The HINDU Notes – 18th February
📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 18 February
💡 Govt. junks border wall plan
- The Centre has given up its proposal to build a wall along the Pakistan border in Jammu, originally envisaged as a barrier to cross-border terror.
- The raised embankment, initiated by the UPA government in 2013 after the twin attacks in the Hiranagar/ Samba sector, was to come up along 179 km of the International Border in Jammu.
- Since 2014, when the NDA government came to power, there have been more than 900 ceasefire violations along the Pakistan border in Jammu.
- At the LoC, which is under the operational control of the Army, 541 violations were reported during the same period. In these violations, 57 locals and 26 security personnel were killed.
- The wall proposal was opposed by Pakistan, which shot off letters to the United Nations Security Council in 2015 accusing India of converting what it called a “working boundary” into a “quasi international boundary.”
- The Army too opposed the embankment, saying it would pose hurdles for their forward movement during military operations.
- There were multiple issues. Unlike the Line of Control, the IB is densely populated and has fertile agrarian land. Not many people were willing to let go of their land. We could hardly acquire 25% of the land,” said the official.
Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS)
- As the plan for raising an embankment is not materializing, the government would now depend on ‘technological solutions’ such as a ‘smart fence’, a seamless virtual fence with sensors to identify any infiltration.
- The Home Ministry is now working on a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) for 24X7 surveillance.
- “Currently a pilot project is under way, where an integrated system of human resources, sensors, networks, intelligence and command and control solutions are being worked upon,” the official said.
- “Our endeavour is to improve situational awareness to facilitate prompt and informed decision-making and quick response to emerging situations.
💡 Woolly mammoth on the verge of resurrection
- The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4,000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.
- The woolly mammoth roamed across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the last Ice Age and vanished some 4,000 years ago. Their closest living relative is the Asian, not the African, elephant.
- The scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.
- The creature, sometimes referred to as a “mammophant”, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, sub-cutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.
- The teams has now stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos — although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature.
- The project started in 2015, researchers have increased the number of “edits” where mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45.
- The eminent geneticist also outlined plans to grow the hybrid animal within an artificial womb rather than recruit a female elephant as a surrogate mother.
- “De-extincting” the mammoth has become a realistic prospect because of revolutionary gene editing techniques that allow the precise selection and insertion of DNA from specimens frozen over millennia in Siberian ice. Dr. Church helped develop the most widely used technique, known as Crispr/Cas9, that has transformed genetic engineering since it was first demonstrated in 2012.
- Derived from a defence system bacteria use to fend off viruses, it allows the “cut and paste” manipulation of strands of DNA with a precision not seen before. Gene editing and its ethical implications is one of the key topics under discussion at the Boston conference. The scientists intend to engineer elephant skin cells to produce the embryo, or multiple embryos, using cloning techniques.
- Nuclei from the reprogrammed cells would be placed into elephant egg cells whose own genetic material has been removed. The eggs would then be artificially stimulated to develop into embryos.
💡 Public gets NASA invites to search for new worlds
- NASA is inviting the public to help search for possible undiscovered worlds in the outer reaches of our solar system.
- A new website, Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, lets everyone participate in the search by viewing brief movies made from images captured by NASA’s Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.
- Participants will share credit for their discoveries in any scientific publications that result from the project.
- Unlike more distant objects, those in or closer to the solar system appear to move across the sky at different rates.
- The best way to discover them is through a systematic search of moving objects in WISE images.
- These include brightness spikes associated with star images and blurry blobs caused by light scattered inside WISE′s instruments.
💡 Project Loon can now predict weather systems
- Researchers at Google have moved a step closer to rolling out a network of huge balloons to provide Internet connectivity to billions of people around the world, particularly those in difficult-to-reach rural areas.
- The Project Loon team said, it can now use machine learning to predict weather systems. Experiment is now trying to give service in a particular place in the world with ten, twenty or thirty balloons,” rather than the hundreds needed previously.
- Real users will be able to make use of the system in the “coming months”, however, the company did not specify where the initial roll-out would take place.
- The company has experimented with beaming down connectivity from a network of huge, tennis-court sized balloons rather than undertaking huge construction projects to replicate connectivity networks in the developed world.
- The balloons float in the stratosphere around 18 kilometres high. By raising or lowering altitude, the balloons can be caught in different weather streams, changing direction. By using machine-learning algorithms, Google thinks it has found a way to predict weather with enough accuracy to make it possible to hover balloons over a relatively small area for a long period of time.
💡 SEBI may allow MFs to trade in commodities
- SEBI is likely to give mutual funds the go-ahead to trade in commodity markets in a month. The regulator is also in talks with the RBI to allow institutional investors like banks and FPIs to trade in the segment.
- Mutual funds participation in commodities derivatives would be the first one to happen among institutional investors, Securities and Exchange Board of India Chairman U.K. Sinha said, and hinted the move could be implemented in a month.
💡 Jaipur Foot fitment camp in Myanmar, more in the offing
- A month-long ‘Jaipur Foot’ fitment camp has begun in Yangon city of Myanmar. A team from Jaipur aims to rehabilitate 300 handicapped persons with the famous artificial limbs, which will enable them to walk again.
- The camp has been jointly organised by the Indian Embassy in Myanmar, U Nu Daw Mya Yi Foundation — named after the country’s first democratically elected Prime Minister U Nu — and Jaipur-based Bhagwan Mahaveer Vikalang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS).
- The Jaipur Foot has its footprints in 28 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where about 16 lakh persons have benefited.
- Myanmar is the 29th country where the Jaipur Foot has stepped in. It has plans to establish a permanent centre there.
- On the camp′s first day, 12 handicapped persons — two of them above 80 years of age and a 73-year-old retired Army officer – walked out confidently and comfortably with their Jaipur Foot.
💡 No concept of National Song: SC
- Orally noting that “there is no concept of National Song”, the Supreme Court has refused to intervene in a petition seeking a direction to the government to frame a national policy to promote and propagate the ‘National Song’, along with the National Anthem and the National Flag.
- The Bench said it should be clearly noted that Article 51A (a), citing the citizens’ fundamental duties, does not refer to ‘National Song.’ “It only refers to National Flag and National Anthem,” the order observed.
- Article 51A (a) mandates that citizens should abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.
💡 Helicopter deal takes shape
- The joint venture (JV) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Rosoboronexport and Russian Helicopters of Russia for manufacturing Kamov-226T light utility helicopters in India will be registered very soon and the final contract is likely to be signed this year.
- As per the deal worth over $1 billion, 60 helicopters will be imported from Russia and at least another 140 will be built in India by the HAL with technology transfer.
- The Kamov-226T helicopters are meant to replace the aging and obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleets of the Indian Armed Forces.
- Russia expects the helicopter to function the same way as the JV for Brahmos cruise missile.
- India and Russia intend to export the Kamov-226T to third countries after meeting domestic requirement.
💡 Uniform norms for brain death certification soon, says NOTTO
- The National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation has begun the process of framing uniform guidelines on brain death certification to be followed by doctors across the country.
- NOTTO is the nodal agency that frames policy guidelines and protocols involved in organ donation and transplantation,
- It was essential to develop Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs) for brain death certification to address the grey areas in the procedure and empower intensive care personnel.
- In India, deceased organ donation is catching up in the private sector but it is lagging behind in the government sector.
- If we evolve SOPs, keeping in mind facilities available in private and government hospitals, doctors will be empowered to declare a brain death without any hitch.