Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- 7 new species of insects that can walk on water discovered
Bilateral & International Relations
- PM Modi launches $ 4.2 million redevelopment project of iconic Hindu temple in Bahrain
- IMF report flags several delays in India’s data reporting
- Stakeholders’ Consultations by Department of Commerce on RCEP
- Russian PM inaugurates global skill competition in Kazan
Science & Technology
- NASA plans to investigate how new stars are born
Key Facts for Prelims
- UAE honours PM Modi with highest civilian award
- Women’s Equality Day 2019
- Russia launches floating nuclear reactor in Arctic
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Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
7 new species of insects that can walk on water discovered
Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India have discovered seven species of water treaders, semi-aquatic insects that can walk or run on the surface of water.
About the newly discovered species
- The newly described species belong to the genus
- Among the new discoveries,
- Mesovelia andamana is from Andaman Islands,
- bispinosa and M. isiasi are from Meghalaya,
- occulta and M. tenuia from Tamil Nadu and
- brevia and M. dilatata live both in Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu.
- They are equipped with hydrophobic setae (bristles) on their legs. The combination of hydrophobic setae and water surface tension prevents them from sinking.
- The insects are pale green with silver-white wings with black veins on the basal half which make them stand out over the green mat of aquatic weeds.
- These bugs are hemimetabolous insects without having larval stage i.e., they go from egg to nymph to adult.
- They are found on freshwater bodies such as ponds, lakes, pools, streams, rocks with moss and sometimes on estuaries.
- These bugs serve as predators and scavengers, thereby removing organic waste and also providing a natural sanitation service.
- The females of Mesovelia are larger than males and dig several holes on plants and insert eggs in plant tissues with a specially adapted long serrated ovipositor (genital organ).
- There are 12 species of genus Mesovelia found in the country. While large water striders (Limnogonus, Aquarius, Cylindrostethus, Gerris, Ptilomera) are easily spotted upon the surface of water, the tiny Mesovelia are not as well-known.
- Other than the size, there are morphological features that make these pond-weed insects different from water striders. The claws of Mesovelia are placed apically (tip or extreme end of legs), whereas in water striders, they arise from the pre-apex (just before the tip) of legs.
Bilateral & International Relations
PM Modi launches $ 4.2 million redevelopment project of iconic Hindu temple in Bahrain
Prime Minister of India launched the redevelopment project of the 200-year-old Lord Sri Krishna temple in the Manama, Bahrain.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also conferred the ‘King Hamad Order of the Renaissance’ by Bahrain’s King in recognition of his efforts to strengthen bilateral relations with the key Gulf nation.
About the temple:
- The temple completes 200 years this year.
- The temple is estimated to have been established around 1817 and was built by Thathai Bhatia Hindu community, and is still being managed by them.
- It is considered to be the first and the oldest temple in the Gulf countries and has been a place of worship for a host of Hindus since centuries.
Location of Bahrain
- It is located off the eastern coastline of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
- It does not share land borders with any countries.
- It is a small archipelago of 33 islands, with the largest island being Bahrain Island.
- It’s land (especially Bahrain Island) is primarily barren desert, with a limestone surface.
IMF report flags several delays in India’s data reporting
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised concerns about delays in the release of economic and financial data by the Indian government.
What is the issue?
- As per the IMF’s “Annual Observance Report of the Special Data Dissemination Standard for 2018“, India failed to comply with prescribed Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS).
- India subscribed to the SDDS in 1996 and met all SDDS requirements in 2001.
- In 2018, India deviated from requirements prescribed in the SDDS in at least one instance in all the data categories.
- India’s deviations from the SDDS is a concern as other BRICS nations such as Brazil, China, South Africa, and Russia have maintained a consistent record in the same period.
Reason for delay in compliance with IMF standards
- India’s deviations are a result of inadequate care paid to data dissemination related issues which leads to a lack of openness.
- In 2018, various changes were carried out for the improvement of website of Ministry of Finance which hosts the National Summary Data Page (NSDP) web page. As per government, in this process, due to some technical glitches related to the Ministry’s website, data in the NSDP was not recorded in the SDDS.
- IMF had, in 2004, suggested to have a single comprehensive NSDP containing all data categories. However, India still have different agencies providing the data.
What is Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS)?
- The SDDS is a global benchmark for disseminating macroeconomic statistics to the public.
- Data dissemination standards enhance the availability of timely statistics, which contributes to sound macroeconomic policies and the efficient functioning of financial markets.
- Countries that subscribe to the SDDS agree to follow good practices in four areas: the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of data; public access to those data; data integrity; and data quality.
What is IMF standard for data dissemination?
- The IMF has taken steps to enhance member country transparency, including setting voluntary standards for dissemination of economic and financial data.
- The IMF monitors SDDS observance and publishes annual observance reports. The reports review the subscribing countries’ observance of their SDDS undertakings.
SDDS: It was established in 1996 to guide countries that have access to international capital markets in the dissemination of economic data to the public.
SDDS plus: The SDDS Plus was established in 2012 to reinforce the IMF’s Data Standards Initiatives. Its purpose is to assist member countries with regard to the publication of comprehensive and reliable economic statistical data. It is open to all SDDS subscribers.
Enhanced General Data Dissemination System (e-GDDS): It was established in 2015. The e-GDDS superseded GDDS, which had been established in 1997.
- The Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB) is published and maintained by the International Monetary Fund as a service to its membership.
- It provides access to the National Summary Data Page (NSDP), Special Data Dissemination Standard Plus (SDDS Plus), the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS), the Enhanced General Data Dissemination System (e-GDDS), and the Data Quality Reference (DQRS) sites.
Stakeholders’ Consultations by Department of Commerce on RCEP
In the last 6 years of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, more than 100 stakeholders’ consultations have been held by the Department of Commerce and other lead Ministries seeking industry inputs for formulating India’s interests.
About Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement (FTA) is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
- RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is among the proposed three mega FTAs in the world so far. The other two is:
- The TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership, led by the US) and
- The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU).
- RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the TPP trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.
- RCEP is the world’s largest economic bloc, covering nearly half of the global economy and is estimated that by 2050 the GDP of RCEP member states is likely to amount to nearly 250 trillion USD with the combined GDPs of India and China making up more than 75 percent of the amount.
Significance for India
- If India is out of the RCEP, it would make its exports price uncompetitive. This will led to the export-losses contributing to foreign exchange shortages and the subsequent extent of depreciation of the rupee can.
- RCEP is a comprehensive agreement which helps tap the economic outcomes that get generated due to the interlinkages among various segments of trade.
- These inter-linkages are particularly important when India endeavors to integrate with a region, which has been the most successful region of the world in terms of thriving regional value chains (RVCs). These RVCs necessitate freer movement of professionals across countries in the region.
India’s concerns associated with RCEP
- India is not comfortable with the ambitious dismantling of import tariffs being pushed for by the ASEAN, especially as it would also mean allowing duty-free access to Chinese goods.
- The Indian industry does not want the country to commit to high levels of liberalisation as it fears that it could get out-priced in the domestic market.
- India has also stressed on the need for other RCEP members to deliver in the area of services to arrive at an agreement. So far proposals in the area of services, including on work-visas for movement of professionals, have been disappointing with no member ready to make meaningful contributions.
- Emphasis of RCEP is on trade in goods and the same enthusiasm is not shared for trade in services. The reluctance in giving market access for trade in services is a big challenge for India.
- While there is immense pressure on India in the RCEP negotiations to commit to opening up (90%) of its traded goods, what is troubling the government is the fact that other RCEP countries have so far been lukewarm to India’s demands for greater market access in services, particularly on easing norms on the movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work.
- India, which is defensive regarding opening up its goods sector, is currently virtually isolated in the RCEP talks. Also, existing huge goods trade deficit has led to questions on whether the pact is only helping ASEAN nations and not benefiting India.
- Significantly, while the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement was inked and enforced from January 1, 2010, India’s goods trade deficit with ASEAN widened from $4.98 billion in 2010-11 to $14.75 billion in 2015-16, and then narrowed to $9.56 billion in 2016-17. The huge goods trade deficit has led to questions on whether the pact is only helping ASEAN nations and not benefiting India.
Russian PM inaugurates global skill competition in Kazan
Russian Prime Minister Inaugurated World Skills Kazan 2019, global championship of vocational skills and trades, in a ceremony at Kazan Arena.
About the World Skills Kazan 2019
- Russia hosted the 45th WorldSkills competition for the first time at Kazan stadium.
- WorldSkills Kazan 2019 is expected to be the largest WorldSkills Competition ever held.
- Founded in 1950, WorldSkills is the global hub for skills excellence and development.
- Formerly known as the International Vocation Training Organisation (IVTO), WorldSkills brings youth, industries, and educators together to give youth the chance to compete.
- It has currently 82 members including India.
WorldSkills International competition
- WorldSkills International is the largest skill competition in the world, organized once every two years in one of the member countries.
- More than 1300 contestants below the age of 23 (With the exception of several skills with an upper age limit of 25), compete for gold, silver and bronze medals, in over 50 skills.
- The competition is held over a span of four days.
- WorldSkills India is an initiative of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
- NSDC, through its WorldSkills India initiative, has been leading the country’s participation at WorldSkills International competitions since 2011.
The key objectives of WorldSkills India are to:
- Promulgate skills in the society and motivate the youth to pursue vocational education.
- Champion skills and learning for work through skills competition
- Establish links with the WSI secretariat along with development of cooperation with the Government and awarding bodies.
National Skills Competition of India
- Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) & National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) launched India’s first National Skills Competition- IndiaSkills.
- It is a biennial competition.
Science & Technology
NASA plans to investigate how new stars are born
Using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, researchers plan to investigate how new stars are born. For this, they will take the help of a natural phenomenon called gravitational lensing.
What is Gravitational lensing?
- Gravitational lensing is the bending of light by massive objects in between the observer and a background source of light.
- The phenomenon occurs when a huge amount of matter, such as a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies, creates a gravitational field that distorts and magnifies the light from objects behind it, but in the same line of sight.
- These large celestial objects will magnify the light from distant galaxies that are at or near the peak of star formation.
- The effect allows researchers to study the details of early galaxies too far away to be seen otherwise with even the most powerful space telescopes.
Significance of Gravitational lensing:
- Gravitational lensing is useful to cosmologists because it is directly sensitive to the amount and distribution of dark matter.
- It can help astronomers work out exactly how much dark matter there is in the Universe as a whole and also how it is distributed.
- It has also been used to help verify the existence of dark matter itself.
For visual representation, we recommend to watch the short ‘gravitational lensing’ animation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsaiUoJeUIo
About James webb space telescope (JWST):
- James Webb Space Telescope is a giant space telescope that observes infrared light. (Through Infrared light, one can see stars and planetary systems forming inside cosmic clouds of dust that are opaque to visible light.)
- It will be launched in 2021. Webb’s mission lifetime after launch is designed to be at least 5 years, and could last longer than 10 years.
- It is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
- The main component of the telescope is the primary mirror, which consists of 18 hexagonal mirrors.
- It was formerly known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST).
- It is the formal successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. It is 100 times more potent than its predecessor, Hubble, and three times larger.
- It will help to understand the origins of the universe, evolution of our own Solar System, search for signs of life on faraway planets.
- It can also analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets that pass in front of their stars.
What advantages will JWST provide over Hubble, Spitzer, and other existing telescopes?
- JWST possesses a combination of large aperture, diffraction-limited image quality, and infrared sensitivity over a broad wavelength range not available from ground- or space-based facilities.
- JWST is will explore the assembly of galaxies and their nuclear black holes and how they are inter-related through processes such as feedback.
- It will reveal the conditions in protoplanetary disks and to search for biologically important molecules, and will map the evolution of planetary systems by imaging debris disks and by studying exoplanets through coronagraphic imaging and transit spectroscopy.
- James E. Webb was NASA’s second administrator. Webb is best known for leading Apollo, a series of lunar exploration programs that landed the first humans on the Moon. However, he also initiated a vigorous space science program that was responsible for more than 75 launches during his tenure, including America’s first interplanetary explorers.
- The programme of understanding the formation of universe through the use of Gravitational lensing is called Targeting Extremely Magnified Panchromatic Lensed Arcs and Their Extended Star Formation, or TEMPLATES.
[Ref: Indian Express]
Key Facts for Prelims
UAE honours PM Modi with highest civilian award
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honoured with the ‘Order of Zayed’, the UAE’s highest civilian award, as a mark of appreciation for his efforts to boost bilateral ties between the two nations.
About Order of the Zayed
- The ‘Order of the Zayed’ is UAE’s highest civilian honour awarded to kings, presidents, and other heads of state. It looks like a large necklace with a sunflower-like medallion at the centre.
- The award aims to highlight officials who have made an effort to strengthen relations between their home country and the UAE.
- Zayed is the founding father of the UAE.
Previous recipients of the Order of Zayed
- Russian President Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, British Queen Elizabeth II, and former Pakistan President Musharraf.
Other recipients of the Order of Zayed in 2019
- This year, UAE awarded the Order of Zayed to Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed and President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki as well.
Women’s Equality Day 2019
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26 every year to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment in the United States of America that provides equal rights to women including the right to vote.
About Women’s Equality Day
- In 1971, the US designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.
- Though the amendment was first introduced in 1878, it was only in 1920 that US signed a proclamation ending a struggle for the right to vote that started a century earlier.
- The colour for Women’s Equality Day is
Russia launches floating nuclear reactor in Arctic
Russia will launch the world’s first floating nuclear reactor and send it across the Arctic, despite environmentalists warning of serious risks to the region.
About the floating nuclear reactor
- The name of the reactor is Akademik Lomonosov.
- As per Russia, the reactor is an alternative to building a conventional plant on ground that is frozen all year round.
- Global warming and melting ice has made the Northeast Passage, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific along Russia’s northern coast, more accessible.
- Environmental groups have warned of the dangers of the project. A recent deadly explosion at a military testing site in Russia, causing a radioactive surge, has prompted further concerns.
- Any nuclear power plant produces radioactive waste and can have an accident, but Akademik Lomonosov is additionally vulnerable to storms as well.