International Places in News Part 6

Name Peak in Spain

  • In a gesture of gratitude for saving his life, a Spanish mountaineer has now started the process of naming an unnamed peak in Spain after former district magistrate of Uttarkashi, Ashish Chauhan.
  • In December 2018, a Spanish mountaineer named Juan Antonio Padilla had got stranded along with his group due to inclement weather while they had gone on a trek near Vasuki Tal trek (approximate height 14,200 feet above sea level) via Tapovan. 
  • The Indian Administrative Service officer shared that the peak will be named ‘Magistrate Point/Tip’ and the path leading to the peak will be named ‘Via Ashish’. 
  • The name is being registered with the Spanish mountaineering body.


California’s Death Valley

  • One of the hottest air temperatures recorded anywhere on the planet in at least a century, and possibly ever, was reached on 16th August afternoon at Death Valley in California’s Mojave Desert where it soared to 54.4 degrees Celsius.
  • A temperature of 56.7°C was recorded in Death Valley in July 1913, and Kebili, Tunisia, is said to have hit 131F in July 1931, according to the World Meteorological Organization. 
  • But recent research by Christopher Burt, an extreme weather expert, has led some meteorologists to view these older records as the results of observer error.
  • Climate change has pushed global temperatures to new highs. In Europe, northern Spain broke local heat records in July, while wheat fields in France caught fire. 
  • Forests across Siberian Russia are seeing unprecedented wildfires, while the Arctic sea ice shrank to a record low for July due to melting.


Tiny elephant shrew species, missing for 50 years, rediscovered

  • A mouse-sized elephant shrew that had been lost to science for 50 years has been discovered alive and well in the Horn of Africa.
  • The Somali sengi mates for life, can race around at 30km/h and sucks up ants with its trunk-like nose.
  • In 2019 scientists set out to search for the animal following tips from the region, but not in Somalia, from where the only past reports had come, but in neighbouring Djibouti.
  • The team was happy not to witness any looming threats to the sengi’s habitat, which is largely unsuitable for human activities such as development or agriculture, suggesting a secure future for the creature.


Dent on Earth’s magnetic field splitting in two

  • A dent present on the protective magnetic shield over the surface of Earth is widening and raised concerns among scientists. 
  • In a report, Nasa has said the widening dent in the magnetic shield have far-reaching effects on satellites, space missions and navigation.
  • The dent, which has been present over South America and the South Atlantic Ocean for several decades, is known as the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA). 
  • The magnetic field on which the dent has occurred protects the Earth from particle radiation of the Sun. 

With the South Atlantic Anomaly widening, the weak spot is letting the harmful particle radiation from Sun come near to the surface.


  • The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) has existed on the Earth’s magnetic field for years. 
  • However, Nasa has said in a new report that the dent is now “expanding westward and continuing to weaken in intensity”. 
  • Nasa has also said that the weak spot is splitting into two lobes, “creating additional challenges for satellite missions”.
  • Nasa’s Earth scientists are now monitoring the changes to predict future changes and prepare for the future challenges this weak spot in the Earth’s magnetic field may throw at space missions and satellites.


  • The South Atlantic Anomaly is capable of meddling with the navigation and data collecting systems of space missions and satellites that pass through this area.
  • With the weak magnetic field, satellites can be hit with particle radiation from the Sun and they risk suffering short circuit, glitches and permanent damage.
  • Even the International Space Station (ISS) passes through this area and is forced to shut down systems to avoid risking loss of data and navigation. 
  • Satellites passing through this area often shut down systems to avoid such risks. 
  • Satellites often lose data of a month or more due to the anomaly.

    • Nasa has said the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) is caused by processes in the Earth. The tilt of the magnetic axis and the molten core of the Earth both cause the dent in the magnetic field.
    • Forces in the Earth’s core and the tilt in the magnetic axis together cause the anomaly, leading to the weak spot in the protective magnetic shield.
    • As the Earth’s North Pole and South Pole are not perfectly aligned, the tilt in the axis lead to this anomaly combined with the motions on the outer layer of the molten core.


How a miraculous moss keeps cool in the Mojave desert

  • A small moss growing in the Mojave desert in California uses a remarkable protection from the desert sun – it shelters under translucent quartz stones. 
  • It is a miniature greenhouse that shields the moss from heat, cold, drought and intense ultraviolet rays.
  • The desert gets extremely hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and the nights can also be really cold.
  • The stones also trapped moisture under them, keeping the plants moist. 
  • The sheltered mosses grew much faster and taller than the ones left out on exposed soil without protection.
  • The quartz stones needed to be just right the size, around an inch thick and translucent enough to act like a greenhouse window, letting up to 4% of daylight pass through but blocking out harsh ultraviolet light that could harm the moss.
  • Similar miniature quartz greenhouses are used by cyanobacteria. 
  • These are entirely different organisms from plants but they can photosynthesise, and they shelter under quartz stones to survive extremely harsh climates such as the Arctic, Antarctic, Atacama and Namib deserts.


Norway plans to drill for oil in untouched Arctic areas

  • Norway is planning to expand oil drilling in previously untouched areas of the Arctic, a move campaigners say threatens the fragile ecosystem and could spark a military standoff with Russia.
  • Experts say the area is regarded as risky both environmentally and in terms of profitability. They also say the decision risks antagonising other nations which are party to the 100-year-old Svalbard treaty, which regulates activity in the area concerned.
  • Norway set the expected southern limit of ocean ice, also know as the “ice edge”, south of Svalbard in June. Oil exploration north of the edge is not permitted.
  • Given that we don’t yet have the technology to clean up spills in an Arctic environment, it really doesn’t make any sense to continue with offshore extraction there.
  • According to the Svalbard treaty, which has 46 signature states, Norway holds sovereignty over the island with some stipulations. 
  • It regulates the militarisation of the archipelago and allows all signatories to engage in commercial activities there, although only Russia and Norway have done so thus far. 
  • As the sovereign state, however, Norway is responsible for the environment and so could veto any oil extraction.
  • Norway’s move also risks increasing tensions with Russia, for which the area has huge strategic importance. 
  • In the past few years, Russia has modernised its northern nuclear submarine fleet and expanded their military presence on the nearby Franz Josef Land archipelago.


Typhoon Bavi 

  • A typhoon that grazed South Korea, ripping off roofs and knocking out power to more than 1,600 households, made landfall in North Korea.
  • Packing maximum winds of 133 kilometers per hour, Typhoon Bavi was barreling north and just 70 kilometers southwest of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, after passing over a western coastal region known for fishing and other industries.
  • The storm comes weeks after torrential rains caused flooding and massive damages to homes and crops in North Korea, 
  • inflicting further pain to an economy ravaged by pandemic-linked border closures and U.S.-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear program.


Zimbabwe investigates mysterious death of 11 elephants

  • Parks authorities in Zimbabwe are investigating the mysterious death of 11 elephants in a forest in the west of the country after ruling out cyanide poisoning and poaching.
  • The carcasses of the elephants were discovered in Pandamasue forest, located between Hwange national park and Victoria Falls.
  • The dead elephants were found with the tusks still on their bodies, ruling out poaching. In recent years, poachers in Zimbabwe have poisoned dozens of elephants and taken their tusks to sell them to illegal ivory traders.
  • The mysterious deaths appear similar to the deaths last month of more than 275 elephants in neighbouring Botswana.
  • Scientists are still investigating the deaths of the elephants in the Okavango Delta area of Botswana. Poaching, poisoning and anthrax have been ruled out as causes of death.
  • Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated at 156,000, and Zimbabwe the second largest, estimated at 85,000. 
  • Last year, about 200 elephants in Zimbabwe died of starvation as a result of a drought.


China builds missile site at Kailash-Mansarovar

  • Amid tensions with India over the standoff in Eastern Ladakh sector, China has reportedly built a surface-to-air missile near a lake, which is a part of the Kailash-Mansarovar.
  • Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, commonly known as the Kailash-Mansarovar site is revered by four religions and is linked to culture and spiritual scriptures in India. 
  • While the Hindus consider the site as the abode of Shiva and his consort Parvati, 
  • the Tibetan Buddhists call the mountain Kang Rimpoche, 

the “Precious One of Glacial Snow,” and 

revere it as the abode of Demchog and

his consort, Dorje Phagmo.

  • The Jains call the mountain Astapada and consider it to be the place where the first of their 24 spiritual masters achieved liberation. 
  • The Bons, adherents of the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet, term the mountain Tise and revere it the dwelling place of the sky goddess, Sipaimen.
  • The placing of the missile at the sacred site, which is also the origin of four transnational rivers — 
  • Indus, Brahmaputra, Sutlej and Karnali, a major 

tributary of the Ganges, menaces India, which 

has refused to back down against Chinese 

aggression on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).


Russia will hold drills in Mediterranean: Turkey

  • Turkey has announced that Russia will hold live-fire naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, amid escalating tensions between Turkey and its coastal neighbors Greece and Cyprus over rights to search for energy resources in the region.
  • The navigational notice issued said the Russian exercises will take place during September 8-22 and September 17-25 periods in areas of the Mediterranean, where Turkish seismic research vessels are operating.
  • There was no immediate comment from Russia 

on the exercises, which Turkey announced after 

the U.S. said it was partially lifting a 

33-year-old arms embargo against ethnically 

divided Cyprus.

  • It’s unclear why NATO-member Turkey would announce such drills on Moscow’s behalf, but the two countries have in recent years significantly strengthened their military, political and economic ties. 
  • They are coordinating closely on their military presence in Syria, while Turkey has purchased Russia’s advanced S-400 missiles and has broken ground on a Russian-built nuclear power plant on its southern coast.


Moria refugee camp

  • A fire broke out at Greece’s overcrowded migrant camp of Moria on the island of Lesbos.
  • In the Greek island of Lesbos is the Moria refugee camp, constructed for 2,000 people but now with a population of more than 12,000 men, women and children. 
  • It has become a place of violence, deprivation, suffering and despair. 
  • Lesbos, which lies just off the Turkish coast, was on the front line of a massive movement of refugees and migrants to Europe in 2015-2016. 
  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, since March 1, all migrants reaching the island have been quarantined away from the camps.
  • In the Moria camp, aid groups have warned that social distancing and basic hygiene measures are impossible to implement due to the living conditions.
  • Wildfires fanned by strong winds were also burning in two other areas on the island.
  • Lesbos was Europe’s busiest crossing point in 2015-16 for illegal migration during a massive westward movement of refugees, many fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and travelling through Turkey. 
  • After that wave of migration, Greece set up camps on Lesbos and four other islands, helped with European Union funding, and more recently also set up a network of camps on the mainland.


US to block key exports from Chinese region

  • The US is to block key exports from China’s Xinjiang region due to allegations that they are produced using forced labour.
  • The proposed bans include cotton and tomato products which are two of China’s major commodity exports.
  • The Trump administration has been ratcheting up pressure on China for its treatment of Xinjiang’s Uighur Muslims.
  • In recent years China has massively increased security in Xinjiang, citing a threat of separatism and terrorism.
  • By some estimates up to a million people have been detained without trial for minor infractions, in what China says are re-education camps.
  • The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is currently preparing Withhold Release Orders which allows it to detain shipments based on suspicions of forced labour involvement.
  • The law is aimed at combating human trafficking, child labour and other human rights abuses.
  • Earlier this year US lawmakers proposed legislation that would assume that all goods produced in Xinjiang were made with forced labour and would require certification that they are not.
  • Washington and Beijing have repeatedly clashed over the high-security detention camps, which China says are necessary to improve security.
  • The proposed bans could have a far-reaching impact for US retailers, clothes makers and food producers.