14, March 2017

The land-attack version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with an extended range increased from 290 km to 450 km was successfully test fired. The missile was test fired from a Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, Odisha. It met its mission parameters fully by achieving 100% results.

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1.Lok Sabha passes Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2016
Source: PIB

  • The Bill aims to establish uniform legal framework by consolidating the existing laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction of courts, admiralty proceedings on maritime claims, arrest of vessels and related issues.
  • It also aims to repeal five obsolete British statutes statutes (laws) on admiralty jurisdiction in civil matters which are 126 to 177 years old and were hindering efficient governance.
  • The five laws are
  1. Admiralty Court Act, 1840;
  2. Admiralty Court Act, 1861;
  3. Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890;
  4. Colonial Courts of Admiralty (India) Act, 1891;
  5. Provisions of the Letters Patent, 1865.

Features of Admirability Bill, 2016:

  • It confers admiralty jurisdiction on High Courts located in coastal states of India, thus extending their jurisdictions upto territorial waters.
  • The jurisdiction will be extendable by the Union Government notification upto exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or any other maritime zone or islands constituting part of India.
  • It applies to every vessel irrespective of place of domicile or residence of owner. It does not apply to naval auxiliary, warships and vessels used for non-commercial purposes.
  • Inland vessels and vessels under construction are excluded from its application. But it empowers Union Government to make it applicable to these vessels also by a notification.
  • It lists the jurisdiction for adjudicating on a set of maritime claims. A vessel can be arrested in certain circumstances in order to ensure security against a maritime claim.
  • It also provides for prioritization of maritime claims and maritime liens while providing protection to owners, operators, charterers, crew members and seafarers at the same time.

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2.Sweet spot in eye helps humans read
Source: The Hindu

‘Scientist couple’ deciphers the most important aspects of how our vision works at cellular level.

A team led by Kolkata-born scientists has found that a special sweet spot in the eye called ‘fovea’ plays a crucial role in humans being able to focus on computer screens and also read, an ability which is unique to Homo sapiens

  • The findings decipher the mechanism that lets humans read the text, recognize faces, enjoy colors
  • The latest study provides one of the first glimpses into how the fovea works at a cellular and circuit level. It turns out to be very different from how other regions of the retina operate

Fovea:

The fovea is a specialized region that dominates our visual perception. It provides more than half of the input from the eyes to the visual cortex of the brain.index

  • Among mammals, only humans and other primates have this dimple-like structure in their retinas
  • The fovea is responsible for our visual experiences that are rich in colorful spatial detail
  • Located near the optic nerve, the fovea is at its best for fine tasks like reading. Compared to the peripheral retina, however, the fovea is less able to process rapidly changing visual signals.

Significance :

  • Figuring out how the fovea functions is essential to the search for strategies to correct central vision loss, including efforts to design visual prosthetics
  • The results help explain why central and peripheral vision have different qualities

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3.Scotland seeks to exit U.K.
Source: The Hindu

Issue :

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will ask the Scottish Parliament for authority next week for a second referendum on Scottish independence

Reason for referendum:

  • Criticised the “brick wall of intransigence” that her government had faced as it sought to find a deal that protected Scotland’s interests as Britain prepared to leave the EU
  • Brexit has made change inevitable and Scotland needs to be given the choice about the “kind of country we want to be”, between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019

Background:

  • The 2014 referendum on independence was pegged as a “once in a generation” vote.
  • However, the issue of independence resurfaced in the wake of last June’s referendum, when Scotland voted overwhelmingly (62%) to remain in the EU
  • In December, the Scottish government published a white paper “Scotland’s Place in Europe” calling for the U.K. to either remain in the single market or commit to an outcome that would enable Scotland to remain within it, which Ms. Sturgeon said represented a “significant compromise” on the part of her government
  • K. membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish government, or indeed with other devolved administrations — leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit.

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4.India, Pak. in SCO will ensure security of region, says China
Source: The Hindu

  • China hopes that the admission of India and Pakistan into the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) security grouping will contribute to security and stability in the region
  • Currently, all sides are going through relevant legal procedures in accordance with the Memorandum of Obligations signed at last year’s SCO summit at Tashkent to admit India and Pakistan.
  • India and Pakistan can enhance mutual trust and improve relations through more dialogues. This is conducive to not only the two countries themselves, but also to regional prosperity and development

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) :

  • SCO is a Eurasian economic, political and military organisation.
  • Its aim is jointly preserving and safeguarding regional peace, security and stability and also establishing a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
  • Headquarters: Beijing, China.
  • Established: 2001 in Shanghai
  • 8 Members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
  • Observers: Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus.
  • It is an outcome of The Shanghai Five grouping established in 1996 by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
  • SCO’s first enlargement was in 2001 with addition of Uzbekistan and second enlargement was in July 2015 with addition of 2 new members India and Pakistan.

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5.China planning five-fold increase in marine force
Source: The Hindu

China is set to rapidly expand its marine corps and the Navy in anticipation of the development of its Maritime Silk Road (MSR).MSR covers the Pakistani port of Gwadar, and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

There will be a five-fold increase in its marine force — from 20,000 to 100,000 personnel.These numbers are still well short of the 182,000 strong marine corps of the United States, which has an aviation component of 1,199 planes.

Why expand?

Some of the Chinese marines would be stationed at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and the Pakistani port of Gwadar, the starting point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Its original missions include a possible war with Taiwan, maritime defence in the East and South China seas.

Future missions:

Protection of China’s national security in the Korean peninsula, protecting the country’s maritime lifelines

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6.2016 the worst year yet for Syria’s children
Source: The Hindu

As per UNICEF report in Syria, last year was the worst yet for the country’s rising generation, with at least 652 children killed

There was no let up to attacks on schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and homes as the Syrian government, its opponents and the allies of both sides showed callous disregard for the laws of war

One of every three schools in Syria is unusable, some because armed groups occupy them.An additional 2.3 million Syrian children are refugees elsewhere in the Middle East.

Report warns :

  • that for Syria’s young generation, coping mechanisms and medical care are eroding quickly, driving children into child labor, early marriage and combat
  • Dozens of children are also dying from preventable diseases
  • Syrian youngsters are showing signs of “toxic stress” that can lead to lifelong health problems, struggles with addiction and mental disorders lasting into adulthood
  • The use of child soldiers is on the rise in Syria


7.A life of struggle for Zika-affected families
Source: The Hindu

In November 2016, the World Health Organization lifted its emergency designation from the mosquito-borne virus, but Zika has hardly disappeared.

For families of Zika babies, the disastrous effects are only deepening

Many babies also have a long list of varied symptoms, leading experts to rename their condition “congenital Zika syndrome

They can have seizures, breathing problems, trouble swallowing, weakness and stiffness in muscles and joints preventing them from even lifting their heads, clubbed feet, vision and hearing problems, and ferocious irritability

While the children are still small enough to be held, fed and carried, ultimately, many may be unable to walk, attend regular schools, or live on their own as adults

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8.New clone of MRSA identified in Kerala aquatic environment
Source: The Hindu

Issue:

  • A new clone of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is exclusive to Kochi, has been identified
  • The new clone, christened ‘t15669 MRSA’, is unique to seafood and the aquatic environment of Kerala
  • MRSA can lead to diseases ranging from milder form of skin infections, boils, furunculosis to life-threatening septicemia and bacteraemia from post-surgical contamination
  • The situation turns worse given their resistance to wide range of drugs, warned the researchers
  • However, as aureus causes disease by producing enterotoxin in the food, there is no immediate threat in consumption of seafood contaminated with MRSA
  • The emergence of MRSA has been identified as a health concern globally since the 1960s
  • However, little information is available on the prevalence of MRSA and its clonal characteristics in seafood and the aquatic environment

Can spread:

  • If the new clone, which is currently low in concentration in the Kochi geographical area, gets established and becomes widely prevalent then it can reach the seafood chain starting from the fish landing centres to the retail outlets very frequently
  • The presence of MRSA in fish meant for human consumption is a potential health hazard for food handlers
  • The fingerprinting of MRSA can be useful for tracing local source and spread of MRSA isolates in a defined geographical area

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