International Trade Finance Services platform (‘ITFS’)
Why in News?
- The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has been set up vide IFSCA Act, 2019 to develop and regulate the financial products, financial services and financial institutions in the International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs).
- Towards this end, IFSCA has issued a framework for Setting up and operating International Trade Finance Services Platform (‘ITFS’) for providing Trade Finance Services at International Financial Services Centres (‘IFSCs’).
- The framework will enable Exporters and Importers to avail various types of trade finance facilities at competitive terms, for their international trade transactions through a dedicated electronic platform viz, ITFS.
- This will help in their ability to convert their trade receivables into liquid funds and to obtain short term funding.
Maneesha S Inamdar
Why in News?
- Indian stem cell and developmental biologist Prof. Maneesha S Inamdar has been part of the WHO Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing,
- Which released two new companion reports providing the first global recommendations to help ensure that human genome editing is used for public health, with an emphasis on safety, effectiveness, and ethics.
- The reports, released recently, contained a forward-looking Governance Framework for oversight mechanisms for research into and potential application of human genome editing technology at institutional, national, regional and international levels.
- Professor Maneesha S Inamdar, along with her group, is conducting research that uses gene-editing tools to manipulate stem cells in vitro.
- This can generate disease models for scientific insight into human development and devising therapeutic strategies.
- She pioneered human embryonic stem cell derivation and use in India and has contributed significantly to national and international stem cell guidance documents, ethics committees, and training programs.
Her Role in WHO
- As part of the WHO Committee, she contributed scientific knowledge and perspective to provide guidance, expertise and support throughout the project for the conceptualization and development of the WHO Governance Framework and Recommendations on Human Genome Editing.
- Representing the Low-to-Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) in Asia, she contributed with the Committee towards ensuring that in addition to scientific considerations, procedural and substantive values and principles such as inclusiveness, diversity, equity, and global health justice identified by the Committee, informed decisions.
- She is a member of the Education, Engagement, and Empowerment (3E) subgroup of the Committee, and as part of the committee, she was also involved in making recommendations to the Secretariat and WHO Director-General on global governance structures for human genome editing, considering the relevant broader issues associated with oversight and governance of emerging technologies.
U.S. begins to ease Venezuela sanctions
Why in News?
- The U.S. government began to ease the crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Venezuela by allowing companies to export propane to the troubled South American country, a step that could mitigate a shortage that has pushed people to cook on charcoal or wood grills.
- The long-awaited first policy reversal of the US administration toward Venezuela comes as the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro has begun to allow foreign aid into the country and taken other steps to signal it is willing to engage with US.
- Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. government imposed crippling sanctions seeking to isolate Maduro. Those restrictions have made it difficult for Venezuela to develop, sell or transport its oil — the backbone of its economy. The European Union has also imposed sanctions.
Recent UN Report
- A UN report issued recently noted that sanctions add to the problems in Venezuela, which is mired in a deep political, social and economic crisis attributed to plummeting oil prices and to two decades of mismanagement by socialist governments.
- It has been in recession for years. Millions live in poverty amid high food prices, low wages and hyperinflation.
- Venezuela is facing extreme shortages of LPG, which the majority of Venezuelans rely on to cook meals.
U.S. genocide report
Why in News?
- The US had recently renewed genocide allegations against China for repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in its northwest Xinjiang region.
- It also warned Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar and South Sudan of possible further sanctions for ethnic cleansing in conflicts they are involved in.
- The report said the US continues to believe that China’s actions against the Uyghurs constitutes a “genocide.”
- The People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.
- hose crimes include imprisonment, torture, enforced sterilization, and persecution.
- The report said Myanmar, also known as Burma, remains at particular risk for genocide.
- The report also took Eritrea and Ethiopia to task for ethnic cleansing in their crackdown on dissent in Ethiopia’s western Tigray region.
- Elsewhere in Africa, the report cited deteriorating conditions in South Sudan, where it said the government “has perpetrated extrajudicial killings including ethnic-based killings of civilians, widespread sexual violence, and use of food as a weapon of war.”
Why in News?
- The decision to examine Ramappa Temple for a World Heritage Site inscription has been deferred by the World Heritage Committee.
- The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways were added to the tentative list of World Heritage Sites in 2014 and included three serial sites: Remnants of Swayambhu temple and Keerthi Thoranas, Warangal fort; Thousand Pillar Temple, Hanamkonda and Ramappa Temple, Palampet. Subsequently, this nomination was modified to only the ‘Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple’.
- The provisional agenda reveals that Dholavira in Gujarat, which has Harappan relics, is set to get the World Heritage Site inscription. Both Dholavira and the Kakatiya heritage sites were added to the tentative list in 2014.
About Ramappa Temple
- Ramappa Temple also known as the Ramalingeswara temple, is located in the state of Telangana in southern India. It lies in a valley in Palampet village of Venkatapur Mandal of Mulugu district, a tiny village long past its days of glory in the 13th and 14th centuries.
- An inscription in the temple dates it to the year 1213 CE and says it was built by a Kakatiya General Recherla Rudra Reddy, during the period of the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva.
- The temple is a Sivalayam, where Lord Ramalingeswara is worshipped.
- Marco Polo, during his visit to the Kakatiya Empire, allegedly called the temple “the brightest star in the galaxy of temples”.
- The temple is named after the sculptor Ramappa, who built it, and is perhaps the only temple in India to be named after a craftsman who built it.
- The Temple is included in the proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site “The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways”, in 2019 on the “tentative list”.
World Heritage Site
- A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance.
- The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”.
- To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be a somehow unique landmark which is geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural or physical significance.
Why in News?
- A list of new Union Cabinet ministers issued by the BJP has triggered a debate in political circles in Tamil Nadu, as well as on social media, by referring to ‘Kongu Nadu’, the informal name for a region in the western part of the state.
But where is Kongu Nadu?
- ‘Kongu Nadu’ is neither a place with a PIN code nor a name given formally to any region. It is a commonly used name for part of western Tamil Nadu.
- In Tamil literature, it was referred to as one of the five regions of ancient Tamil Nadu. There were mentions of ‘Kongu Nadu’ in Sangam literature as a separate territory.
- In the present state of Tamil Nadu, the term is informally used to refer to a region that includes the districts of Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Karur, Namakkal and Salem, as well as Oddanchatram and Vedasandur in Dindgul district, and Pappireddipatti in Dharmapuri district.
- The name derives from Kongu Vellala Gounder, an OBC community with a significant presence in these districts.
Why in News?
- At least 30 people were killed in separate incidents of lightning in various parts of the country in the past 24 hours.
- Deaths due to lightning have become frequent in the country. In July last year, 40 people were killed by lightning in Bihar in two separate incidents.
How common are deaths by lightning?
- More common than is sometimes realised in the urban areas.
- As a whole, India sees 2,000-2,500 lightning deaths every year on average. Lightning is the biggest contributor to accidental deaths due to natural causes. A few years ago, over 300 people were reported killed by lightning in just three days.
- And yet, lightning remains among the least studied atmospheric phenomena in the country. Just one group of scientists, at the Indian Institute of Tropical Management (IITM) in Pune, works full-time on thunderstorms and lightning.
What is lightning, and how does it strike?
- Lightning is a very rapid — and massive — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.
- These discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall. The base of these clouds typically lies within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while their top is 12-13 km away. Temperatures towards the top of these clouds are in the range of minus 35 to minus 45 degrees Celsius.
- As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condense. Heat is generated in the process, which pushes the molecules of water further up.
- As they move to temperatures below zero degrees celsius, the water droplets change into small ice crystals. They continue to move up, gathering mass — until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
- This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
- Collisions follow, and trigger the release of electrons — a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity. As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues.
- This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged.
- The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge — of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts.
- In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
- An enormous amount of heat is produced, and this leads to the heating of the air column between the two layers of the cloud. This heat gives the air column a reddish appearance during lightning. As the heated air column expands, it produces shock waves that result in thunder.
How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?
- While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral. However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged.
- As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well. It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.
- There is a greater probability of lightning striking tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings. Once it is about 80-100 m from the surface, lightning tends to change course towards these taller objects.
- This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.
- Taking shelter under a tree is dangerous. Lying flat on the ground too, can increase risks. People should move indoors in a storm; however, even indoors, they should avoid touching electrical fittings, wires, metal, and water.
‘Right to repair’ movement
Why in News?
- The average consumer purchases an electronic gadget, knowing that it will very quickly become obsolete as its manufacturer releases newer, shinier, and more amped up versions of the same device.
- As device grows older, issues start to crop up — smartphone may slow down to a point where it is almost unusable, or gaming console may require one too many hard resets.
- When this happens, more often than not, one left at the mercy of manufacturers who make repairs inaccessible for most, by dictating who can fix your device and making it an inordinately expensive affair.
- So, why aren’t consumers permitted to fix their gadgets themselves?
- This is a question advocates of the worldwide ‘right to repair’ movement have been addressing for decades now.
- In recent years, countries around the world have been attempting to pass effective ‘right to repair’ laws.
- Recently, US President signed an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission to curb restrictions imposed by manufacturers that limit consumers’ ability to repair their gadgets on their own terms.
- The UK, too, introduced right-to-repair rules that should make it much easier to buy and repair daily-use gadgets such as TVs and washing machines.
So, what is the right to repair movement?
- Activists and organisations around the world have been advocating for the right of consumers to be able to repair their own electronics and other products as part of the ‘right to repair’ movement.
- The movement traces its roots back to the very dawn of the computer era in the 1950s.
- The goal of the movement is to get companies to make spare parts, tools and information on how to repair devices available to customers and repair shops to increase the lifespan of products and to keep them from ending up in landfills.
- They argue that these electronic manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’ — which means that devices are designed specifically to last a limited amount of time and to be replaced.
- This, they claim, leads to immense pressure on the environment and wasted natural resources.
- Manufacturing an electronic device is a highly polluting process. It makes use of polluting sources of energy, such as fossil fuel, which has an adverse impact on the environment.
- Right to repair advocates also argue that this will help boost business for small repair shops, which are an important part of local economies.
- If a manufacturer has monopoly on repairs, then prices rise exponentially and quality tends to drop, they say.
- Price is a major factor propounded by these activists. As there is a lack of competition in the repair market in the west, consumers are not able to hunt for the best deal.
But why do electronic manufacturers oppose this movement?
- Large tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla, have been lobbying against the right to repair.
- Their argument is that opening up their intellectual property to third party repair services or amateur repairers could lead to exploitation and impact the safety and security of their devices.
Why in News?
- A total of 254 millionaires from India have used the so-called “golden visa” to settle down in the UK through a large investment into the country since the route opened in 2008, according to a new report released by a UK-based anti-corruption charity.
- Indians ranked as the seventh nationality of super-rich to have availed of the Tier 1 (Investor) Visa, adding up to 254 between 2008 and 2020. China topped the list at 4,106, followed by Russia (2,526), Hong Kong (692), the United States (685), Pakistan (283) and Kazakhstan (278) ahead of India.
- Saudi Arabia at 223, Turkey at 221 and Egypt at 206 complete the list of top 10 countries to have been issued the visa allowing applicants residency rights in the UK.
- Golden visas allow wealthy individuals to buy the right to live in the UK if they invest in UK-registered companies.
- Individuals that invest 2 million pounds get an immediate right to live in the UK for three years, followed by a two-year extension.
- Those that invest 10 million pounds can be fast-tracked to get indefinite leave to remain within two years, or within three years if they invest 5 million pounds.
- From indefinite leave to remain visa holders are on a steady path, after one year, to much prized UK citizenship.
- Diamond merchant Nirav Modi, wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering in relation to the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam and now fighting against being extradited to India in the High Court in London, is believed to have been living in the UK on an Investor Visa applied for in 2015.
- At the time, the route was relatively easier for super-rich individuals to acquire residency rights in the UK, based on a minimum of 2-million-pound investment.
- It is dubbed the “blind faith” period but since then the UK Home Office tightened the norms for the category and announced a review around three years ago of these visas issued between 2015 and 2018.
Paris-style UN agreement on biodiversity loss
- Eliminating plastic pollution, reducing pesticide use by two-thirds, halving the rate of invasive species introduction and eliminating $500bn (£360bn) of harmful environmental government subsidies a year are among the targets in a new draft of a Paris-style UN agreement on biodiversity loss.
- The goals set out by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)to help halt and reverse the ecological destruction of Earth by the end of the decade also include protecting at least 30% of the world’s oceans and land and providing a third of climate crisis mitigation through nature by 2030.
- Alongside the 2030 draft targets, new goals for the middle of the century include reducing the current rate of extinctions by 90%, enhancing the integrity of all ecosystems, valuing nature’s contribution to humanity and providing the financial resources to achieve the vision.
- Scientists have warned that humanity is causing the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history, driven by overconsumption of resources and overpopulation.
- One million species are at risk of extinction largely due to human activities, according to the UN’s assessment, threatening the healthy functioning of ecosystems that produce food and water.
- In the latest set of 21 targets to be negotiated at Kunming, nature-based solutions such as restoring peatlands and adopting regenerative agriculture will contribute at least 10 GtCO2e (gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide) a year to global climate crisis mitigation efforts – around a third of the 32 GtCO2e annual emission reductions needed as identified in the UN Environment Programme emissions gap report 2020 – while ensuring there are no negative impacts on biodiversity.
- Other targets include efforts to restore freshwater and marine habitats, maintain genetic diversity of wild and domesticated species, increase financial flows to developing countries, improve business disclosures on how their activities damage the environment and respect the rights of indigenous communities in biodiversity decision-making.