IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 06 September 2019

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Britain’s Brexit

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Context:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to call a snap election failed to garner the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in the House of Commons on Wednesday — leaving the Brexit process in limbo.

More in news:

  • It was his third defeat in the lower house of Parliament in just two days — coming right after opposition MPs and rebels in Johnson’s Conservatives approved a bill that could force Johnson to ask the European Union for another Brexit delay, a step he has repeatedly said he would not take.
  • With Johnson losing his majority after expelling rebel Tory MPs and with time running out until the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31, here’s a look at what to look out for over the next few days:

What’s happening with the no-deal Brexit bill?

  • The bill was passed in the House of Commons. Now lawmakers in the upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, will debate it. Time will be tight to get the bill approved, as Johnson has moved to suspend Parliament as of next week.
  • The House of Lords took part in a rare late night session on Wednesday, with pro-Brexit members threatening to try and stop the bill by talking so much that time runs out. The House of Lords agreed that all stages of the legislation would be completed by Friday at 5 p.m. That would give the House of Commons enough time to debate any amendments made by the upper house and send the legislation — if it passes again — to Queen Elizabeth II, who could put the law into effect by as soon as Monday.
  • The bill would force Johnson to delay Britain’s EU exit until January 31, unless Parliament approves a new deal or votes to support a no-deal Brexit by October 19 — which are both unlikely scenarios.

Is a no-deal Brexit off the table?

  • The UK could still crash out of the EU without a transition agreement — the only question would be when that would take place. The current bill only delays the issue, kicking the can down the road until January.
  • Any extension would also need the unanimous approval of the leaders of the remaining 27 EU member-states — and the British government would have to provide a valid reason for doing so.
  • Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said on Wednesday there isn’t enough widespread support among EU leaders to grant a third extension.
  • Although EU leaders are growing frustrated with the stalled process and preparing for a no-deal scenario, they’re also looking to avoid the likely economic catastrophe that would come with the UK leaving without a deal.
  • Besides a no-deal Brexit, the UK could also still leave with a deal that would smooth the transition, or it could call Brexit off altogether.

Is a snap election still on the horizon?

  • Despite Johnson’s failed bid to call a snap election, Britain could soon be headed to the polls. Once again, it’s a question of timing.
  • Johnson wanted to hold the election on October 15 — just a few days before an EU leaders summit in Brussels from October 17 to 18.
  • Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he supports early elections, but only once the no-deal Brexit blocking bill has been passed. The Labour leader also reportedly said that he wouldn’t want to hold the election before the current Brexit deadline on October 31, according to the BBC.

Campaign to promote ‘eat right movement’

Topic: GS–II: Health

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan started POSHAN Maah 2019 with a year-long social and mass media campaign on the Eat Right India movement.

More in news:

  • Leading with a tweet-a-day focusing on a weekly theme of eating right for the next 365 days, Dr. Vardhan also launched the new Eat Right India logo that represents a healthy plate, an online eat right quiz and online course for frontline health workers.

Aligned with plans

  • This movement is aligned with the government’s flagship public health programmes such as POSHAN Abhiyaan, Anemia Mukt Bharat, Ayushman Bharat Yojana and Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also put in place robust regulatory measures under three major pillars: Eat Safe, Eat Health and Eat Sustainably for the programme.
  • FSSAI has prescribed a limit for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) at 25% in cooking oil to avoid the harmful effects of reused cooking oil.

Basic:

  • During frying, oil undergoes degradation due to their exposure to elevated temperatures which result in changes in the physico-chemical, nutritional and sensory properties of the oil. Polar compounds are formed during frying.
  • The toxicity of these compounds is associated with several diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzhemeimer’s disease liver diseases etc.
  • Therefore, it is essential to monitor the quality of vegetable oils during frying. In order to safeguard consumer health, FSSAI has fixed a limit for Total Polar Compounds at 25% beyond which the vegetable oil shall not be used. Therefore, Vegetable Oils should not be repeatedly used for frying.

WHO SE Asia Region plans to banish measles, rubella by 2023

Topic: GS–II: Health

Member-countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia Region have resolved to eliminate highly infectious childhood killer diseases measles and rubella by 2023.

More in news:

  • A resolution to eliminate the diseases was adopted at the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia in Delhi.
  • Measles is particularly dangerous for the poor, as it attacks malnourished children and those with reduced immunity. It can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia, while rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) causes irreversible birth defects.
  • Eliminating measles will prevent 500,000 deaths a year in the region, while eliminating rubella/CRS would avert about 55,000 cases of rubella and promote health and well-being of pregnant women and infants.
  • Measles elimination and rubella control has been a regional flagship priority since 2014. Bhutan, North Korea, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have eliminated measles. Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have controlled rubella.

New targets

  • To achieve the new targets, the member-countries resolved to strengthen the immunisation systems for increasing and sustaining high level of population immunity against the two diseases at both the national and sub-national levels.
  • The resolution calls for ensuring a highly sensitive laboratory supported case-based surveillance system — better evidence for appropriate planning and response. It also emphasises on preparedness for outbreak response activities.

Eastern Economic Forum

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

Context:

Speaking at the Plenary Session of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would extend a $1 billion line of credit towards the development of the Russian Far East.

More in news:

  • The PM recalled that India was the first country in the world to open a consulate in Vladivostok, and underlined the age and depth of the country’s relations with the Far East. Engaging closely with East Asia was in line with India’s policy goal of “Act East”.
  • The EEF Summit began in Vladivostok on September 4, and will go on until September 6.

What is the EEF?

  • According to its website, the EEF was established by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in 2015, with the aim of supporting the economic development of Russia’s Far East, and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. The ongoing EEF Summit at the Far Eastern Federal University is the fifth in its history.
  • Among the participants in the Summit are India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. According to the EEF website, the 2018 Summit was attended by more than 6,000 participants from over 60 countries, and over 220 agreements worth over RUB 3.1 trillion were signed. (Each Russian ruble is almost exactly worth 1 Indian rupee.)
  • The Summits have roundtable conferences, panel sessions, business breakfasts, besides business dialogues and bilateral talks and agreements.

What has the EEF achieved till now?

  • In the last five years, as many as 17 different countries have invested in the Far East, according to the EEF website. These include regional and global heavyweights like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam. As a result, 20 advanced special economic zones and five free ports have been put in place. A total of 1,780 new investment projects, worth over 3.8 trillion rubles, and 230 new enterprises have become functional, the EEF website says.

What is India’s interest in the EEF

  • Prime Minister Modi has described the EEF as a “historic opportunity” to give new impetus to the cooperation between India and Russia. He has said that the relationship between the two countries has “special chemistry, special ease”, even pointing out that Siberian cranes migrate to “my home state Gujarat”.
  • Going beyond the bonhomie and historical ties, India is also a key customer of the Russian arms industry. In March, India entered into a joint venture with Russia to manufacture the legendary Kalashnikov assault rifles in India. In 2018, Russia sold the S-400 advanced air defence system to India.
  • India is interested in expanding the level of trade between the two countries. An area of special interest for India is the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves along the coast of Russia’s Far East.

The sea route from Chennai to Vladivostok

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vladivostok this week, a Memorandum of Intent was signed to open a full-fledged maritime route between Russia’s eastern port city and Chennai on India’s eastern seaboard.

More in news:

  • Opening of this route between Chennai and Vladivostok assumes significance because it ensures there will be connectivity between the two major ports which will give impetus to the cooperation between India and the Russian Far East.

Vladivostok

  • In Russian, Vladivostok is ‘Ruler of the East’. Located on the Golden Horn Bay north of North Korea and a short distance from Russia’s border with China, it is the largest port on Russia’s Pacific coast, and home to the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy.
  • It is the eastern railhead of the legendary Trans Siberian Railway, which connects the far east of Russia to the capital Moscow, and further west to the countries of Europe. At Vladivostok’s massive port, shipping and commercial fishing are the main commercial activities. Automobiles are a major item of import at the port, from where they are often transported further inland.

To Chennai, by sea

  • An ocean liner travelling from Vladivostok to Chennai would sail southward on the Sea of Japan past the Korean peninsula, Taiwan and the Philippines in the South China Sea, past Singapore and through the Strait of Malacca, to emerge into the Bay of Bengal and then cut across through the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago to Chennai.

Time and distance

  • This sea route covers a distance of approximately 5,600 nautical miles, or about 10,300 km. A large container ship travelling at the normal cruising speed of 20-25 knots, or 37-46 km/hour, should be able to cover the distance in 10-12 days. At suboptimal “slow steaming” speeds of 18-20 knots (33-37 km/hour), at which long-distance vessels sometimes travel to in order to save fuel, it might take slightly longer — 12-13 days.

Trade and strategy

  • India is building nuclear power plants with Russia’s collaboration in Kudankulam on the sea coast in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. The opening of a sea route is likely to help in the project.
  • Even otherwise, a vibrant sea route will help in the upscaling of trade relations between the two nations. It will also increase India’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, and especially the South China Sea, a deeply contested patch of the ocean that Beijing considers its stomping ground.

India rises in WEF travel rankings

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

A report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday ranks the travel & tourism competitiveness of 140 economies. The biennialTravel and Tourism Competitive Report” shows that India has made the greatest improvement since 2017 among the top 25 per cent of the countries that were previously ranked. Overall, India is ranked 34, up six places from 2017.

More in news:

  • The study scored countries on four indicators — enabling environment; travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions; infrastructure; natural and cultural rankings.India’s highest improvement was in enabling environment, by 10 places to 98.
  • The least improvement is in infrastructure as well as in natural and cultural rankings, by just three places each, but India’s rank was already high in the latter.
  • The four broad indicators looked at 14 variables, which were further subdivided into 90 indicators such as property rights, efficiency of the legal framework, quality of electricity supply, female labour force participation, visa requirements and the number of World Heritage cultural sites.
World Economic Forum (WEF):

·         It is based in Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland, was founded in 1971 as a not-for-profit organization. It was granted “other international body” status in January 2015 by the Swiss Federal Government under the Swiss Host-State Act (this is not International organization status, which requires multiple governments).

·         The WEF’s mission is cited as “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”.

·         The WEF hosts an annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 2,500 business leaders, international political leaders, economists, celebrities and journalists for up to four days to discuss the business deals.

·         The organization also convenes some six to eight regional meetings each year in locations across Africa, East Asia and Latin America, and holds two further annual meetings in China, India and the United Arab Emirates. Beside meetings, the organization claims to provide a platform for leaders from all stakeholder groups from around the world – business, government and civil society – to come together. It also produces a series of reports and engages its members in sector-specific initiatives.

Editorial section:

Teaching in the time of consumerism-The Hindu

Interesting, but risky-The Hindu

Putting the pedal to the metal-The Hindu

A weak chase -The Hindu

 

 

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