1st December 2020

Australian Defence Force (ADF) has sent notices 

  • The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has sent notices of likely dismissal to 13 Special Forces soldiers following last week’s damning report on the murder of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.
  • They are suspected of being accessories or witnesses to the killings, or of being dishonest in testifying.
  • They are separate from the 19 Special Air Service troops who could face prosecution for the murders.
  • Australia’s prime minister and top military commander have apologised.
  • Afghanistan called the murders unforgivable but welcomed last week’s report as a step towards justice.
  • The report blamed the murders of “prisoners, farmers or civilians” in 2009-13 on an unchecked “warrior culture” among some soldiers.
  • It said 25 special forces soldiers had taken part in unlawful killings directly or as “accessories”, across 23 separate incidents.
  • It recommended that 36 incidents in total be investigated by federal police.
  • Australian Defence Force chief Gen Angus Campbell said none of the incidents could be “described as being in the heat of battle”.
  • It also found evidence that:
    • Junior soldiers were told to get their first kill by shooting prisoners, in a practice known as “blooding”
    • Weapons and other items were planted near Afghan bodies to cover up crimes
    • An additional two incidents could constitute a war crime of “cruel treatment”

 

Bioluminescence

  • Bioluminescence or light-emitting tide made an appearance on Juhu beach in Mumbai and Devgad, Velas and Murud along thestate’s coastline.
  • The phenomenon is called ‘blue tide’, and appears when luminescent marine life make the sea appear a deep shade of blue.
  • The spectacle occurs when phytoplankton (microscopic marine plants), commonly known as dinoflagellates, produce light through chemical reactions in proteins.
  • Waves disturb these unicellular microorganisms and make them release blue light.
  • Bioluminescence is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
  • Animals, plants, fungi and bacteria show bioluminescence. A remarkable diversity of marine animals and microbes are able to produce their own light.
  • It is found in many marine organisms such as bacteria, algae, jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, fish and sharks.
  • Luminescence is generally higher in deep-living and planktonic organisms than in shallow species.
  • It is an anti-predatory response. Bioluminescence is assumed to startle predators, causing them to hesitate, in a form of predator intimidation.
  • Another explanation is that bioluminescence helps these organisms gather together and make colonies.
  • Bioluminescence has been an annual occurrence along the west coast since 2016 during the months of November and December.
  • While bioluminescence is not common in India, there are several tourist places across the world which are famous for the phenomenon.
  • The Blue Grotto in Malta is one of nine caves near the island of Filfa that produces a phosphorescent glow.
  • The bioluminescence could have been caused by heavy rain, fertilizers run off, discharge of sewage into the ocean.

 

Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Profiling

Recently CBI officers probing the alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, arrived at the Gandhinagar-based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) with the four accused for their brain electrical oscillation signature profiling (BEOSP) test to be conducted .

  • Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Profiling (BEOSP) also known as brain fingerprinting is a neuro psychological method of interrogation in which the accused’s participation in the crime is investigated by studying their brain’s response.
  • Brain fingerprinting is based on finding that the brain generates a unique brain wave pattern when a person encounters a familiar stimulus.
  • Use of functional magnetic resonance imaging in lie detection derives from studies suggesting that persons asked to lie show different patterns of brain activity than they do when being truthful.
  • The BEOSP procedure does not involve a question-answer session with the accused and is rather a neuro psychological study of their brain.
  • Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature Profiling (BEOSP) also known as brain fingerprinting is a neuropsychological method of interrogation in which the accused’s participation in the crime is investigated by studying their brain’s response.
  • The BEOSP test is carried out via a process known as electroencephalogram, conducted to study the electrical behaviour of the human brain.
  • Under this test, the consent of the accused is first taken and they are then made to wear caps with dozens of electrodes attached to them.
  • The accused are then shown visuals or played audio clips related to the crime to check if there is any triggering of neurons in their brains which then generate brainwaves.
  • The test results are then studied to determine the participation of the accused in a crime.
  • The tests are based on the phenomenon of ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’.
  • A person’s brain might have knowledge of the crime committed and the alibi they have come up with.
  • But it is the ‘experience’ of having participated in the crime that determines their guilt.”

 

Zero-Carbon Act

  • The parliament passed the Zero-Carbon Act, which commits New Zealand to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.
  • New Zealand’s government will decide next week if a climate emergency should be declared in the country or not.

As prime minister, Ardern has been vocal about climate change and last November, the parliament passed the Zero-Carbon Act, which commits New Zealand to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.

  • In its ongoing online petition, Greenpeace New Zealand is urging the government to declare a climate emergency since people are “facing more extreme weather events, catastrophic loss of wildlife and a crisis over access to freshwater and food”.
  • In 2019, the Oxford dictionaries declared “climate emergency” to be the word of the year, a word that reflects “the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance”.
  • It defines climate emergency as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it”.
  • But even before the New Zealand government planned to declare a climate emergency, some of the regions in the country had already started declaring it since last year.
  • Even so, such a declaration is only symbolic and does not have any legal weight because of which critics have said that such announcements don’t do enough and are, in fact, “hollow”.
  • Some of the countries that have declared a climate emergency in recent years include the UK, Portugal, Canada, France and, most recently, Japan.

 

Gender equity in science

  • Gender equity in science is one of the focuses of the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, currently being drafted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • This will increase the participation of women in science.
  • For this, the DST will incorporate a system of grading institutes depending on the enrolment of women and the advancement of the careers of women faculty and scientists.
  • The concept borrows from a programme started by the UK in 2005 called the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network), which is now being adopted by many countries.

Athena SWAN

  • The Athena SWAN Charter is an evaluation and accreditation programme in the UK enhancing gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
  • Participating research organisations and academic institutions are required to analyse data on gender equity and develop action plans for improvement.
  • The programme recognises such efforts with bronze, silver or gold accreditation.
  • Institutions that sign up commit to addressing unequal gender representation; tackling the gender pay gap; removing the obstacles faced by women in career development and progression; discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people; gender balance of committees and zero tolerance for bullying and sexual harassment.

 

India Climate Change Knowledge Portal

  • Minister of Environment,Forest and Climate Change  Prakash Javadekar launched the India Climate Change Knowledge Portal.
  • The portal will have all the major steps the Government is taking at both national and international levels to address the climate change issues.
  • With regard to climate actions after the Paris Agreement, Mr Javadekar said, India has practically achieved its  pre-2020 climate action targets.
  • He said, though India is not responsible for climate change but  it is taking responsible action to mitigate the challenge.
  • Mr Javadekar also demanded that other countries must commit to  the advance commitments of Kyoto Protocol which has not been followed by the countries that must be done.
  • The portal will have all the major steps the Government is taking at both national and international levels to address the climate change issues.
  • It will be a single-point information resource that provides information on the different climate initiatives taken by various Line Ministries enabling users to access updated status on these initiatives.
  • He also said that India has practically achieved its  pre-2020 climate action targets.

 

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)-certified helmets

  • The government said only Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)-certified helmets would be manufactured and sold in India for two-wheelers.
  • This would help in avoiding sale of low-quality two-wheeler helmets in the country, which would help in protecting persons involved in accidents from fatal injuries, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said in a statement.
  • “The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways…has issued the ‘Helmet for riders of Two Wheelers Motor Vehicles (Quality Control) Order, 2020’.
  • “Protective helmets for two-wheeler riders have been included under compulsory BIS certification and the publication of the Quality Control Order,” it said.
  • Following the directions of the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety, a committee was formulated to consider lighter helmets in India suiting the country’s climatic conditions and that for ensuring compliance among citizen to wear the helmets.
  • The committee had experts from different fields, including expert doctors from AIIMS and also from BIS.
  • The committee in March 2018, after detailed analysis in its report, recommended lighter helmets in the country, and the ministry accepted the report.
  • According to the recommendations of the committee, the BIS has revised specifications through which it is expected to make lighter helmets.
  • The total number of two-wheelers being manufactured in India annually stands at about 1.7 crore.
  • The International Road Federation, a Geneva-based global road safety body working for better and safer roads worldwide, welcomed the road transport ministry’s move to bring helmets for two-wheeler riders under the mandatory BIS regime.

 

Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines 2020

  • Ride-hailing aggregators such as Ola and Uber have been brought under the Centre’s regulation, implying greater scrutiny and stringent penalties for any non-compliance related to passenger fare and labour rules like working hours of drivers.
  • Government control over the cab tariff structure tops the list of regulations.
  • The new norms, as per the Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines 2020, have mandated a cap on surge price, preventing aggregators from charging more than 1.5 times of the base fare.
  • The new legal framework would also mean a driver working with Ola, Uber or similar aggregator companies cannot be logged in for more than 12 hours in a day.
  • There has to be a mandatory 10-hour break after working for 12 hours.
  • For cancellation of bookings, either by the driver or the rider, the penalty has been fixed at 10 per cent of the fare, but it cannot exceed Rs 100.
  • The cab aggregator stares at the suspension of licence on multiple grounds —if it fails to ensure safety of its riders, if it charges higher rates repeatedly and in case it fails to comply with the contractual obligations towards drivers.
  • If the aggregator receives more than three suspensions in a financial year, its licence will be cancelled and the aggregator will be forced to stop operations with immediate effect.
  • Aggregators may provide pooling facilities to only those riders whose KYC (know your customer) details are available and who will travel along the same route but with varied stoppages under a virtual contract through the app.

 

India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted 7.5%

  • India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted 7.5% in the second quarter of 2020-21, following the record 23.9% decline recorded in the first quarter, as per estimates released by the National Statistical Office.
  • The country has now entered a technical recession with two successive quarters of negative growth.
  • Agriculture, which was the only sector to record growth between April and June this year, grew at the same pace of 3.4% in the second quarter.
  • Manufacturing gross value-added (GVA) staged a sharp recovery to record 0.6% growth between July and September after collapsing 39.3% in the first quarter.
  • Electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services also recorded 4.4% growth in the second quarter, recovering from a 7% contraction in Q1.
  • But it remained a bleak quarter for several sectors, including mining, services such as retail trade and hotels, construction and financial services.
  • While the 7.5% contraction in GDP came as a positive surprise, there are concerns about a decline in government spending and the worsening fate of two key sectors compared to the first quarter.
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