Daily Current Affairs [IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam] – 18th December 2018
India-Maldives: $1.4 bn aid package to Maldives
Part of: GS Mains II – India and its bilateral ties; International relations
- India offers $1.4 bn aid package to Maldives to tackle financial crisis.
- Maldives is facing a debt of $3.2 billion with China. It is expected to boost Male’s global financial standing.
- Financial assistance will be in the form of budgetary support, currency swap and concessional lines of credit for development programmes.
- Both sides agree to coordinate maritime policing activities in the Indian Ocean region.
- Cooperation between both countries is necessary for maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region.
- India to support the Maldives in its human-centric development plans.
Ujjwala Yojana expansion: LPG scheme to cover poor people
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Social/Welfare Issue; Vulnerable section; Government schemes and policies
- Union Cabinet approved the expansion of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to provide deposit-free LPG connections to all poor households.
- So far, the scheme targeted the poor and underprivileged so listed in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census, 2011.
- The mandate of the scheme was to provide LPG connections to eight crore households.
- Go green : : India among countries which have developed, tested and certified the process of using blended bio-jet fuel (produced from Jatropha oil)
- Cyclone Phethai : : Severe cyclonic storm Phethai hit Andhra Pradesh coastal areas.
- ISRO phones for fishermen in T.N. : : ISRO has designed the NaVIC (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) receivers and 200 of them have been delivered to the State government. The satellite phones will help fishermen involved in deep sea fishing, to assist in their navigation while in the high seas.
- India’s Vijay Lakshmi Pandit : : was the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1953
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY/ETHICS
TOPIC:General studies 3 and 4
- Science and technology, Biotechnology
- Emerging science and ethics around powerful tools
The safety and ethics of gene editing
- Recently, a Chinese scientist triggered alarm and confusion across the scientific community with the claim that he had edited the DNA of human embryos to create twin baby girls.
- He also said – the twin baby girls had been born “crying into the world as healthy as any other babies”.
- The controversial experiment, publicized through the media and videos posted online by He Jiankui of Southern University of Science and Technology of China, was criticized by many scientists worldwide as premature and called “rogue human experimentation.”
He Jiankui’s controversial claims
- He claimed that his experiments produced the first genetically altered babies using gene editing technology.
- The scientist claims to have used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to alter the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of embryos before implanting them into the mother’s womb to make the twin babies resistant to HIV.
- The unverified claim by He has stoked public fears and renewed apprehensions that babies might one day be “designed”.
- It raises an urgent need for sound governance and greater public dialogue on gene editing.
(For basics on Gene Editing, refer the link – Editing our genes)
Potential of gene editing
Gene editing has got incredible potential. These technologies hold the promise of curing any human genetic disease.
- Switzerland-based CRISPR Therapeutics and Switzerland-based CRISPR Therapeutics, with labs in Massachusetts, and Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals have recently launched human trials of an experimental CRISPR-Cas9 therapy for b-thalassemia, a blood disorder that decreases the production of haemoglobin, an iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.
- An oncologist at China’s Sichuan University was the first to edit human cells to treat lung cancer in 2016.
- China is also attempting to halt disease progression in patients with oesophageal cancer by manipulating a piece of DNA in white blood cells.
Possible pitfalls of gene editing
The unverified claim by He came on the eve of an international summit dedicated to discussing the emerging science and ethics around powerful tools that give scientists unprecedented potential to tweak traits and eliminate genetic diseases — but that have raised fears of “designer babies.” By editing the DNA of human embryos, scientists change not just the genes in a single person, but also their potential offspring — in effect, altering the human species.
While it is illegal to deliberately alter the genes of human embryos in India, in the US, and many other countries, the legal position on gene editing in China is less clear.
The broader scientific community condemned the lack of transparency in the development, review, and conduct of clinical procedures for He’s experiment.
Do you know?
Difference between genome editing (GE) and genetic modification (GM)
- Many are not aware of how genome editing (GE) is different from the genetic modification (GM)
- While GM involves permanent integration of a foreign gene into the host genome, GE only involves manipulating the endogenous gene without inserting a foreign DNA.
Two notable failings of He Jiankui’s experiment were the inability to obtain consent from the participants of the trial, and the highly questionable ethical standards implemented to protect the welfare and rights of the research subjects.
Gene editing experiments may prove to be a blessing for parents carrying disease-causing mutations to have their own children, yet these interventions raise crucial safety and efficiency concerns leading to what scientists and doctors call off-target mutations and mosaicism.
Since the results of He’s experiment have not been published or peer reviewed, some experts fear that his effort might not have been screened for off-target effects and mosaicism, therefore putting the twins’ health at risk.
Crucial questions need to be asked with regards to fragmented legal frameworks, unclear regulatory practices, ambiguous policy advances and voluntary measures governing gene-editing technologies at national and international levels. Considering the rapid pace of genome editing, the existing overarching governance frameworks in India and elsewhere need urgent examination and development.
Connecting the dots:
- Considering the rapid pace of genome editing, the existing overarching governance frameworks in India and elsewhere need urgent examination and development. Examine.
- “Gene Therapy offers a wide range of prospects for humans.” Comment.
- What is gene editing? Elaborate in the light of Crisper cas9 and respective examples of application of gene editing technology.
TOPIC:General studies 2 and 3
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
- Environment conservation – Climate change and Global warming
COP24 Katowice conference and the rulebook
- In previous news articles, we read that 196 countries finalised a rulebook for the 2015 Paris Agreement during COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland.
- The finalisation paves the way for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which is supposed to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol in 2020.
- The creation of the rulebook has been hailed as an important step that has breathed life into the Paris Agreement.
The below article provides assessment – Whether the deal reached in Katowice is enough? Whether the rulebook is a flawed document?
COP24 Katowice conference outcomes:
It was primarily about the rulebook. Other important discussions were –
- About the need to step up climate actions in the light of several studies that pointed out that current level of actions were insufficient to hold the global average temperature within 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
- It was expected that the countries would give some indication of their willingness to do more that what they were currently committed to, and would agree to start a process towards that. But that did not happen.
- The absence of any indication towards increasing “ambition” of climate actions was one major disappointment of the Katowice conference.
- Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which talks about setting up a market mechanism for trading of carbon emissions – (failed). It could not be agreed upon and had to be deferred for until next year.
- Developing countries argued that their unused carbon credits should be considered valid in the new market mechanism that was being created, something that the developed countries opposed strongly. The developed countries questioned the authenticity of the unused carbon credits, pointing to weak verification mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol that allowed dubious projects to claim carbon credits.
- The developed countries also argued that some of the proposals being put forward by Brazil for the carbon markets would lead to double-counting of emission reductions.
- With no side willing to concede ground, there was no option but to defer the discussion over carbon markets to next year, while allowing for the rest of the rulebook to be finalised.
What is in the rulebook?
- Steps (provided by Paris Agreement) that countries need to take in the fight against climate change, to keep the global average temperatures “well below” 2°C from pre-industrial times.
- The rulebook prescribes how to do those things, and how each of them would be measured and verified.
- Article 4 of the 2015 Paris Agreement mandates nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by countries. The rulebook seeks to address what should be in these pledges.
- The rulebook specifies what actions can be included in the action plan, how and when the member countries should submit them to the UN climate body.
- Further, the Paris Agreement asks every member nation to submit information about their greenhouse gas emissions every two years. The rulebook specifies which gases to measure, what methodologies and standards to apply while measuring them, and the kinds of information to be included in their submissions.
- The rulebook provides what kinds of financial flows — loans, concessions, grants — can be classified as ‘climate finance’, which developed countries are supposed to provide to developing countries to help them deal with climate change. It also specifies how they should be accounted for, and the kind of information about them needed to be submitted.
- The rulebook contains various other processes and guidelines needed for implementing the other provisions of the Paris Agreement. In short, it holds the operational details of the Paris Agreement.
Do you know?
- Paris Agreement is just 27 pages long while the rulebook is spread over 133 pages, and is not yet complete.
- The rulebook is a dynamic document, meaning new rules can be added, or existing rules amended.
- While welcoming the finalisation of the rulebook, India and many other developing countries rued the fact that the “balance” that they would have liked to see in the agreement was missing.
- Key issues of concern for the poorest and developing nations were diluted or postponed.
- The details on funding and building capacity have been postponed. References to “equity” in the draft rule book were erased by the U.S. delegation.
In spite of these problems, a single rulebook for all countries has been produced and will serve as a foundation for more detailed rules and structures.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Cultivation of HT cotton (Herbicide Tolerant) has been recently banned in four states by Supreme Court. Which of the following statements is/are correct regarding it?
- HT cotton is also known as BG III cotton.
- It contains Round – up Ready and Round – up Flux (RRF) gene.
- The herbicide-resistant gene in HT cotton can spread through pollen into biodiversity system leading to transformation of weeds into super weeds.
Select the code from following:
- 1 only
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- All of the above
Q.2) The CRISPR-Cas system often in news is related to?
- Rice Intensification
- Gene Editing
- Space Research
- Cyber Attack
Q.3) Maldives has FTA with which of the following countries?
Select the correct code:
- 1 and 2
- 2 Only
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
Q.4) Maldives is a member of
- Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
- Commonwealth of Nations
Select the correct code:
- 1 Only
- 2 Only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.5) Consider the following statements about “NavIC”
- It is aimed at providing Satellite-based Navigation services with accuracy and integrity required for civil aviation applications and to provide better Air Traffic Management over Indian Airspace
- It is based on the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS)
Select the correct statements
- 1 Only
- 2 Only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
NOTA: Not a decisive factor
Making every citizen an auditor
Raja Mandala: Time for Techplomacy
Lessons in bigotry
The illiberal dogma of ‘liberal economics’
The brute power behind China’s South China Sea grab
The rise of anti-tech activism and white-collar protest