Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 January 2018

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 January 2018


 

Paper 1:

Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena.

 

‘Perihelion’: Earth closest to sun

Context: On January 3, the Earth will be at closest to the sun in a phenomenon called ‘Perihelion’. The event, however, cannot be observed. At 11.05 am on January 3rd, the earth will be at the closest point to the sun in its annual elliptical orbit, at a distance of 14,70,97,237 km approximately.

 

What you need to know?

Perihelion is an important event for research and educational purposes although the public cannot observe it. Commonly it is believed that the distance of the earth from the sun decides the season or temperature on the earth. But this is not true. The axial tilt (approx. 23.5 degrees) of the earth on its axis while revolving around the Sun regulates seasons on the earth with one of the hemispheres facing away or towards the Sun.

So, while the earth is closest to Sun this time in January, it is winter in India and countries in Northern Hemisphere, it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

On July 6, the earth will be at ‘Aphelion’ at 15,20,95,571 km from the sun, i.e. it will be at the farthest point from the sun.

 

Sources: et.

 


 

Paper 2:

Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

 

President appoints Vinay Sahasrabuddhe as ICCR President

President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe as President of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR).

 

About the Indian Council for Cultural Relations:

What is it? ICCR is an autonomous organisation of the government of India, tasked with strengthening India’s external cultural relations through exchanges with other countries and their people. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) was founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India’s first Education Minister.

Objectives: Its objectives are to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes pertaining to India’s external cultural relations; to foster and strengthen cultural relations and mutual understanding between India and other countries; to promote cultural exchanges with other countries and people; and to develop relations with nations.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

 

Trai issues interconnect rules

 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued the Telecommunication Interconnection Regulations, 2018, that are effective from February 1. It lay down the ground rules for telcos to enter into initial interconnect pacts, provision points of interconnection (POIs) needed to complete calls, undertake augmentation of such points and the associated charges. It has termed interconnection the “lifeline of telecommunication services”.

 

New regulations:

  • Phone companies have to ink interconnect pacts on a non- discriminatory basis within 30 days of receiving a request from any licensed carrier. Also, a telco receiving an interconnection request has to offer a draft interconnect pact within five days to the requestor, who, in turn, can submit suggestions/objections in the next five days. Currently, there is no explicit timeline for inking of interconnect agreements.
  • Telcos flouting Trai’s interconnection regulations would “be liable to pay an amount, by way of financial disincentive”, capped at “Rs 1lakh per day per licensed service area. A telco seeking POIs will be liable to furnish a six-month bank guarantee from the date of initial interconnection for the total number of ports sought, if such a demand is made by the telco offering interconnection.
  • However, interconnection levies such as set-up charges and infrastructure charges “may be mutually negotiated” between service providers as long as they are “reasonable, transparent and non-discriminatory”. But Trai has mandated a detailed process for disconnection of POIs, directing a telco to initially issue a show cause notice of 15 working days citing reasons for the same.

 

About Trai:

What is it? It is the independent regulator of the telecommunications business in India. It was established in 1997 by an Act of Parliament to regulate telecom services and tariffs in India.

What was it for? The TDSAT was set up to resolve any dispute between a licencor and a licensee, between two or more service providers, between a service provider and a group of consumers. In addition, any direction, TRAI orders or decisions can be challenged by appealing to TDSAT.

Disputes settlement: In January 2000, TRAI act was amended to establish the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory functions of the TRAI.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

 

National Knowledge Network (NKN)

Context: India has kicked off the process of appointing a telecom company that will connect and extend its state-of-the art National Knowledge Network (NKN) to research and education networks in six South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation member states — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Pakistan is the only Saarc nation that has been left out of this initiative.

 

Background:

India has for long suspended official talks with Pakistan due to continuing terrorist attacks launched by groups from across the border and chill in the relations is now evident in sphere of research cooperation too.

 

About NKK:

What is it? NKN is a multi-gigabit pan-India network which facilitates the development of India’s communications infrastructure, stimulates research and creates next generation applications and services.

Aim: With its multi-gigabit capability, NKN aims to connect all universities, research institutions, libraries, laboratories, healthcare and agricultural institutions across the country to address such paradigm shift.

What it does? It enables collaboration among researchers from different educational networks such as TEIN4, GARUDA, CERN and Internet2. It also enables sharing of scientific databases and remote access to advanced research facilities. The leading mission oriented agencies in the fields of nuclear, space and defence research are also part of NKN.

 

International connectivity:

India has now decided to extend the NKN to the global research and education networks in Saarc nations.

NKN will be connected from Afghanistan to Delhi or Mumbai, from Bangladesh to Kolkata or Delhi, from Bhutan to Kolkata or Delhi, from Nepal to Kolkata or Delhi, from Maldives to Chennai or Mumbai and from Sri Lanka to Chennai or Mumbai. A state-of-the-art management centre and Network Operations Centre will also be set up to run the NKN network. The connection from Afghanistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka to India would be through a submarine cable for international connectivity.

 

Sources: et.


Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

H-1B visa

Context: The US government is considering a proposal that could potentially lead to large-scale deportation of foreigners on H-1B visas for high-speciality workers waiting for their Green Card — mostly Indians — and drastically alter the way high-tech companies operate in the United States.

 

Background:

The United States grants 85,000 non-immigrant H-1B visa every year — 65,000 to foreigners hired abroad and 20,000 to foreigners enrolled in advanced degree courses in US schools and colleges. An estimated 70% of these visas go to Indians — hired mostly by American companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google and some by American arms of Indian tech giants Infosys, Wipro and TCS.

 

What’s the proposal?

The proposal intends to end the provision of granting extensions to H-1B visa holders whose applications for permanent residency (Green Card) had been accepted. The administration also plans to redefine high-speciality professionals for the purpose of H-1B visas.

 

How will this impact Indians working abroad?

An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be sent home if the administration decides to go ahead with the proposal which is aligned with President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” vision to boost manufacturing and protect local jobs for Americans.

The US companies, which are large employers of foreign workers but escape the scrutiny facing Indian firms, will be hit the hardest as they are more likely to apply for Green Cards for their H-1B workers than their Indian counterparts, who tend to rotate their workers home at the end of the stipulated period.

 

What is H-1B Visa?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.

An H-1B visa is granted for three years, with the provision of three more with one extension after which visa holders return to their countries. If approved for Green Card, they wait in the US using extensions.

 

Criticisms:

The aim of the H1B visa programme was to supplement the US workforce with high-skilled workers to do jobs that Americans are not skilled to do, not to replace the US workers. But over time, there have been many grumblings that many companies use the H1B visa to replace American workers with foreign ones, as the latter can be hired at lower salaries without compromising on the skill sets. In some cases, American employees have alleged that they were made to train H1B holders to do their own jobs, and then fired.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

 

World’s first ‘speed breeding’ technique to boost production of wheat

 

Context: Australian scientists have developed the world’s first ‘speed breeding’ technique that can boost the production of the crop by up to three times.

DS Faraday: The scientists have used the technique to develop the new ‘DS Faraday’ wheat variety due for release to industry this year. DS Faraday is a high protein, milling wheat with tolerance to pre-harvest sprouting.

Significance of the technique: By using speed breeding techniques in specially modified glasshouses scientists could grow six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley plants, and four generations of canola plants in a single year – as opposed to two or three generations in a regular glasshouse, or a single generation in the field. The quality and yield of the plants grown under controlled climate and extended daylight conditions was as good, or sometimes better than those grown in regular glasshouses.

 

About the speed breeding technique:

How it works? This technique uses fully controlled growth environments and can also be scaled up to work in a standard glass house. It uses LED lights optimised to aid photosynthesis in intensive regimes of up to 22 hours per day.

Why LED? LED lights significantly reduce the cost compared to sodium vapour lamps which have long been in widespread use but are ineffective because they generate much heat and emit poor quality light.

Significance: The speed breeding technique has largely been used for research purposes but is now being adopted by industry. There has been a lot of interest globally in this technique due to the fact that the world has to produce 60-80% more food by 2050 to feed its nine billion people. The new technology could also have some great applications in future vertical farming systems, and some horticultural crops.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

 

Astronauts Identify Unknown Microbes In Space For First Time

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have for the first time identified microbes in space without having to samples back to Earth for tests.

 

Significance of this discovery:

The ability to identify microbes in space could aid in the ability to diagnose and treat astronaut ailments in real time, as well as assisting in the identification of DNA-based life on other planets.

It could also benefit other experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory. Identifying microbes involves isolating the DNA of samples, and then amplifying – or making many copies – of that DNA that can then be sequenced, or identified.

 

About the International space station (ISS):

What is it? The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. The ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit. The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays and other components. ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets as well as American Space Shuttles.

What is it for? The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.

Orbit: The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day.

Joint project: The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA. The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.

ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.

 

China to become world’s first country to launch a lunar probe on far side of moon

 

China announced its plans to launch a lunar probe in 2018 to achieve the world’s first soft landing on the far side of the moon to showcase its ambitious space programme. The mission is called Chang’e 4 project.

 

About the mission:

Chang’e 4 is the fourth mission in the country’s lunar mission series which is being named after the Chinese moon goddess.

A Long March 4C rocket will start its course to 60,000 kilometers behind the moon carrying a 425-kilogram relay satellite. This relay satellite will act as an initial communication link between earth and the lunar far side.  Once China’s space agency succeeds in establishing the link, China will trigger the second part of the mission i.e. sending a lander and rover to the unexplored region of the moon.

 

Significance of the mission:

According to experts, landing on the far side of the moon is undoubtedly one of the most challenging missions ever launched by any of the world’s superpowers. The far side of the moon known as ‘South Pole-Aitken Basin’ still remains a mystery among space scientists and by sending a probe there, China will outdo the historical achievements of the US and USSR.

 

Difficulties:

Communication difficulties will be the main problem faced by the Chinese team as they try to land on the other side of the moon. China is expected to consider using options like radio telescopes developed by Heino Falcke of Radboud University to communicate in the absence of a transmitting medium.

 

History of China’s lunar exploration programmes:

China began their lunar exploration program in 2007 by launching a simple lunar orbiter named ‘Chang’e 1’. The second mission in the program named ‘Chang’e 2’ was launched in 2010, and it was later followed by the third mission ‘Chang’e 3’. ‘Chang’e 3’ made headlines all around the world as it marked the first soft moon landing since 1976.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

China starts collecting environment tax:

China has started collecting an environment tax to better protect the environment and cut pollutant discharge, as the country’s Environmental Protection Tax Law took effect on Jan. 1, 2018. This is China’s first tax clearly designed for environmental protection, which will help establish a “green” financial and taxation system and promote pollution control and treatment of pollutants.

Under the Environmental Protection Tax Law, which targets enterprises and public institutions that discharge listed pollutants directly into the environment, companies will pay taxes for producing noise, air and water pollutants as well as solid waste. Individuals do not need to pay the tax as it is applicable only to enterprises, public institutions and other business operators.

 

GI recognition: Famed Nilambur teak:

Kerala’s Nilambur teak aka Malabar teak has found its place in the Geographical Indications (GI) Registry. GI tag denotes quality and origin of the products and helps keep unscrupulous commercial operators at bay.

Nilambur teak: The golden brown teak is known for its log dimensions, desired wood figure and wide reputation in the world of trade. Its durability is attributed to the synergistic effect of total extensive components and the resistance to fungal decay to naphthoquinone and derivatives it contains. The hydrophobicity, anti-oxidant properties and oily nature are due to a caoutchouc compound.

 

Species we lost in 2017 and the ones that managed to hold on:

According to the updated IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list, here are the species that were marked as “EXTINCT”:

  • Christmas Island Pipistrelle : This small bat found exclusively on Christmas Island, Australia was listed as critically endangered last year. Predation, loss of habitat, and diseases were pointed out as causes for its extinction.
  • Christmas Island Whiptail-skink : Another species endemic to Christmas Island, this lizard went extinct this year. Non-native predators and insecticide poisoning drove it over the edge.
  • Christmas Island chained gekho : The species is listed as extinct in the wild, which means it is now found only in a captive breeding programme.
  • Gunthers Dwarf Burrowing skink : Though no record of the skink has been made for more than 125 years, this native of South Africa was officially confirmed to be extinct only this year.

 

Species placed under the “critically endangered” category:

  • Western Ringtail Possum: The number for this species has declined by almost 80 per cent in the past 10 years. Australia’s increasingly dry and hot climate has led to its dramatic decline.
  • Yellow-breasted Bunting: Loss of roosting site and use of pesticides are major causes of their its decline.
  • Plains Wanderer : Exposure to pesticides, habitat loss, predation by foxes have all affected the survival of this small quail-like bird
  • Green Poison Frog, Perret’s Toad, and Rose’s Mountain Toad are also listed as critically endangered.