1. Lymphatic Filariasis
Why in news: Lao PDR becomes second country in 2023 after Bangladesh to eliminate lymphatic filariasis.
- Lao People’s Democratic Republic has eliminated lymphatic filariasis (LF), a disease that cripples and has significant social and economic impact on the affected communities.
- This is the country’s second neglected tropical disease (NTD) to be eliminated in six years, following the elimination of trachoma as a public health hazard in 2017.
- Lao PDR is now the second country after Bangladesh to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF) in 2023.
- Nineteen countries have been able to eliminate LF.
- Of the 19 countries, 11 belong to the WHO Western Pacific Region (WPR).
- Four countries in the WHO South-East Asia region have also eliminated LF:
- Bangladesh, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
- In WHO Africa region, two countries, Malawi and Togo have eliminated the disease.
- The disease has been eliminated in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean’s Yemen too.
- The most cost-effective method for treating all affected residents of LF-endemic areas and stopping future transmission is mass drug administration (MDA).
- WHO recommends the triple therapy combination of ivermectin (I), diethylcarbamazine (D) and albendazole (A), for MDA against LF.
- LF, also known as elephantiasis, is a preventable mosquito-borne infectious disease targeted for global elimination as a public health problem.
- It occurs when one of the filarial parasites — Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and B. timori — are transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.
- The parasites nest in the lymph vessels, damaging them.
- This leads to hydrocele, lymphedema, and elephantiasis.
- Lymphatic filariasis is a disease caused by parasitic worms known as filarial worms.
- It is a leading cause of permanent disability worldwide.
- While most cases have no symptoms, some people develop a syndrome called elephantiasis, which is marked by severe swelling in the arms, legs, breasts, or genitals.
- It is the first of the mosquito-borne diseases to have been identified.
- The worms are spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes.
- Three types of worms are known to cause the disease:
- Wuchereria bancrofti,
- Brugia malayi, and
- Brugia timori
- Wuchereria bancrofti is the most common.
2. White phosphorus
Why in news: Global human rights organisations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of using white phosphorus munitions in Gaza and Lebanon, in violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
What is white phosphorus?
- White phosphorus is a pyrophoric that ignites when exposed to oxygen, producing thick, light smoke as well as intense 815-degree Celsius heat.
- Pyrophoric substances are those which ignite spontaneously or very quickly (under five minutes) when in contact with air.
- Under the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, white phosphorus falls under “Pyrophoric solids, category 1”, which includes chemicals that catch fire “spontaneously” when exposed to air.
- It is an internationally agreed-upon system to standardize chemical hazard classification and communication,
- It is among the most unstable of pyrophoric substances.
- White phosphorus emits a distinct garlic-like odour.
Military uses of white phosphorus
- White phosphorus is dispersed in artillery shells, bombs, and rockets.
- It can also be delivered via felt (textile) wedges soaked in the chemical.
- Its primary military use is as a smokescreen used to hide troop movement on the ground.
- The smoke acts as a visual obscurant.
- White phosphorus is also known to mess with infrared optics and weapons tracking systems, thus protecting forces from guided missiles.
- Munitions can either be ground-burst for more concentrated smoke, or air-burst in order to cover a larger area.
- White phosphorus can also be used as an incendiary weapon.
- According to HRW, US forces used white phosphorus munitions during the second battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, to force concealed combatants to abandon their positions.
Impact of white phosphorus:
- Upon exposure, white phosphorus can cause severe burns, often down to the bone.
- The burns are excruciatingly painful, difficult to heal, and susceptible to infections.
- Particles of white phosphorus that remain lodged the body can reignite if in contact with air.
- According to HRW, white phosphorus burns on even 10 per cent of the body can be fatal.
- Inhaling white phosphorus particles or smoke can cause respiratory damage and harm to internal organs.
- Those who survive initial injuries often experience a lifetime of suffering, with impaired mobility and painful, horrific scars.
- White phosphorus can also devastate infrastructure and property, damage crops and kill livestock, with raging fires, especially in windy conditions.
When were white phosphorus munitions first used?
- Irish nationalists in the late 19th century first used white phosphorus munitions, in a formulation that became known as “Fenian fire” (Fenian was an umbrella term for the Irish nationalists).
- World War I saw extensive use of the chemical by the British and Commonwealth forces in phosphorus grenades, bombs, shells and rockets.
- Most recently, Russia was accused of using white phosphorus bombs during the invasion of Ukraine.
What is the legal status of white phosphorus munitions?
- White phosphorus munitions are not under a blanket ban, though their use is regulated under the IHL.
- It is not considered a chemical weapon because its operational utility is primarily due to heat and smoke, rather than toxicity.
- Thus, its use is governed by the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), specifically Protocol III, which deals with incendiary weapons.
- Palestine and Lebanon have joined Protocol III, while Israel has not ratified the protocol.
- While Protocol III prohibits the use of airdropped incendiary weapons in concentrations of civilians, it has two significant loopholes.
- First, it restricts some but not all use of ground-launched incendiary weapons where there are concentrations of civilians.
- Second, the protocol’s definition of incendiary weapons covers weapons that are primarily designed to set fire to and burn people, and thus arguably excludes multipurpose munitions such as those containing white phosphorus, which are considered to primarily be smoking agents.
3. Copyright of Religious Texts
Why in news The Delhi High Court has found large-scale infringement in the reproduction on the Internet of copyrighted works of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which publishes books and commentaries on Indian religious philosophy and spiritualism, especially classic Vaishnava texts.
- In an order, the court allowed the trust to approach tech companies Google and Meta with takedown orders against those reproducing copyrighted works on the Srimad Bhagavad Gita.
- About the trust:
- The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was established in 1970 by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada).
- He also founded the Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organisation International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), colloquially known as the Hare Krishna Movement.
Are religious texts protected by copyright?
- Religious scriptures are in the public domain, and in copyright law, no exclusive intellectual property rights apply to creative works in the public domain.
- So, the Old Testament and New Testament, or the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, one of the most widely used translations of the Bible, are not protected by copyright.
- However, many modern translations of the Bible are copyright-protected because they represent new creative works by the translators.
- For example, the New International Version (NIV), which was first published in 1978, is copyright-protected.
- Permission would be needed or the terms set by the holder of the copyright would have to be followed in order to use the NIV text for certain purposes.
- While the Ramayana and Mahabharata are not protected by copyright, the television series Ramayana created by Ramanand Sagar or B R Chopra’s Mahabharata are transformative works that would be protected.
The copyright law in India:
- Indian copyright law protects original work, a creative and independently created expression fixed in a tangible medium.
- The law grants the creator/ author of the work the exclusive right to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their work.
- The law also protects transformative work which is a creative/ artistic work that takes existing material (text, music, art) and significantly modifies, reinterprets, or builds upon it to create something new and distinct.
The case of the petitioner Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
- The trust said that its founder’s works published in various Indian and foreign languages had simplified the religious books and scriptures making it easy for the common man to understand.
- The copyright of his work would vest with the trust after he died in 1977.
- The trust claimed that certain websites, mobile apps, and Instagram handles were making available a large number of the trust’s copyrighted works almost in a verbatim manner on their online platforms without its permission, which amounted to infringement.
What did the HC say?
- In its interim order, the court said adaptation of the scriptures, including explanation, meaning, interpretation or creating any audio visual works, would be entitled to copyright protection.
- The court said this is so because these are the original works of the authors themselves.
- Thus, there can be no objection in the actual reproduction of the text of Srimad Bhagavad Gita or similarly other spiritual books.
- However, the manner in which the same is interpreted by different gurus and spiritual teachers being varied in nature, copyright would vest in respect of the original parts of the literary works which preach, teach or explain the scripture.
- Since Srila Prabhupada had himself handed over the copyrights to be administered by the trust, the works cannot be reproduced without authorization, licence or the permission of the trust.
- The HC found that the shlokas in Prabhupada’s books, as well as their anuvaad (translation) and tatparya (intention) had been reproduced by the defendant entities.
- The court agreed that if not checked, such piracy would cause an immense loss of revenue to the trust.
Why in news: The high-speed train, RapidX will begin services on a 17-km stretch of the Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) after its inauguration.
- The RapidX, also known as the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS), is a semi-high-speed regional rail system operated by the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) in Delhi.
- The goal of the RapidX is to provide a dedicated rail transit network between Delhi and the other cities of the NCR.
- The main aim of RapidX is to decongest Delhi within the 100–200 km radius of the region.
- In 2023, the RRTS services were branded as RapidX.
Why in news: Prime Minister of India extends best wishes on the auspicious occasion of KatiBihu to the people of Assam
About Kati Bihu:
- It is considered one of the three major Bihu festivals.
- Kati Bihu marks the time of relocation of rice saplings.
- The festival is also known as Kongali (Poor) to symbolize an empty granary and less availability of food during that time of the year.
- Hence, Kati Bihu is not celebrated flamboyantly like the other two Bihu festivals.
- People make offerings and pray to Goddess Tulsi for the wellbeing of their family and to have a good harvest.
- People also light a special lamp called “Akash Banti” (Sky candle) in their paddy fields.