Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 15 October 2019
Table of contents:
GS Paper 2:
- National Medical Commission.
- India- China Informal Summit at Mahabalipuram.
- ‘Dark Grey’ list of FATF.
GS Paper 3:
- Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2019.
- 2019 Nobel Prizes.
- Facebook’s new cryptocurrency- Libra.
Facts for prelims:
- LOTUS-HR project.
- World Standards Day.
GS Paper 2:
- Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of the National Medical Commission bill.
For Mains: MCI- issues, performance, concerns and need for superseding.
Context: Government selects 25 members of National Medical Commission.
For selecting members of the commission, that replaces the Medical Council of India (MCI), health ministry held a draw of lots.
- The draw of lot was held from the nominations sent by the state governments, union territories and state medical councils.
- The members include 10 Vice-Chancellors (VCs) from different states, nine members from the State Medical Councils (SMCs) and four part-time members from the autonomous boards.
National Medical Commission Act 2019 proposes set up a National Medical Commission with 25 members.
Appointment: These members will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a committee.
Composition: The members will include a chairperson, who must be a senior medical practitioner and academic with at least 20 years of experience, 10 ex officio members and 14 part-time members.
The ex officio members will include the presidents of the undergraduate and postgraduate medical education boards, the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, and a director of one of the AIIMS, among others.
Part-time members, on the other hand, will include experts from the field of management, law, medical ethics, etc. and nominees of states and union territories.
Functions of NMC:
- The NMC will frame policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals, assessing the requirements of healthcare-related human resources and infrastructure, and ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of the regulations made under the Bill.
- Besides this, the NMC will frame guidelines for determination of fees for up to 50 per cent of the seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities which are regulated under the Bill.
Sources: the Hindu.
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
What to study?
For Prelims: Historical background of Mahabalipuram.
For Mains: Informal and formal summits- need for and significance, overview Of India- China relations.
Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in the ancient coastal town of Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu for a second Informal Summit.
The two countries convened their first Informal Summit in central China’s Wuhan in April 2018, where they exchanged views on issues of global and bilateral significance.
- To celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations the two countries will organise 70 activities including a conference on a ship voyage that will trace the historical connection between the two civilisations.
- A high- level economic and trade dialogue mechanism will be established with the objective of achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations.
- Mutual investments in identified sectors will be encouraged through the development of a manufacturing partnership.
- Sister- state relations will be established between Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province.
What are Informal Summits?
- They act as supplementary exchanges to annual Summits and other formal exchanges such as the G20 Summit, EU-India Summit and the BRICS Summit among others.
- They allow for “direct, free and candid exchange of views” between countries, something that may not be possible to do through formal bilateral and multilateral meetings that are agenda driven, where specific issues are discussed, and outcomes are more concretely defined.
- They are impromptu in the sense that they take place when a need for them is perceived by the concerned nations.
The story of Mahabalipuram’s China connection:
- Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram, 56 km south of Chennai on the Tamil Nadu coast had ancient links with Buddhism and China through the maritime outreach of the Pallava dynasty.
- The name Mamallapuram derives from Mamallan, or “great warrior”, a title by which the Pallava King Narasimhavarman I (630-668 AD) was known. It was during his reign that Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist monk-traveller, visited the Pallava capital at Kanchipuram.
- Narasimhavarman II (c.700-728 AD), also known as Rajasimhan, built on the work of earlier Pallava kings to consolidate maritime mercantile links with southeast Asia.
- Narasimhavarman II sent a mission to the Tang court in 720 AD.
- The emissaries of the Pallava king sought the permission of Emperor Xuangzong to fight back Arab and Tibetan intrusions in South Asia.
- Pleased with the Indian king’s offer to form a coalition against the Arabs and Tibetans, the Chinese emperor bestowed the title of ‘huaide jun’ (the Army that Cherishes Virtue) to Narayansimha II’s troops.
- The Descent of the Ganga/Arjuna’s Penance, a rock carving commissioned by Narasimhavarman I, with its depiction of the Bhagirathi flowing from the Himalayas, may serve as a reminder of the geography of India-China relations, and their shared resources.
During the reign of Cholas:
Tamil-Chinese links continued after the Pallavas, flourishing under the Cholas as the Coromandel coast became the entrepot between China and the Middle East. The links extended to a wider area beyond Mahabalipuram, through a layered history that has left a rich tapestry of society, culture, art and architecture, which is diverse and complex, and reaches up to modern times.
The trading missions that the Cholas sent to the Song court included Muslims.
A trader named Abu Qasim was second-in-command of a mission sent in 1015; the next mission, in 1033, included one Abu Adil.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
What to study?
For Prelims: FATF, Grey list, Dark Grey list, G7, About APG.
For Mains: What is Grey list and Black list, how are countries in the list affected? How does FATF’s latest move affects Pakistan?
Context: Pakistan is on the verge of strong action by the international terror financing watchdog FATF and the country may be put in the ‘Dark Grey’ list, the last warning to improve.
Pakistan is on the verge of strong action by FATF, given its inadequate performance, whereby it managed to pass in only six of 27 items.
What is Dark Grey list?
According to FATF rules there is one essential stage between ‘Grey’ and ‘Black’ lists, referred to as ‘Dark Grey’.
- ‘Dark Grey’ means issuance of a strong warning, so that the country concerned gets one last chance to improve, another official said.
- ‘Dark Grey’ was the term used for warning upto 3rd Phase. Now it’s just called warning — that is the 4th phase.
Pakistan was placed on the Grey List by the Paris-based watchdog in June last year and was given a plan of action to complete it by October 2019, or face the risk of being placed on the black list with Iran and North Korea.
If Pakistan continues with the ‘grey list’ or put in ‘Dark Grey’ list, it would be very difficult for the country to get financial aid from the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union, making its financial condition more precarious.
Pakistan and state-sponsored terrorism:
- Pakistan has been accused by neighbouring countries India, Afghanistan and Iran and other nations, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France of involvement in terrorist activities in the region and beyond.
- It is also alleged that Money is transferred to terror organization via Pakistan army.
- It has been described as a safe haven for terrorists by western media and the United States Defense Secretary. It has been time and again proved that Pakistan has been supportive to several terrorist groups despite several stern warnings from the international community
- Besides, the government of Pakistan has been accused of aiding terrorist organisations operating on their soil who have attacked neighbouring India.
- However, Pakistan denies all allegations, stating that these acts are committed by non-state actors.
What is it? The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
Objectives: The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
Functions: The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally. In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview and key findings of the report.
For Mains: Challenges and concerns highlighted, and ways to address them.
Context: The Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2019 was published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Key findings- Effects of NTMs:
- Non-tariff measures (NTMs) have increased in the past two decades and are affecting trade as well sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Asian countries.
- NTMs affect 58 per cent of the trade in Asia-Pacific.
- NTMs can have a direct impact on the performance of trading partners. They can also impact issues such as health, safety, environment, climate, public security and peace, which in turn, influence SDGs.
- Around half the Asia-Pacific’s economies have at least one NTM addressing water and energy efficiency and only 10 per cent have measures addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and illegal timber trade.
- What’s the concern now?
The implementation of NTMs raises the cost of trade, especially in developing economies. The average cost of these measures alone amounts to 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product, roughly $1.4 trillion globally.
- The developed economies have a higher standard of NTMs which affects trade of developing economies. In case of Sri Lanka, the country would have needed to invest too much to follow EU standards on IUU.
- Thus, the cost of investment in NTMs can sometimes be higher than the cost of total trade. This makes NTMs burdensome.
- NTMs affected foreign direct investment negatively, which slowed countries’ economic activities.
But, why are they imposed?
NTMs assure protection of human health or the environment. They can even boost trade under certain conditions. While trade costs associated with NTMs are estimated to be more than double that of tariffs, NTMs often serve important public policy objectives linked to sustainable development.
There appears to be more scope for member states in the Asia-Pacific region to address these aspects of sustainable development through trade measures. But NTMs are quite complex and vary from country to country.
- Ensure that NTMs are designed and implemented effectively so that costs are minimised.
- Build capacity in developing economies to adapt, coordinate or harmonise the use of international standards.
- Increase cooperation with developed economies to work out regional mechanisms and develop common guidelines on sustainability impact assessment of NTMs.
- To address trade costs while maintaining the benefits of NTMs, countries need to further enhance cooperation at all levels.
- Regional initiatives should be actively pursued, such as NTM harmonisation and mutual recognition initiatives in regional trade agreements.
- Review current NTMs and ensure that new NTMs are systematically follows and monitored.
Sri Lanka earned a lot revenue by exporting seafood. But then, the European Union (EU) instituted an import ban on Sri Lankan seafood because of the country’s systematic failure to regulate IUU fishing. This was a type of NTM.
On the one hand, the ban helped in conservation of marine resources and encouraged sustainable fishing. At the same time though, fisherfolk in Sri Lanka became poor.
The ban led domestic prices to plummet, which in turn, translated into a decrease in fishing.
What are Non-tariff measures (NTMs)?
NTMs allude to technical measures such as sanitary (for protection of human and animal health), and phytosanitary (for protection of plant health), or SPS, and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), which are related to environmental and sustainable standards that are set to block or slow down trade instead of regular tariffs or duties.
Sources: Down to earth.
- The Nobel Prize in Physics 2019:
Awarded “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos”. Winners are:
- James Peebles “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology”.
- Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star”.
- The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019:
John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino “for the development of lithium-ion batteries”
What are lithium-ion batteries?
Lithium is the lightest of all metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the largest energy density for weight.
Although slightly lower in energy density than lithium metal, lithium-ion is safe, provided certain precautions are met when charging and discharging.
In 1991, the Sony Corporation commercialized the first lithium-ion battery. Other manufacturers followed suit.
Why are they important?
- The energy density of lithium-ion is typically twice that of the standard nickel-cadmium.
- There is potential for higher energy densities.
- The load characteristics are reasonably good and behave similarly to nickel-cadmium in terms of discharge.
- The high cell voltage of 3.6 volts allows battery pack designs with only one cell.
- Lithium-ion is a low maintenance battery, an advantage that most other chemistries cannot claim.
- There is no memory and no scheduled cycling is required to prolong the battery’s life.
- In addition, the self-discharge is less than half compared to nickel-cadmium, making lithium-ion well suited for modern fuel gauge applications.
- lithium-ion cells cause little harm when disposed.
- It is fragile and requires a protection circuit to maintain safe operation.
- Aging is a concern with most lithium-ion batteries.
- Some capacity deterioration is noticeable after one year, whether the battery is in use or not.
- Expensive to manufacture – about 40 percent higher in cost than nickel-cadmium.
- Not fully mature – metals and chemicals are changing on a continuing basis.
- The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2019:
William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability”
What we knew so far?
The rate at which we respire depends on the amount of oxygen being carried in the blood.
Specialised cells present next to large blood vessels in the neck sense the blood oxygen level and alert the brain to increase the rate of respiration when the oxygen level in the blood goes down. This discovery won a Nobel Prize in 1938.
- At the beginning of the last century, scientists knew that specialised cells present in the kidneys make and release a hormone called erythropoietin. When oxygen level is low, as in high altitudes, more of this hormone is produced and released, leading to increased production of red blood cells in the bone marrow — helping the body adapt to high altitudes.
- Besides increasing red blood cells, the body also grows new blood vessels to increase blood supply.
What are the main contributions of 2019’s winners?
- Both Prof. Semenza and Sir Ratcliffe independently studied how the erythropoietin gene is regulated by varying oxygen levels.
- Both researchers found that the oxygen-sensing mechanism is not restricted to kidneys where the erythropoietin is produced but by diverse cells in tissues other than the kidney.
- Semenza identified a pair of genes that express two proteins. When the oxygen level is low, one of the proteins (HIF-1alpha) turns on certain genes, including the erythropoietin gene, to increase the production of erythropoietin. The hormone, in turn, increases the oxygen availability by boosting the production of red blood cells.
- Kaelin Jr. found the VHL gene seemed to be involved in how cells respond to oxygen.
- The function of the HIF-1alpha protein, which turns on the genes to produce more erythropoietin, is blocked and is rapidly degraded when the oxygen level is normal but remains intact when oxygen level is low.
- Sir Ratcliffe found that VHL interacts with the HIF-1alpha protein and degrades it when the oxygen level is normal. This ensures that excess red blood cells are not produced when the oxygen level is normal.
Significance of the discovery:
- Oxygen is essential for animal life: it is used by the mitochondria present in virtually all animal cells in order to convert food into useful energy.
- While oxygen is essential for the survival of cells, excess or too little oxygen can lead to adverse health consequences.
- Oxygen supply temporarily reduces in muscles during intense exercise and under such conditions the cells adapt their metabolism to low oxygen levels.
- Proper growth of the foetus and placenta depends on the ability of the cells to sense oxygen.
- Many diseases can be treated by increasing the function of a particular pathway of the oxygen-sensing machinery.
- The Nobel Prize in Literature 2019:
Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian novelist Peter Handke would receive 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature. The prize was postponed in 2018 after the academy was hit by a sexual assault scandal.
Peter Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”
- The Nobel Peace Prize 2019:
Abiy Ahmed Ali (PM of Ethiopia) “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”
History of the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict:
- In April 1993, Eritrea broke from its federation with Ethiopia, becoming an independent country that was located strategically at the mouth of the Red Sea on the Horn of Africa, in close proximity to one of the world’s most crucial shipping lanes. Independence was the outcome of a 30-year war by Eritrean liberation fighters against Ethiopia, which had annexed the small multiethnic territory to its north in 1962.
- Just over five years after Independence, however, war broke out between the two countries over the control of Badme — a border town of no apparent significance, but which both Addis Ababa and Asmara coveted.
- The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019:
Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.
Esther Duflo has become the second woman to win prize after Elinor Ostrom (2009) of US.
This year’s Laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty.
In brief, it involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions – for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health.
They have shown that these smaller, more precise, questions are often best answered via carefully designed experiments among the people who are most affected.
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: various cryptocurrencies, their uses, concerns over their regulation and issues associated.
Context: Despite several high-profile defections and intense criticism from US regulators and politicians, Facebook officially launches Libra.
The Libra Association, the nonprofit that will govern the currency, officially signed on 21 charter members at the organization’s inaugural meeting in Geneva.
What is Libra?
Facebook says Libra is a “global currency and financial infrastructure”. In other words, it is a digital asset built by Facebook and powered by a new Facebook-created version of blockchain, the encrypted technology used by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Who is in charge of Libra?
The currency will be serviced by a collective of companies called the “Libra Association”. It functions as what is known as a “stablecoin”, pegged to existing assets like the dollar or euro, in the aim of making it less subject to the volatility that many cryptocurrencies experience.
The Libra Association is described by Facebook as an independent, not-for-profit organisation based in Switzerland.
Privacy concerns surrounding cryptocurrencies:
- Cryptocurrencies allow anonymous funding potentially acting as conduits for money laundering and terror financing.
- The anonymity of cryptocurrency has made way for cybercriminals to hold victims hard drives hostage to extort payment from them in terms of bitcoins.
- Since cryptocurrency is borderless, it can be really attractive for terrorist finances as they can transfer funds across countries in a cheap way.
- Certain characteristics of cryptocurrency like speed, cost, security make it a lucrative source to finance such activities
- Cryptocurrency is being used to fund child pornography, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking
- Most new users know close to nothing of the technology, or how to verify the genuineness of a particular crypto currency.
- Intense volatility of cryptocurrency.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Context: The launch of the second phase of the Local Treatment of Urban Sewage streams for Healthy Reuse (LOTUS-HR) program was recently held. It is located in Delhi.
- The LOTUS-HR project is jointly supported by Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India and Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.
- The project was initiated in July 2017 and aims to demonstrate a novel holistic (waste) water management approaches that will produce clean water which can be reused for various purposes.
World Standards Day:
- World Standards Day (WSD) is celebrated each year all over the world on 14 October by the members of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to pay tribute to the collaborative efforts of thousands of experts worldwide, who develop voluntary technical agreements that are published as International or National Standards.
- It is also called International Standards Day.
- The aim of WSD is to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers as to the importance of standardization to the global economy.
- The first WSD was observed in 1970.