Comprehensive News Analysis – 26 August 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. Assad used chemical weapons

2. Kim to continue as World Bank chief

3. Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh stress enhanced military ties

4. Iraq forces retake key town south of Mosul

C. GS3 Related:

1. Star system next door may host habitable planet

2. Monsanto suspends release of new Bt cotton tech in India

3. GM mustard moves closer to approval

4. Banks to issue Masala bonds, RBI opens currency markets

5. Octobot

D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials : A Quick Glance
F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
H. Archives

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Useful News Articles

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here today folks!

 

B. GS2 Related


  1. Assad used chemical weapons

Category: International Relations

Topic: Syrian civil war  

Key Points:

  • A UN investigation has established that President of Syria Bashar al-Assad’s forces carried out at least two chemical attacks in Syria and that Islamic State jihadists used mustard gas as a weapon, according to a report. The panel was able to identify the perpetrators of three chemical attacks carried out in 2014 and 2015.
  • The panel found that the Islamic State “was the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulphur mustard” in an attack on the town of Marea in northern Aleppo province on August 21, 2015.

 

  1. Kim to continue as World Bank chief

Category: International Relations

Topic: Organizations

Key Points:

  • The US administration is nominating current World Bank President Jim Yong Kim for a second term leading the 189-nation international lending organisation.
  • US praised Kim for using his first term at the World Bank to effectively address today’s most pressing global challenges in innovative ways, from ending extreme poverty and tackling inequality to combating climate change.
  • Jim Yong Kim, the former president of Dartmouth College is the head of World Bank since 2012.

 

3. Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh stress enhanced military ties

Category: International Relations

Topic: Bilateral Relations impacting India

Key points:

  • Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have underscored the importance of further strengthening military cooperation between the two countries.
  • Bangladesh reiterated its commitment to protecting the two holy mosques in Saudi Arabia and described the kingdom as a great friend.
  • Bangladesh is actively considering a request from Riyadh for participating in the development of the kingdom’s defence infrastructures like mine sweeping, construction of military barracks, airfields and bunkers.
  • Bangladesh also offered training facilities for the Saudi border guards at the Border Guard Bangladesh academy. The minister also sought Bangladesh’s technical cooperation for the development Saudi Air Force.


  1. Iraq forces retake key town south of Mosul

Category: International Relations

Topic: Iraq-ISIS

Key Points:

 

  • Iraqi forces pushed the Islamic State group from Qayyarah, a northern town considered strategic for any future offensive against the jihadists’ last stronghold of Mosul. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hailed the victory as a key step in the fight against IS.
  • Special forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, wrapped up a three-day operation to retake Qayyarah, a town which lies on the banks of the Tigris river.

 

C. GS3 Related


1. Star system next door may host habitable planet
Category: Science & Tech

Topic: Space Exploration

Key Points:

  • Just over four light years away from Earth, a planet orbits its cool red-dwarf star called Proxima Centauri, the sun’s closest star neighbour. What is special about this planet is that after years of tracking it, astronomers have come to the conclusion that it is in the habitable zone of its star.
  • Informally designated Proxima b, the planet revolves around its star once every 11.2 days and is located at a distance of nearly 7 million kilometres from its star. The mass of the planet is believed to be about 1.3 times that of the Earth. It could contain water, scientists say.
  • The first exoplanets were spotted in 1995, and today there are over 3,000 known exoplanets. Yet this system is special for being close and lending itself to easy observation. The star, Proxima Centauri, is not very bright and cannot be tracked with the naked eye, especially as it is very close to the brighter binary star pair Alpha Centauri AB. So, astronomers used the HARPS spectrograph to observe it on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile and also other telescopes around the world.

 

2. Monsanto suspends release of new Bt cotton tech in India

Category: Indian Economy

Topic: Agriculture and GM crops

Key Points:

  • Monsanto says it is suspending plans to introduce an upgraded version of its genetically modified cotton in India because of uncertainty in the business and regulatory environment.
  • On July 6, Monsanto notified the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee that it was withdrawing its application for the commercial release of the Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex technology. The company said “our decision to suspend its introduction in India is an outcome of the uncertainty in the business and regulatory environment, which include the regulation of trait fees and introduction of the draft compulsory licensing guidelines. This decision has no impact on our current cotton portfolio being sold in India”.
  • The new technology used genes that not only killed cotton pests but also made plants resistant to an herbicide called Roundup that is widely used in farms all over the world, including in India. Activists say Roundup Ready GM, commercially available in a wide variety of seeds, is unsuitable to India.
  • Monsanto’s application in June to conduct advanced tests on genetically modified maize was not withdrawn, the GEAC website said. “Monsanto has been committed to Indian agriculture and farmers for decades, and we plan to continue bringing innovative research in our businesses in corn seeds, vegetable seeds and crop protection chemistries,” its statement said.


  1. GM mustard moves closer to approval

 Category: Indian Economy

Topic: Agriculture and GM crops

Key Points:

  • Genetically-modified (GM) mustard may have moved closer to being cleared for commercial cultivation in India after a key committee, tasked with assessing all the available evidence so far on the plant’s suitability for Indian soil and risks posed to health and ecology, is learnt to have given a favourable assessment on the tests done so far on GM mustard. However there are multiple approvals still required for any likely clearance.
  • A safety document detailing the sub-committee’s findings as well as the data it had perused in assessing DMH-11, the genetically modified (GM) mustard hybrid developed by researchers at the Delhi University, would be made available online for public comments shortly.
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is an Environment Ministry body whose clearance is mandatory for testing GM crops in farmer fields. For DMH-11 it had consulted with plant biologists, ecologists and environmentalists before tasking a sub-committee with compiling all evidence and addressing key questions on DMH-11. Earlier too in 2010, the GEAC had cleared Bt brinjal but it’s decision over-ruled by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.
  • The imperative to make public bio-safety data around DMH-11 follows a reprimand by the Central Information Commissioner earlier this month to the government for not making bio-safety data around genetically-modified organisms and mustard public.
  • The mustard in question has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University led by former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental under a government-funded project. In essence, it uses a system of genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard generally a self pollinating plant better suited to hybridisation than current methods. A similar sequence of genes has been used in imported canola oil. This means local crop developers can more easily develop different varieties of hybrid mustard, like in say GM cotton, and confer traits like pest resistance and potentially improving yield.

Activists have however maintained that publicly-available data on DMH-11 shows that its yield is no better than existing varieties. Moreover the government has consistently stone-walled attempts, according to Kavitha Kurugnati of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, to obtain complete data on the tests done on DMH-11 in multiple States over the years.

 

  1. Banks to issue Masala bonds, RBI opens currency markets

Category: Indian Economy

Topic: Capital Markets

Key Points:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced a raft of measures to boost investor participation and market liquidity in both the corporate bond and currency markets. The central bank will allow commercial banks to issue rupee bonds in overseas markets – known as Masala bonds, both for their capital requirement and for financing infrastructure and affordable housing.
  • RBI accepted most of the recommendations of the Khan Committee to develop the corporate bond market – it decided to enhance the aggregate limit of partial credit enhancement (PCE) provided by banks, permit brokers in corporate bond repos, authorise the platform for repo in corporate bonds and encourage credit supply for large borrowers through market mechanism.
  • It has been now decided by the regulator that the aggregate PCE that will be provided by the financial system for a given bond issue will be increased from the present level of 20 per cent to 50 per cent of the bond issue size, subject to the PCE provided by any single bank not exceeding 20 per cent of the bond issue size and the extant exposure limits. RBI said it has also been decided to seek suitable legal amendments to enable it to accept corporate bonds under the Liquidity adjustment Facility (LAF).
  • Hedge transactions – In order to ease access to the foreign exchange market for hedging in over the counter (OTC) and exchange-traded currency derivatives, the RBI has allowed entities exposed to exchange rate risk, both resident and non-resident, to undertake hedge transactions with simplified procedures, up to a limit of $30 million at any given time.

 

  1. Octobot

Category: Science & Tech

Topic: Robotics

Key Points:

  • A team at Harvard University has created a robot – Octobot, looks like a tiny octopus and is designed to mimic that slithery creature to get through cracks and tight places, making it ideal as a rescue robot.
  • The latest revolutionary robot isn’t the metallic, costly machine you’d expect: It’s squishy, wireless, battery-less and cheap. The idea was to make something powered by a chemical reaction in fluids; fluid movement moves the arms and directs the robot’s actions. It can be printed cheaply by 3D printers, with the most costly part a really small bit of platinum.

 

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here today folks!


E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance

Nothing here today folks!


F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
  • Octobot
  • Masala Bonds
  • Proxima b
  • Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee

 

G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question 1: With reference to ‘IFC Masala Bonds’, sometimes seen in the news, which of the statements given below is/are correct?
  1. The International Finance Corporation, which offers these bonds, is an arm of the World Bank.
  2. They are the rupee-denominated bonds and are a source of debt financing for the public and private sector.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Question 2: Which reference to ‘Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)’, consider the following statements:
  1. It is an organization of European Union in working relation with NATO and WHO.
  2. It won the Nobel peace prize in 2013 for clearing most of the chemical weapons used during civil war in Syria.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Question 3: Which of the following star is the closest to Earth other than Earth?

a) Alpha Centauri

b) Proxima Centauri

c) Pole star

d) None of these


Question 4: According to which legislation, the Genetic Engineering Approval committee (GEAC) is formed?

a) Environment protection act, 1986

b) Wildlife protection act, 1972

c) National Bio-diversity act, 2002

d) None of these


Question 5: Which of the following arms of World Bank group provides soft loans for the purpose of development?

a) International financial corporation

b) International development agency

c) International bank for reconstruction & development

d) Multilateral investment guarantee agency

 

Check Your Answers

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