactive decay of atoms. Having nearly no mass, they zip through the cosmos at almost the speed of light.
  • Neutrinos come in three flavours: electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino, so named because of the corresponding leptons they are associated with

About the Neutrino Oscillation

  • Earlier when measuring the number of neutrinos coming from the sun, experimentalists found that only a third of the number of solar neutrinos that was expected was being intercepted on earth. This was later explained by the understanding that they have a small mass and they can change from one flavour to another – a phenomenon named neutrino oscillations.
  • Fast neutrino oscillations are another phenomenon – When the same neutrinos are in the presence of many other neutrinos and when the different flavours are emitted slightly differently in various directions the oscillations from one flavour to another happen at a higher frequency. This is called fast oscillation and is proportional to the density of neutrinos in the medium, and not the masses of the neutrinos.

3 . Asiatic Lion

Context : For the first time, the entire genome of Asiatic lion, an endangered species, has been sequenced by scientists from CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

About the News

  • Genome sequencing would enable scientists to develop specific markers to study population genetics (the differences at the gene level within a population) and get newer insights into its population status and subsequent management.
  • This firsthand information would help us to better understand the evolution of Asiatic lions and also make possible comparative analysis with other big cats
  • With the complete genome of royal Bengal tiger, African Cheetah and Jaguar available, comparative studies of all these big cats would be possible.

About Asiatic Lion

  • Asiatic lions were once distributed upto the state of West Bengal in east and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, in central India.
  • At present Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only abode of the Asiatic lion
  • On the IUCN Red List, it is listed as Endangered 

4 . Apache attack helicopter

Context : The first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter built for India was formally handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona in the U.S. on Saturday.

About Apache Helicopter

  • The Air Force had contracted 22 Apache helicopters from the U.S. Govt and Boeing in September 2015.
  • The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground,
  • Ability of the helicopters, to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems makes it a lethal acquisition.

5 . Disqualification of Members as per Tenth Schedule

Context : The Supreme Court stayed the proceedings initiated by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal for the disqualification of three MLAs of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam under anti defection law.

What are the rules on disqualification?

  • As per Paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, a Member of Parliament or Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council can be disqualified on two grounds: if the member voluntarily gives up membership of the party on whose ticket he or she got elected; or, if the member votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction of such party.
  • However, disqualification may be avoided if the party leadership condones the vote or abstention within 15 days.
  • The procedure for disqualification is laid down in the Members of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986. Each State has similar rules.

6 . COMCASA

About COMCASA

  • COMCASA stands for Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement and 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.
  • 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 10 years.
  • COMCASA allows India to procure transfer specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is.
  • 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). 

7 . Atal Pension Yojana

About Atal Pension Yojana

  • APY, launched by the Centre in 2015, was aimed at providing financial security to people in the unorganised sector during their post-retirement life.However any citizen of India with a savings bank or post office account can invest in the APY.
  • The age of the subscriber should be 18-40 years.
  • The government has ‘co-contributed’ up to 50% of the premium for five years for those who joined the scheme between June 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016 and were not beneficiaries of any social security schemes, besides not being income-tax payers.
  • The subscribers will get a pension of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 2,000, Rs. 3,000, Rs. 4,000 or Rs. 5,000 per month on attaining the age of 60, depending on the contributions made by them. 
  • The monthly contribution to APY is modest — from a low of Rs. 42 a month for an 18-year-old desiring a pension of Rs. 1,000, to a maximum of Rs. 1,454 a month for a 40-year-old seeking Rs. 5,000 as monthly payout.
  • On death of the subscriber (after the age of 60), the pension will go to his/her spouse. In case of death of both the subscriber and spouse, the pension corpus will be given to the nominee. On death of the subscriber before attaining 60, the spouse will be given the option either to withdraw fully or to continue paying premium for the balance period (original subscriber’s 60th birthday) and then avail of the pension benefit

8 . MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative’

Context : Department of Biotechnology (DBT) launched ‘MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative’, a project for mapping every tissue of the human body to help understand better the roles of tissues and cells linked to various diseases.

About Manav : Human Atlas Initiative

  • The comprehensive map of the human body, every tissue accounted for, will be created from all available scientific literature.
  • The programme will seek to provide better biological insights through physiological and molecular mapping, develop disease models through predictive computing, and allow for a holistic analysis and finally drug discovery.
  • The aim of the project is to understand and capture human physiology in two stages — normal stage and disease stage.

How it will be created

  • Students will be trained in annotation and curation of the information that will form the online network. Students in their final year of graduation and above in biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, botany, zoology, bioinformatics, health sciences, systems biologists, pharmacologists and data sciences can sign up.
  • Initially, the programme will accommodate colleges that operate under the DBT Star College scheme.

Why it matters

  • This collated data can be useful for future researchers and clinicians and drug developers, who finally handle human bodies in disease conditions.
  • The platform will also impart key skills to the student community in reading scientific literature — in this case on individual tissues and perform annotation and curation.
  • Such a database will come in handy in tracing causes of a disease, understanding specific pathways and ultimately decoding how the body’s disease stage is linked to tissues and cells.
  • The teams will also study any potent elements or molecules that have never been used in the form of drugs, to target specific cells or tissues

9 . Facts for Prelims

Vacation Bench

  • A Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court is a special bench constituted by the Chief Justice of India. The court takes two long vacations each year, the summer and winter breaks, but is technically not fully closed during these periods.
  • Litigants can still approach the Supreme Court and, if the court decides that the plea is an “urgent matter”, the Vacation Bench hears the case on its merits

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