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Daily Current affairs 23 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

WTO reforms

 

What to study?

For prelims: WTO- establishment, functions, associated bodies.

For mains: Need for reforms and suggested reforms.

 

Context: WTO reforms must be taken up by all member countries: Piyush Goyal.

 

Need of the hour:

The World Trade Organization remains an indispensable organisation but it requires urgent modernisation. Members have to face the reality that the organisation requires non-cosmetic, serious root-and-branch reform for a WTO adapted to 21st century economic and political realities.

 

Problems facing the WTO are:

  1. Dispute settlement cases continue to be filed for the time being and are being litigated. A civil dialogue over trade issues persists.
  2. Technical functioning is now wholly inadequate to meet the major challenges to the strategic relevance of the WTO in the 21st century. In critical areas, the organisation has neither responded, nor adapted, nor delivered.
  3. Dimensions of its structures and functions are fragile, creaking, and failing in parts.
  4. Functioning of state enterprises engaging in commercial activities is interfering with and distorting the operative assumption of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/WTO that international trade is to be conducted, principally, by private sector operators in response to conditions of supply and demand through price in a market economy.
  5. Many WTO members bear responsibility for the use of trade-distorting domestic subsidies. Agricultural and industrial subsidies have caused blockages in the system and prompted protectionist reactions in a number of WTO members.
  6. Blockage and deadlock in the Appellate Body stage of the WTO dispute settlement system triggered the present crisis.
  7. The WTO lost the critical balance between the organisation as an institution established to support, consolidate, and bind economic reform to counter damaging protectionism, on the one hand, and the organisation as an institution for litigation-based dispute settlement, on the other hand. 
  8. For years now, the multilateral system for the settlement of trade dispute has been under intense scrutiny and constant criticism. The U.S. has systematically blocked the appointment of new Appellate Body members (“judges”) and de facto impeded the work of the WTO appeal mechanism.

 

 

What needs to be done?

  1. A vibrant WTO cannot accommodate conflicting economic models of market versus state. All WTO members will have to accept the operative assumption of a rules-based order steered by a market economy, the private sector, and competition.
  2. Launch negotiations to address the intertwined issues of agricultural subsidies and market access, while recognising that food security concerns will not disappear.
  3. A credible trading system requires a dispute settlement system that is accepted by all.
  4. Launch serious negotiations to restore the balance, and we must do so in an open-ended plurilateral manner that cannot be blocked by those who do not want to move ahead.
  5. GATT/WTO rules in a number of areas are outdated. New rules are required to keep pace with changes in the market and technology. Rules and disciplines on topics ranging from trade-distorting industrial subsidies to digital trade require updates.

 

Way ahead:

A reformed WTO will have to be constructed on the foundation of liberal multilateralism, resting on open, non-discriminatory plurilateral pillars, an improved Appellate Body, explicit accommodation of regional trade agreements, and appropriate safety valves for rules-based sovereign action. A reaffirmed commitment to the rules-based liberal market order with a development dimension must be the foundational starting point.


GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

South-South and Triangular Cooperation

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: South- South and triangular cooperation- meaning, need and significance.

 

Context: An international dialogue on South-South and Triangular Cooperation was recently held in New Delhi.

 

About South-South and Triangular Cooperation:

South-South cooperation is a broad framework of collaboration among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains.

Involving two or more developing countries, it can take place on a bilateral, regional, intraregional or interregional basis.

Developing countries share knowledge, skills, expertise and resources to meet their development goals through concerted efforts.

 

Triangular cooperation:

It is collaboration in which traditional donor countries and multilateral organizations facilitate South-South initiatives through the provision of funding, training, management and technological systems as well as other forms of support.

 

Objectives of South-South Cooperation are to:

  1. foster the self-reliance of developing countries by enhancing their creative capacity to find solutions to their development problems in keeping with their own aspirations, values and specific needs;
  2. create and strengthen existing technological capacities in the developing countries in order to improve the effectiveness with which such capacities are used;
  3. increase and improve communications among developing countries, leading to a greater awareness of common problems and wider access to available knowledge and experience as well as the creation of new knowledge in tackling development problems;
  4. recognize and respond to the problems and requirements of the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and the countries most seriously affected by, for example, natural disasters and other crises; and
  5. enable developing countries to achieve a greater degree of participation in international economic activities and to expand international cooperation for development.

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

Infrastructure- energy.

 

Ocean energy declared as Renewable Energy 

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Types of ocean energy, potential and significance of the Recent decision.

 

Context: The government has approved a proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy.

Accordingly, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has clarified to all the stakeholders that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion etc. shall be considered as Renewable Energy and shall be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO).

 

Potential of oceans as a renewable energy source:

Oceans cover more than 70% of Earth’s surface, making them the world’s largest solar collectors.

The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal energy from the sun’s heat, and mechanical energy from the tides and waves. These energies are non-polluting, reliable, and very predictable.

  1. Tidal energy: Tidal Energy, also known as Tidal Power is classified as an alternate energy or better known as the renewable source of energy. It is one of the forms of hydropower energy that exercises energy of the oceanic tides to generate electricity. 
  2. Ocean wave energy: It uses the power of the waves to generate electricity. Unlike tidal energy which uses the ebb and flow of the tides, wave energy uses the vertical movement of the surface water that produce tidal waves.
  3. Ocean thermal energy: The sun’s heat warms the surface water a lot more than the deep ocean water, and this temperature difference creates thermal energy. 
  4. Ocean current energy: The energy of ocean currents under the surface is comparable to the wind above it. Underwater turbines — large propellers tethered to the seabed — are used to derive power from this source.
  5. Osmotic energy: This technique — the most surprising — produces energy from the movement of water across a membrane between a saltwater reservoir and freshwater reservoir.

 

Potential:

Total identified potential of Tidal Energy is about 12455 MW, with potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.

The total theoretical potential of wave energy in India along the country’s coast is estimated to be about 40,000 MW – these are preliminary estimates. This energy is however less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Indian and its neighbourhood.

Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: FATF, Grey list, G7, About APG.

For Mains: What is Grey list and Black list, how are countries in the list affected?

 

ContextFinancial Action Task Force affiliate Asia Pacific Group (APG) places Pakistan on Blacklist for failing to combat terrorism, money laundering and meeting the required global standards.

 

Pakistan was put in the list for the following reasons:

  1. Pakistan was non-compliant in 32 of the 40 Compliance Parameters on Money Laundering & Terror Financing and Pakistan was low in 10 of the 11 Effectiveness Parameters. 

 

Background:

Pakistan was placed on the grey list by the FATF in June last year for failing to curb anti-terror financing. It has been scrambling in recent months to avoid being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations by the Paris-based FATF, a measure that officials here fear could further hurt its economy.

 

About FATF:

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.

 

What is blacklist and grey list?

FATF maintains two different lists of countries: those that have deficiencies in their AML/CTF regimes, but they commit to an action plan to address these loopholes, and those that do not end up doing enough. The former is commonly known as grey list and latter as blacklist.

Once a country is blacklisted, FATF calls on other countries to apply enhanced due diligence and counter measures, increasing the cost of doing business with the country and in some cases severing it altogether. As of now there are only two countries in the blacklist — Iran and North Korea — and seven on the grey list, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Yemen.

 

Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG):

  1. FATF Asia-Pacific Group is one of the regional affiliates of the Financial Action Task Force.
  2. The Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering works to ensure that all the countries adopt and implement the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards that are set out in the FATF’s 40 Recommendations and Eight Special Recommendations.
  3. APG assists countries in implementing laws to deal with crime, assistance, punishment, investigations; provides guidance in setting proper reporting systems and helps in establishing financial intelligence units.
  4. At present, there are 41 members of APG. Of these, 11 countries are also the members of the head FATF – India, China, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand Singapore and the United States.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 3:

Topic covered:

Awareness in space.

FEDOR

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key objectives and significance of the mission.

 

Context: Russia has launched an unmanned rocket into space.

 

Key facts:

  • It is carrying a life-size humanoid robot that will spend 10 days learning to assist astronauts on the International Space Station.
  • Known as FEDOR, which stands for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, the Skybot F-850 is the first humanoid robot to be sent to space by Russia.
  • The robot’s main purpose it to be used in operations that are especially dangerous for humans onboard spacecraft and in outer space.
  • FEDOR, who is the size an adult and can emulate movements of the human body, has apparently embraced his mission, describing himself as “an assistant to the ISS crew”.

 

Significance:

  • Fedor copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts or even people on Earth to carry out tasks while the humans are strapped into an exoskeleton.
  • Fedor is described as potentially useful on Earth for working in high radiation environments, demining and tricky rescue missions.

 

Background:

Fedor is not the first robot to go into space.

In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot developed with General Motors that had a similar aim of working in high-risk environments.

In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS’s first Japanese space commander.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Henley Passport Index

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Passport Index- features, performance of various countries and significance of the index.

 

Context: The latest edition of Henley Passport Index has been released.

The Index ranks India at 86, down five places from 81 in 2018.

 

About the index:

  • The Henley Passport Index (HPI) is a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom for their citizens.
  • The index gathers data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that manages inter-airline cooperation globally.
  • The Henley Passport Index is updated in real time according to countries’ visa policy changes.
  • It started in 2006 as Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index (HVRI)and was modified and renamed in January 2018.
  • The HPI consists of a ranking of passports according to how many other territories can be reached ‘visa-free’.

What does this mean for Indian passport holders?

  1. India has a score of 58. That is the number of destinations an Indian passport holder can travel to today, without pre-departure government approval. That is the same as a citizen of any country, on an average, could travel to 13 years ago.
  2. In 2006, a citizen, on an average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation; by 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107.
  3. India ranks below other BRICS countries, with which are at a similar stage in their economic development. 

 

Significance of the index:

Passport rankings point towards the strength of diplomatic relations between countries.

 

Are there other passport indices? 

The Henley Passport Index is not the only index available on passport rankings.

Others include the Arton Passport Index, which ranks United Arab Emirates’s passport at rank 1 as per its most recent rankings.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Oxytocin ban

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Oxytocin related facts.

For Mains: Why was it banned? Concerns associated with the ban? What’s the way out?

 

Context: The final decision on whether the government can block private pharmaceutical companies from manufacturing and selling vital pregnancy drug oxytocin in India has been deferred, with the Supreme Court deciding the issue needs further deliberation. 

 

Background:

The health ministry in April 2018 notified a ban on private firms from manuacturing and selling oxytocin, stating that it wanted to restrict the responsibility of supplying the drug to a Karnataka-based public sector manufacturer to avoid its misuse in the veterinary field.

 

What’s the issue?

The Delhi high court had quashed the Centre’s December 14, 2018 notification, which had banned its sale by private manufacturers and retail chemists, saying the sale was allowed. Essentially, this meant that only KAPL could produce the drug as there is no other public sector enterprise doing so. However, Delhi high court quashed the amended order too. The central government moved Supreme Court against the Delhi high court order.

 

About Oxytocin:

  • Oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormonedue to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.
  • Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.
  • It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter.
  • The release of oxytocin by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions: Childbirth and Breast-feeding.

 

Why is it vital?

Oxytocin helps contract the uterus and induce delivery, control bleeding, and promote the release of breast milk. Its use is especially crucial to prevent new mothers from excessively bleeding after giving birth—a common cause of maternal deaths. According to an India sample registration scheme survey conducted in 2001-2003, postpartum hemorrhage accounted for 38 per cent of maternal deaths.

 

Reasons behind the ban are:

Misuse in diary industry: Oxytocin is a naturally-occurring hormone that causes uterine contractions during labour and helps new mothers lactate. However, the drug is misused in the dairy industry where livestock is injected with Oxytocin to make them release milk at a time convenient to farmers.

Oxytocin is also used to increase the size of vegetables such as pumpkins, watermelons, eggplants, gourds, and cucumbers.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

Facts for prelims:

 

Baltic Nations:

Context: The Vice President concludes his tri-nation tour to the Baltic Nations-Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

About Baltic Nations:

  • It is a geopolitical term, typically used to group the three sovereign states in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea:Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
  • The three countries do not form an official union, but engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation. The most important areas of cooperation between the three countries are foreign and security policy, defence, energy and transportation.
  • All three countries are members of the European Union, NATO, the eurozone and the OECD.
  • All three are classified as high-income economies by the World Bankand maintain a very high Human Development Index.

‘San-Sadhan’ Hackathon:

‘San-Sadhan’ Hackathon is an initiative to ease lives of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) by making toilets smarter, more accessible, and easier to use. In this hackathon, the government is looking for smart, scalable and innovative solutions for economical toilets for individual and community use in rural and urban contexts.

The initiative is being organized jointly by the Ministry of Jal Shakti and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and 91springboard.

 

Time’s list of 100 greatest places in the world:

Context: India’s ‘Statue of Unity’ and ‘Soho House’ in Mumbai have been featured in the Time’s list of 100 greatest places in the world.

The list is divided into places to visit, to stay and to eat and drink.

What is it? The Time’s list of 100 greatest places in the world is compiled after inviting nominations across a variety of categories including parks, museums, restaurants and hotels from industry experts as well as its editors and correspondents around the world.

Each of the nominated places is then evaluated based on five key factors- quality, originality, sustainability, innovation and influence. The places are measured based on how unique and extraordinary their experience is.

 

Adratiklit boulahfa:

It is a new species of stegosaurus dated to 168 million years ago. It is the oldest known member of that group of dinosaurs ever known.

It is also the first stegosaurus to be found in North Africa.

Its remains were recently discovered in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

The Adratiklit was armoured and herbivorous, and lived on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which later split into Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica.

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