Topic 1: The Diamond League
Context: Neeraj Chopra clinched the top spot in the javelin event of the Doha Diamond League.
What is the Diamond League?
- The Diamond League is an annual series of elite track and field competitions.
- It was started in 2010 as a replacement for the previous IAAF Golden League and IAAF World Athletics Final events.
- The Diamond League is organised by World Athletics, the international governing body for athletics.
Topic 2: Galapagos conservation
Context: Credit Suisse has announced buying Ecuadorian bonds worth $1.6 billion (€1.45 billion) in a debt-for-nature swap that cost the Swiss bank just $644 million and in return, Ecuador’s government had pledged to spend about $18 million annually for two decades on conservation in the Galapagos Islands.
About the islands:
- The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Eastern Pacific in South America.
- They form the Galápagos Province of the Republic of Ecuador.
- The Galápagos are famous for their large number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin in the 1830s and inspired his theory of evolution by means of natural selection.
- The remote islands is home to some of the most unspoiled nature in the world.
- These are a UNESCO world nature heritage site
What is the deal?
- Credit Suisse will pay between 53.25% and 35.5% of the issue price for the 2030, 2035 and 2040 bonds.
- A cheaper-to-service $656 million “Galapagos Bond” maturing in 2041 will replace the old debt.
- That loan will also be partly underwritten where Credit Suisse’s risk is also contained.
- The buyer, Credit Suisse, has recently been taken over by a Swiss banking giant.
- The emergency takeover came in a bid to calm the financial markets amid a banking crisis.
- The Zurich-based bank had been under pressure amid scandals that led to a large-scale withdrawl of funds from angry clients.
- The seller, Ecuador, has been mired in a political crisis that triggered a slump in bond prices.
- In 2022, Ecuador’s public debt amounted to around $66.68 billion.
Topic 3: Respiratory syncytial virus
Context: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first vaccine, Arexvy for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to lower respiratory tract disease in people older than 60 years.
- This is the first RSV vaccine to be approved anywhere in the world.
- The trial showed that a single dose of the vaccine reduced the risk of people, older than 60 years, developing lower respiratory tract disease caused by the RSV virus by 82.6% and reduced the risk of developing severe disease by 94.1%.
- Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.
- RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.
- RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age.
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract.
Topic 4: Donanemab and lecanemab
Context: Two drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease showed promising results.
- The disease:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.
- The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations.
- As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
- There is no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s disease or alters the disease process in the brain.
- Alzheimer’s disease affects at least 55 million people worldwide.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
- Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally.
- The drugs:
- As with similar antibody-based therapies such as lecanemab, donanemab is not a cure for Alzheimer’s.
- Instead, they are antibodies that target different forms of amyloid-beta (Aβ) proteins that can clump together to form amyloid plaques in people’s brains, resulting in their congnitive decline.
- The drug aims to remove the plaques from the brain and slow the progression of the disease.
|Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s Dementia, or “memory loss” is a degenerative disease.While many equate dementia to Alzheimer’s disease, both are not the same.Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behaviour.As a neurological condition, dementia brings about cognitive and behavioural changes in a person.While Alzheimer’s is believed to be a common form of it, many other forms also exist but go undiagnosed.|
Topic 5: India’s first national water-body census
Context: The findings of the first-ever water body census, conducted by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, was published recently.
Need for a water body census
- India is facing a water crisis with groundwater decline, biodiversity loss, and climate change increasing the frequency of floods and droughts.
- Water bodies buffer against climate variability, holding flood waters for use in dry periods.
- They contribute to food and water security as well as livelihoods by recharging groundwater and providing water for irrigation and livestock.
- They also have cultural and ecological significance.
- Water bodies are increasingly under threat from pollution, encroachment, urbanisation, and drying.
- If they are to be conserved and managed effectively, we need action plans which require baseline data.
- As water bodies are managed by different agencies from State to local to private entities, the data must be uniform and easily accessible.
- To actually manage water bodies, we need contextual and traditional knowledge of communities which are to be integrated with formal data.
- While data on reservoirs and rivers has been available on the India Water Resources Information System (WRIS) for the last few years, there has been no data on smaller water bodies that are the lifeline of rural India and critical cultural, flood-control and recreational spaces in cities.
How was the census conducted?
- To develop a national database with information on the size, purpose, ownership, status, and conditions of water bodies.
- It covered all natural and human-made units bounded on all sides for storing water, irrespective of condition or use.
- The census was built on existing and publicly available satellite-derived datasets.
- These datasets allows a citizen to download the historical time series data on each water body.
- However, they only include attributes that can be observed from space.
- The water body census extends this to social characteristics including ownership, use and condition.
- Most water bodies in the country are very small — the vast majority of India’s water bodies are less than one hectare (ha) large.
- The water bodies show regional patterns that correlate with rainfall:
- In drier States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, water bodies tend to be larger and publicly held.
- In the wetter parts of the country, like Kerala, West Bengal, and States in the northeast, more than three-quarters of the water bodies are privately owned.
- In drier States, the water bodies are primarily used for irrigation and groundwater recharge.
- In wetter States, domestic use and pisciculture dominate.
- Mid-sized water bodies are largely panchayat-owned.
- Most water bodies have never been repaired or rejuvenated.
- Several water bodies were classified “not in use”, meaning despite the recent interest in rejuvenating water bodies, most of them have never been repaired or revived.
- Gaps in the survey:
- The census does not address any questions about ecological functions that are related to the size and location of the water bodies.
- The focus was exclusively on human use, which means only pisciculture or fish farming, which is seeded and does not reflect natural biodiversity.
- Faulty classification:
- In classifying water bodies in terms of reasons of abandonment or disuse, “others” emerged as a significant reason, on par with “drying up” in a few States.
- It was far ahead of other specific categories such as industrial pollution, construction, and salinity.
- The census questionnaire may have left out the most common reasons like eutrophication, sewage pollution, and solid waste dumping.
- Inconsistencies in the census:
- The census groups water bodies into five types:
- ponds, tanks, lakes, reservoirs, and water conservation schemes.
- It defines a pond as a smaller water body than a tank, while water conservation structures might include check dams and percolation tanks.
- However, these categories are not mutually exclusive as many tanks that were traditionally used directly for irrigation serve primarily as recharge structures today.
- Based on the data, it appears that in Karnataka, these were classified as ponds and tanks serving the purpose of irrigation, whereas in Maharashtra these were classified as water conservation structures, primarily serving the purpose of groundwater recharge.
- The census groups water bodies into five types:
- The data was not standardised across States:
- Some States like Gujarat do not show any water bodies not being in use, whereas Karnataka reports almost 80% of its water bodies as being in a state of disuse.
- This suggests differences in interpretation by the enumerators.
- The map for north Karnataka seems suspiciously empty.
- It is unclear if some districts were skipped or if they genuinely had a lower water-body density.
- Notwithstanding these shortcomings, it is crucial that the government continue such nationwide censuses of a vital resource, with modifications.
- This first edition itself provides high-level indications on the way forward by detailing ownership, state of use, and the costs of construction and repair.
- It points to:
- how and why water bodies must be restored,
- which agency’s capacities need to be strengthened,
- where and how much funds are needed, and
- who will benefit from such efforts.
- If such censuses are conducted every five or 10 years, over time, they will accurately represent emerging trends and the state of water in the country as a whole.
Topic 6: Bluesky
Context: Bluesky has come to the fore as a potential claimant to Twitter’s throne.
What is Bluesky?
- Bluesky is a micro-blogging platform and social website.
- It is built on the AT Protocol (Authenticated Transport Protocol).
- Bluesky might be classified as a Twitter competitor but it is different in terms of its structure, as it is meant to form part of a decentralised ecosystem.
- Users of apps built on the AT Protocol would be able to move between platforms without losing their followers, media, work, and data.
- This account portability is a major part of the AT Protocol’s structure.
Bluesky vs Mastodon
- Bluesky and Mastodon both strive to be decentralised social media platforms.
- Bluesky is still highly controlled by its team of creators, and entry is based on an invite code.
- Mastodon has multiple servers that users can join or apply to join, making it less controlled in terms of entry.
Topic 7: Title 42
Context: The United States is getting ready to lift COVID-19 restrictions that have blocked migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum since 2020, a major policy shift with humanitarian and political implications.
What is Title 42?
- The COVID restrictions, known as Title 42, were first implemented in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic.
- Title 42 allowed border agents to rapidly expel many migrants to Mexico.
- Since its inception, migrants have been expelled more than 2.7 million times under Title 42, although the total includes many repeat crossers and Mexico has generally only accepted certain nationalities.
Topic 8: START programme
Context: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced space science and technology awareness training (START).
- ISRO has launched a new introductory-level online training programme called ‘Space Science and Technology Awareness Training (START)’.
- It is aimed at post-graduate and final-year undergraduate students of physical sciences and technology.
- The programme will cover various domains of space science, including:
- Astronomy & Astrophysics,
- Heliophysics & Sun-Earth interaction,
- Instrumentation, and Aeronomy.
- It will be delivered by the scientists from Indian academia and ISRO centres.
- The START programme is part of ISRO’s efforts to enable Indian students to become professionals in space science and technology.
- The training will also emphasize the cross-disciplinary nature of space science, giving students insights into how their individual aptitudes can be applied to the field.
- The programme is intended to give them an overview of the different facets of the field, research opportunities and career options.
- Remote sensing courses
- The ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) has also announced two short courses:
- remote sensing data acquisition and
- remote sensing data processing.
- The ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) has also announced two short courses:
Topic 9: Arab League
Context: In unanimous decision, Arab League readmits Syria after 11-year absence
What is Arab League?
- The Arab League is a regional organization in the Arab world.
- The Arab League was formed in Cairo in 1945.
- Initially it had six members:
- Saudi Arabia, and
- Currently, the League has 22 members.
- Syria’s participation was suspended from 2011 till recently.
- Each member state has one vote in the Council of the Arab League, and decisions are binding only for those states that have voted for them.
- In 2015, the Arab League announced the establishment of a Joint Arab Force with the aim of counteracting extremism and other threats to the Arab States.
- Participation in the project is voluntary, and the army intervenes only at the request of one of the member states.
Topic 10: The Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology
Context: The Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology (CSTT) is working on technical and scientific terminology in 10 Indian languages that are under-represented in the learning landscape.
- The project:
- The CSTT will bring out what it calls fundamental (basic) dictionaries with 5,000 words per language.
- These will be in digital, searchable format, and free of cost.
- Which languages are included?
- Bodo, Santhali, Dogri, Kashmiri, Konkani, Nepali, Manipuri, Sindhi, Maithili and Sanskrit.
- These languages are a part of the list of 22 official languages of India according to the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
- There is a paucity of study material in these languages, primarily because of a lack of words to describe scientific phenomena and technical terms.
- The sparse content available has been confined to the primary-school level that used English words when regional vocabulary was unavailable.
- The Scheduled languages under 8th Schedule:
- The language list, when created in 1950, had 14 languages.
- Sindhi was added in 1967;
- Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali in 1992; and
- Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali in 2004.
The Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology
- Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology was established in 1961 in pursuance of a Presidential Order.
- To evolve technical terminology in all Indian Languages.
- The Commission was established under clause (4) of Article 344 of the Constitution.
- Nodal ministry:
- Ministry of Education.
- Headquarters: New Delhi.