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Daily Current Affairs

19-February-2024- Top News of the Day

1. New Lapwing observed at Warangal lake, a first in India

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology –  Important Species Relevance for UPSC: Highlights biodiversity In the country aligning with environmental and ecological aspects of the exam.
Context
  • Birdwatchers in Telangana spot a potentially first-in-India spur-winged lapwing near Warangal during the Hyderabad Bird Race.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Telangana birdwatching team discovers a spur-winged lapwing, potentially the first sighting in India.
  • The bird, scientifically known as Vanellus spinosus, was found near Bhattupalle village during the 14th Hyderabad Bird Race.
  • Native to North Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean regions, it has never been documented in the sub-continent.
  • Initially mistaken for a common river lapwing, distinctive features, call, and flight patterns confirmed its uniqueness.
  • Expert birders validated the discovery, emphasizing the significance of the find in avian biodiversity and ornithological research.
Spur-Winged Lapwing
  • Scientific Name: Vanellus spinosus
  • IUCN Status: Species of Least Concern
  • Description: The Spur-winged Lapwing is a medium-sized bird characterized by its distinctive black crown, white face, and conspicuous black spur on its shoulder. It has a brownish-grey back and wings with a white belly.
  • Habitat: Found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, lakeshores, and riverbanks in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe.
  • Behavior: Known for its loud and repetitive “kleep-kleep-kleep” calls, especially during the breeding season. It is territorial and often forms small colonies.
  • Feeding Habits: Primarily feeds on insects, small invertebrates, and occasionally small fish. It forages in shallow water or wet mud, using its long legs and slender bill.
  • Breeding: Builds a ground nest in open areas, often placing it in close proximity to water. Both male and female participate in incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.
  • Conservation Status: Generally considered a species of Least Concern, but localized threats to wetland habitats may impact local populations. Conservation efforts focus on preserving suitable breeding and feeding areas.

2. What our ancestors’ genomes can tell us about modern health

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology Crucial for UPSC: Offers multidisciplinary insights into human evolution, diseases, and cultural practices, enhancing understanding of historical contexts.
Context
  •  The article explores how ancient DNA studies provide insights into the genetic makeup of ancestors, revealing details about diseases, tools, lifestyles, and the history of infectious diseases.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Ancient DNA (aDNA) studies offer insights into the genetic makeup of ancestors, answering questions about their lifestyles, diseases, and tools.
  • Genomic techniques help reconstruct genetic profiles from ancient skeletal remains, revealing genetic diversity, migration patterns, and disease prevalence.
  • Researchers use aDNA to understand the emergence, spread, and adaptation of infectious diseases throughout human history.
  • Recent papers highlight the use of aDNA sequences to explore genetic diseases in ancient humans, providing insights into medicines and tools used by early communities.
  • Genetic diseases caused by chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down’s syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and Turner syndrome, can be studied through aDNA.
  • Advances in whole-genome sequencing enable the analysis of chromosomal abnormalities in fragmented and degraded DNA from ancient samples.
  • Researchers identify early instances of genetic diseases like Turner syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and Down’s syndrome in Iron Age Britain through aDNA.
  • Cardiovascular disease risk is assessed in ancient individuals by analyzing genetic variants associated with the disease, revealing its prevalence for at least 5,000 years.
  • Gleaning insights into ancient human lifestyles, aDNA analysis of birch pitch reveals microbial information related to oral health and hints at dietary habits.
  • aDNA studies also contribute to understanding the creation and development of stone tools, as seen in the excavation of a cave in Ranis, Germany.
  • High-throughput sequencing of bone remains in the cave identifies Homo sapiens as toolmakers around 45,000 years ago.
Practice Question:  How do studies on ancient DNA contribute to our understanding of human evolution, genetic diseases, and cultural practices? Discuss with relevant examples. (150 words/10 m)

3. Ultradian rhythms: the cycles of life.

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology
UPSC Significance: Understanding ultradian rhythms is crucial for comprehending biological processes, health, and overall well-being.
Context
  • The article discusses ultradian rhythms, recurring physiological patterns influencing sleep cycles, hormone release, and essential bodily functions in all organisms.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Life operates in cyclical processes, with ultradian rhythms being crucial physiological patterns adopted by all living organisms.
  • Unlike circadian rhythms following a 24-hour cycle, ultradian rhythms recur more frequently, governing heartbeat, breathing, hormonal release, and brain-wave activity.
  • The sleep cycle is a well-known ultradian rhythm, characterized by alternating REM and non-REM sleep stages, with each cycle lasting about 90 minutes.
  • REM sleep involves dreaming, while non-REM sleep is vital for physical restoration and memory consolidation.
  • Ultradian rhythms impact hormone release patterns, including growth hormone, cortisol, and insulin, crucial for regulating metabolism, energy levels, and stress responses throughout the day.

4. What are IPCC’s assessment reports?

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental impact assessment.
Crucial for UPSC: IPCC’s assessments shape global climate policies, reflecting scientific insights and influencing international efforts to combat climate change.
Context
  • The article discusses the recent activities of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including findings from the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) and the initiation of the Seventh Assessment Cycle (AR7).
 IPCC Assessment Reports Overview:
  • IPCC has produced six assessment reports since 1988, addressing climate science, consequences, adaptation, vulnerability, and mitigation aspects.
  • Scientists from 195 countries contribute to reports, emphasizing human responsibility for global warming.
Findings of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6):
  • AR6 warns of limited time to limit global surface temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, emphasizing proximity to adaptation limits.
  • Provides strategies to slow warming, enhance adaptation, and build resilience in natural and human-made systems.
Initiation of the Seventh Assessment Cycle (AR7):
  • IPCC’s AR7 cycle initiated after the AR6 synthesis report, with discussions held in Turkey on budgeting, timelines, and work program.
  • Learnings from AR6 consolidated in a paper, influencing discussions on report types, special reports, and the value of ‘full assessment reports.’
Global Stocktake (GST) and AR7 Cycle:
  • GST evaluates progress toward Paris Agreement goals every five years; the first GST occurred in 2022-2023.
  • IPCC aligns its work with subsequent stocktakes; member countries request AR7 assessment reports before the second GST in 2028.
AR7 Cycle Reports and Timeline:
  • Bureau agrees to produce full assessment reports, synthesis reports, methodology reports, and one special report.
  • Methodology reports focus on short-lived climate forcers and carbon removal; technical guidelines on impacts and adaptation to be revised.
  • Member countries suggest multiple special reports, but the bureau decides to produce only one on climate change and cities.
  • Timeline for assessment reports pending, with concerns about content, engagement, and completion of modeling efforts; special and methodology reports set for 2027 publication.
PYQ: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted a global sea level rise of about one metre by AD 2100. What would be its impact in India and the other countries in the Indian Ocean region? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2023)

5. ISRO Successfully Launches INSAT-3DS Satellite Despite GSLV Rocket's 'Naughty Boy' Reputation

Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology – Achievements of Indian S&T; Indigenization of technology
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about Rocket technology, cryogenic engines, and space exploration which are significant aspects of India’s scientific and technological advancements.
Context:
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched INSAT-3DS, a new-generation meteorological satellite designed for enhanced monitoring of Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans, and environment.
  • However, the focus of attention during this launch was not solely on the satellite but also on the rocket used to propel it into orbit.
More about the news: GSLV-F14: The “Naughty Boy” Rocket:
  • INSAT-3DS was carried into its intended geostationary orbit by the GSLV-F14 rocket, one of the main rockets utilized by ISRO alongside PSLV and LVM3.
  • GSLV has earned the moniker of the ‘naughty boy’ due to its relatively inconsistent performance compared to other rockets in ISRO’s fleet.
Track Record and Challenges of GSLV:
  • GSLV has faced challenges in its flight history, with a notable high failure rate, particularly in contrast to the more reliable PSLV.
  • Out of 15 GSLV flights, four have ended unsuccessfully, raising concerns about its reliability and performance.
Cryogenic Engine Issues:
  • The primary issue plaguing GSLV’s performance lies with its cryogenic engine, which powers the rocket’s third and final stage.
  • Cryogenic engines, utilizing liquid hydrogen as fuel, present challenges due to the extremely low temperatures required for their operation.
  • GSLV’s cryogenic engine, reverse-engineered from a Russian design, has posed technical difficulties for ISRO.
Origins of Cryogenic Technology:
  • The cryogenic engine used in GSLV stems from a deal with Russia in the late 1980s, which faced opposition from the United States, leading to its termination.
  • Despite obtaining a few cryogenic engines from Russia, ISRO was unable to access the technology, prompting attempts at reverse engineering.
Indigenous Cryogenic Engine in LVM3:
  • In contrast to GSLV, ISRO has successfully developed its own indigenous cryogenic engine, deployed in the LVM3 rocket.
  • This engine, designed and developed within ISRO, has powered several successful launches, including missions like Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3, showcasing India’s advancements in rocket technology.
Conclusion:
  • While GSLV continues to grapple with challenges associated with its cryogenic engine, ISRO’s successful development of an indigenous cryogenic engine for LVM3 demonstrates significant progress in India’s space program.
  • As ISRO continues to refine its rocket technology, it aims to address past setbacks and achieve greater reliability in future launches.
Significance of the GSLV-F14/INSAT-3DS Mission
  • At least four of the 15 launches using the GSLV so far have been unsuccessful.
  • In comparison, only three of the 60 missions so far by ISRO’s workhorse PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle), and none of the seven by its successor LVM-3, have failed.
  • Therefore, the mission’s success will be crucial for the GSLV, which is scheduled to carry later this year the Earth observation satellite, NISAR, which is being jointly developed by NASA and ISRO.
  • INSAT-3DS, with a mission life of 10 years, will take over the functions of INSAT-3D (launched in 2013) and INSAT-3DR (2016) that have come to the end of their mission life. It
  • The mission will help in short-range forecasts of extreme weather events such as thunderstorms, provide visibility estimation for aviation, and help in studying forest fire, smoke, snow cover, climate studies.
PYQ: With reference to India’s satellite launch vehicles, consider the following statements: (2018) 1. PSLVs launch the satellites useful for Earth resources monitoring whereas GSLVs are designed mainly to launch communication satellites. 2. Satellites launched by PSLV appear to remain permanently fixed in the same position in the sky, as viewed from a particular location on Earth. 3. GSLV Mk III is a four-staged launch vehicle with the first and third stages using solid rocket motors; and the second and fourth stages using liquid rocket engines. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 (c) 1 and 2 (d) 3 only Ans: (a)
Practice Question:  Examine the challenges faced by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the development and deployment of the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) program. Evaluate the significance of ISRO’s advancements in indigenous cryogenic engine technology and their implications for India’s space exploration capabilities. (250 words/15 m)

6. Oregon in US Reports First Case of Bubonic Plague since 2005: Understanding the Disease, Historical Impact, and Modern Concerns

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health
GS3 – Science & Technology
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the nature of the disease, its transmission, symptoms, and historical impact.
Context:
  • Health officials in Oregon, US, have confirmed the first case of bubonic plague in the state since 2005, prompting concerns about the resurgence of this historical disease.
  • Reports suggest that the individual likely contracted the disease from a sick pet cat, highlighting the zoonotic nature of the bubonic plague.
More about the news: Understanding Bubonic Plague:
  • Bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which can spread between animals and humans.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines three primary modes of transmission:
    • through infected fleas,
    • contact with infected bodily fluids or materials, and
    • inhalation of respiratory droplets from a patient with pneumonic plague.
Symptoms and Forms of Plague:
  • Plague can manifest in various forms, with bubonic plague being characterized by fever, headache, weakness, and painful swollen lymph nodes, typically resulting from flea bites.
  • Septicemic plague occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream, leading to more severe symptoms.
  • Pneumonic plague, the most dangerous form, is almost always fatal if untreated, as it involves rapid pneumonia development and can be spread through inhalation of infectious droplets.
Historical Impact of the Black Death:
  • The Black Death, caused by the bubonic plague in the 14th century, remains one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in history, resulting in the deaths of millions in Europe.
  • Recent research suggests certain genetic mutations increased survival chances during the Black Death, albeit with implications for autoimmune diseases in modern times.
Contemporary Concerns and Modern Measures:
  • Despite the historical significance of the bubonic plague, doctors do not anticipate widespread transmission or fatalities due to modern antibiotics, improved hygiene practices, and better understanding of the disease.
  • While several thousand plague cases are reported worldwide each year, predominantly in specific regions like Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Peru, fatality rates remain relatively low at around 11 percent.
Conclusion:
  • While the reappearance of bubonic plague in Oregon raises alarm, the availability of modern antibiotics and enhanced medical knowledge significantly mitigate the threat posed by Yersinia pestis.
  • With proper medical intervention and public health measures, the risk of widespread transmission and fatalities remains low in contemporary times.
What was the Black Death?
  • The bubonic plague that swept through Western Asia, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Europe between 1346 and 1353 is known as the “Black Death.”
  • The majority of experts believe that fleas carried by rodent hosts transmitted the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which was the cause of the Black Death, which claimed millions of lives.
  • Yersinia pestis is a microorganism that became established in human populations and eventually spread to other people through the respiratory system or by human flea vectors.
  • The hard, inflammatory lymph nodes known as “buboes” were frequently cited by authors of accounts at the time as the epidemic’s defining clinical characteristic.
  • Because of the devastation the pandemic caused to the population, it was known as the “great pestilence” or the “great death” in the fourteenth century.
  • It is challenging to determine the precise death toll because there is a dearth of thorough historical data from that era.
Practice Question:  Discuss the historical context of the bubonic plague, its transmission modes, symptoms, and forms, along with contemporary measures to mitigate its spread and impact. (150 words/10 m)

7. Seven Cheetah Cubs Born in Kuno National Park, Signaling Progress for Project Cheetah

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Conservations
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the reintroduction of cheetahs to India which is a significant conservation initiative aimed at restoring a species that has been extinct in the country for decades.
Context:
  • Wildlife officials in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park are celebrating the birth of seven cheetah cubs in January, marking a significant development for Project Cheetah, aimed at reintroducing cheetahs to India.
  • Four cubs were born to Namibian Cheetah Jwala, while three were born to Asha, raising hopes for the adaptation of cheetahs to Indian conditions following previous losses.
More about the news: Stages in a Cub’s Life:
  • The Cheetah Conservation Fund outlines the various stages in a cheetah cub’s life, starting with birth, where cubs are blind and dependent on their mother for warmth and security.
  • Cubs spend several weeks secluded in nests, moving frequently to avoid predators, before gradually joining their mother in daily activities.
  • At around six months, cubs become more active and begin climbing ‘play trees,’ while at one year, they start hunting with their mother.
Protocol for Caring for Cubs:
  • Experts at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa, emphasizes the importance of cubs staying with their mother to learn hunting instincts.
  • They highlight the need for vaccinations and supplements to ensure proper development.
  • However, intervention may be necessary if the mother neglects or harms the cubs, with hand-rearing as a last resort.
Challenges and Survival Chances:
  • Despite efforts to raise cheetah cubs in protected enclosures in Kuno, debates arise regarding the artificial protection from dangers and genetic diversity.
  • Research suggests that first-time cheetah mothers often lose their entire first litter, but learn from the experience.
  • Survival rates for cheetah cubs in open systems like Tanzania’s Serengeti are relatively low, emphasizing the challenges faced in reintroduction programs.
Debate over Rearing Practices:
  • There is a divide between South African experts, who advocate against raising cubs in protected enclosures, and Kuno wildlife officials, who opt for a more controlled approach before releasing them into the wild.
  • Concerns include stress-related behaviors and reduced reproductive performance associated with housing cheetahs in small enclosures.
Conclusion:
  • The birth of cheetah cubs in Kuno National Park signifies progress for Project Cheetah, but challenges remain in ensuring their survival and successful reintroduction into the wild, amidst debates over rearing practices and genetic diversity.
What is the Cheetah Reintroduction Project?
  • The goal of the Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India is to restore back the cheetah population, which was declared extinct in the nation in 1952.
  • The project officially began on September 17, 2022.
  • Cheetahs from Namibia and South Africa will be relocated as part of the initiative to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The project is implemented by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and cheetah experts from Namibia and South Africa.
Note:
  • Cheetahs, the fastest land animals, are considered “crepuscular” hunters, meaning they hunt at sunrise and sunset.
  • Cheetah females have a gestation period of 92-95 days; and will give birth to a litter of approximately three or five cubs.
 
PYQ: Consider the following: (2012) 1) Black-necked crane 2) Cheetah 3) Flying squirrel 4) Snow leopard Which of the above are naturally found in India? (a) 1, 2 and 3 only (b) 1, 3 and 4 only (c) 2 and 4 only (d) 1, 2, 3 and 4 Ans: (b)
Practice Question:  Evaluate the significance of the recent birth of cheetah cubs in Kuno National Park for Project Cheetah and the broader conservation efforts in India. Discuss the challenges and strategies involved in reintroducing cheetahs to Indian habitats, including considerations for cub rearing, genetic diversity, and long-term sustainability. (250 words/15 m)

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