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Hindu Notes from General Studies-01

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Blue whales across the world are singing a little flat

News

  • Blue whales around the world are singing a little flat, increase in their population and climate change may be to blame.

Findings

  • The study, found that there is a seasonal variation in the whales’ pitch correlated with breaking sea ice in the southern Indian Ocean.
  • Researchers also extended the mysterious long-term falling pitch to related baleen whales and rules out noise pollution as the cause of the global long-term trend.
  • Blue whales have been dropping pitch incrementally over several decades, but the cause has remained a mystery.
  • The study found the same mysterious long-term trend of falling pitch in fin whales and Madagascan pygmy blue whales.
  • Pitch, or the perception of how high or low a note sounds, is a result of the frequency of the sound wave, usually measured in hertz.
  • The study used data from the southern Indian Ocean to rule out noise pollution as the cause of the pitch change.
  • The research suggests the pitch drop is an anatomical consequence of singing less loudly.
  • The whales’ calls could be quieter due to growing numbers of whales or changes in the ocean due to climate change, according to the study.
  • The research also uncovers a seasonal counterpoint in the calls of Antarctic blue whales, potentially related to the noise of melting sea ice.
  • The study found that blue whale calls in the southern Indian Ocean increase in pitch during the summer.
  • The pitch could be increasing as whales sing louder to be heard over breaking sea ice.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-02

U.S. proposes changes in H-1B application process

News

  • The S. government is proposing to change H1B rules in a way that will advantage those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities over regular H1B applicants and in a way that could potentially bring down the costs for sponsoring companies.
  • This will have a significant impact on Indians because 74% of H1B petitions were on behalf of India-born workers in the fiscal year 2018.

Beyond News

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an unofficial draft version of the rule, titled ‘Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens,’ in the Federal Register.
  • The proposed rule will require potential H1B petitioners to electronically register with USCIS (a DHS department) during a designated period, prior to petitions being filed, and changes the order in which the advanced degree lottery and general H1B lottery are conducted, ostensibly to increase the chances of advanced (U.S. masters and higher) degree holders getting H1Bs and reducing the paperwork of sponsors.
  • Only those H1B sponsoring employers who get selected from the list of registered petitioners will be required to actually submit H1B petitions, for both regular and advance degree categories.
  • Under the proposed rule, advanced degree registrations will be selected first up to a cap of 20,000 and then the regular H1Bs, up to a cap of 65,000, are selected from all the unselected registrations.
  • Because the unselected registrations will also include those advanced degree registrations that did not get selected in the exclusive advanced degree lottery, there is a higher probability that advanced degree holders will be selected in larger numbers in the aggregate.
  • Between fiscal years 2015 and 2017, new initial H1B approvals dropped for the top seven Indian IT firms, as per the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan research organization.

G20 summit: India presents 9-point agenda on fugitive economic offenders

News

  • India presented a nine-point agenda to G20 member nations calling for strong and active cooperation among them to comprehensively deal with fugitive economic offenders.

Beyond News

  • The agenda was presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the second session of the G20 Summit on international trade, international financial and tax systems.
  • India also called for joint efforts by G-20 countries to form a mechanism that denies entry and safe havens to fugitive economic offenders.
  • Principles of United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNOTC), especially related to ‘International Cooperation’ should be fully and effectively implemented.
  • India suggested the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) should be called upon to assign priority and focus to establishing international cooperation that leads to timely and comprehensive exchange of information between the competent authorities and financial intelligence units.
  • India also advocated setting up of a common platform for sharing experiences and best practices including successful cases of extradition, gaps in existing systems of extradition and legal assistance.
  • It said the G-20 forum should consider initiating work on locating properties of economic offenders who have a tax debt in the country of their residence for its recovery.

Six new antibodies to combat Zika

News

  • Researchers, have developed six Zika virus antibodies which may help diagnose as well as treat the mosquito-borne disease that has infected over 1.5 million people worldwide.

Beyond News

  • The antibodies may have the dual utility as diagnostics capable of recognising Zika virus subtypes and may be further developed to treat Zika virus infection.
  • Zika is spread mainly by mosquitos. Most infected people experience no symptoms or mild symptoms such as a rash, mild fever and red eyes.
  • The recent Zika virus outbreak is a health crisis with global repercussions.
  • Antibodies could be key to diagnosing and treating Zika virus.
  • An antibody is a Y-shaped protein made by the immune system. When a virus invades the body, antibodies bind to antigens associated with the bug, marking it for the immune system to destroy.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-03

Defence Acquisition Council approval: New frigates to get BrahMos

News

  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), approved procurements worth ₹ 3000 crore which include BrahMos cruise missiles for the two stealth frigates to be procured directly from Russia and armored recovery vehicles for the Army’s Arjun tanks.

Beyond News

  • The indigenously designed BrahMos Missile is a tested and proven supersonic cruise missile and will form the primary weapon on-board these ships.
  • In October 2016, India and Russia signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for four Krivak or Talwar stealth frigates – two to be procured directly from Russia and two to be built by Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) and the commercial deals were signed recently.
  • The basic structures of two frigates are already ready at Yantar shipyard in Russia and will be finished now following the $1 bn deal. Last week, Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) signed a $500 mn deal with Rosoboronexport of Russia for material, design and specialists assistance to build two frigates in India.
  • BrahMos, which is a joint venture between India and Russia, has already been inducted on all frontline warships of the Indian Navy.
  • The DAC also approved the procurement of Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs) for the Army’s Arjun main battle tanks.
  • These are designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and would be manufactured by Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML). The ARVs ensure efficient and speedy repair and recovery of tanks during combat.

Drone surveys are also a good way to monitor shallow water, megafauna species because they are not intrusive.

News

  • Consumer-grade drones are effective tools for monitoring marine species across multiple sites in the wild.

Findings

  • Drone surveys are also a good way to monitor shallow water, megafauna species because they are not intrusive, the technology opens up doors to explore a range of conservation issues.
  • On the other hand, more traditional monitoring methods such as boat surveys or gill nets are more invasive and have the potential to harm individuals or alter their movement patterns.
  • To assess the effectiveness of the drones, researchers placed fake sharks underwater at two sites with different water clarity. Drone footage allowed researchers to identify all of the decoys at both sites.
  • The team evaluated multiple sites, demonstrating that drones can be used to assess environmental variables that may be responsible for population differences between locations.
  • The researchers also showed that drones are effective at sites with varying degrees of water clarity.
  • In field testing, researchers were also able to make species-level identifications of lemon, nurse and bonnethead sharks, as well as southern stingrays and spotted eagle rays.
  • The drone footage also allowed researchers to identify sea turtles, though they had difficulty differentiating between hawksbill and green sea turtles.

Tiger numbers on the rise

tiger periyar

News

  • At a time when tiger deaths dominate national news, a new study offers hope for wild tiger populations across countries by showing that under optimal conditions, tiger numbers can triple in 18 sites across the world, including eight in India.

Findings

  • These are Anamalai-Vazhachal (in Tamil Nadu-Kerala), Sathyamangalam (Tamil Nadu), Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh), Achanakmar (Chattisgarh), western Rajaji and Nandhaur (Uttarakhand), Manas (across Assam-Bhutan) and Valmiki (across Bihar-Nepal).
  • Currently, these regions support an estimated 62 tigers which could rise to 287 over the next 30-50 years: an increase of more than four times in India alone.
  • The results reveal that while the 10 tiger-range countries currently support 165 tigers, they could harbour 585 individuals. This rise could happen over 15-20 years in three sites including Uttarakhand’s Western Rajaji where natural prey is adequate, and over 30-50 years in the other areas where prey numbers would need to first recover.
  • This new assessment could guide planning for tiger recovery globally and help inform more effective, integrated approaches to tiger conservation.
  • Tackling growing incidents of human–tiger conflict in these areas would be crucial to aid this increase.
  • It also adds that the goal of doubling tiger numbers from about 3,200 to about 6,000 by 2022 may have been an “ambitious goal” that the signatories of the Global Tiger Recovery Program took on.
  • This study affirms the need for tiger-range governments to take a holistic, long-term view towards tiger recovery which must include plans for revival of prey animals and other wildlife at the site- level.

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