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December 11, 2020
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10th December Current Affairs

What is ‘Havana Syndrome’, what does the latest report say about the mysterious illness?

In News:

Nearly four years ago a mysterious neurological illness, referred to as “Havana syndrome”, started to afflict American diplomats and intelligence operatives in Cuba, China, and other countries.

Details:

Now, a report by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) has found “directed” microwave radiation to be its “plausible” cause.

What is the ‘Havana syndrome’?

In late 2016, US diplomats and other employees stationed in Havana reported feeling ill after hearing strange sounds and experiencing odd physical sensations in their hotel rooms or homes.

The symptoms included nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and hearing loss, which have since come to be known as “Havana Syndrome”.

What causes the ‘Havana syndrome’?

Directed pulsed RF energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases among those that the committee considered.

The immediate symptoms that patients reported including sensations of pain and buzzing sound apparently emanated from a particular direction, or occurred in a specific spot in a room.

U.S., China dominate arms market: report

In News:

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has released a report on arms market across the world.

Key findings:

The U.S. arms industry accounted for 61% of sales by the world’s “Top 25” manufacturers last year, ahead of China’s 15.7%.

Total sales by the “Top 25” rose by 8.5% to $361 billion, or 50 times the annual budget of the UN’s peacekeeping operations.

China and the United States are the two biggest states in terms of global arms spending.

For the first time, a company from the West Asia made it into the “Top 25”: EDGE, of the United Arab Emirates, was formed by the consolidation of some 25 defence entities in 2019.

What is SIPRI?

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) established in 1966 is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

Based in Stockholm the Institute provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

What is the controversy about France’s new security law?

In News:

France government introduced a controversial security bill in parliament that seeks to provide greater powers and protections for police officers.

Controversial provisions:

Enabling the police to organise ground and air mass surveillance, while at the same time restricting the filming of police officers.

Articles 21 and 22 of the proposed “global security” law allow the police and the gendarmes (paramilitary forces) to use body cameras and drones to film citizens, and allow the recorded footage to be live streamed to the command post.

Article 24 penalises publishing “the image of the face or any other element of identification” of a police or paramilitary official who is acting in “a police operation”, if the dissemination is done with “the intent of harming their physical or mental integrity”.

What are the opponents of the new law saying?

Article 24 would make it harder to cover public events and record instances of police violence, thus making it more difficult to hold officers accountable.

What have the bill’s supporters said?

The government has insisted that it does not intend to target press freedoms, and that the new law is aimed at protecting police officers and their families from online trolling and harassment when off duty.

Light Detection and Ranging Survey (LiDAR) technique

In News:

National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited will be adopting Light Detection and Ranging Survey (LiDAR) technique using Laser enabled equipment mounted on a Helicopter for conducting ground survey for the preparation of Detailed Project Report for the proposed Delhi-Varanasi HSR corridor.

Background:

The proposed Delhi-Varanasi HSR alignment covers mixed terrains including densely populated urban and rural areas, Highways, Roads, Ghats, Rivers, Green fields etc, which makes this activity more challenging.

National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) has been entrusted with the work for preparing Detailed Project Report for the Delhi-Varanasi HSR Corridor by the Ministry of Railways.

The tentative length of the corridor is about 800 km, the alignment and stations will be decided in consultation with the government.

What is LiDAR?

It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth.

These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system— generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.

How it works?

LiDAR follows a simple principle — throw laser light at an object on the earth surface and calculate the time it takes to return to the LiDAR source. Given the speed at which the light travels (approximately 186,000 miles per second), the process of measuring the exact distance through LiDAR appears to be incredibly fast.

A lidar instrument principally consists of a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver.

Airplanes and helicopters are the most commonly used platforms for acquiring lidar data over broad areas.

Launch of fortified rice in PDS opposed by activists

In News:

As the Odisha government is preparing to launch fortified rice in the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Malkangiri district from coming February, more than 100 activists have opposed the move saying the people have sufficient substitutes in natural food to meet the nutritional needs.

What do activists say?

Vitamin C and calcium are available in abundance in natural food.

Vitamin C is water soluble. If the rice is laced with Vitamin C, it will get washed away while the rice is cleaned before cooking.

It is a futile exercise to add Vitamin C to uncooked rice. And the move would lead to wasteful expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

What is food fortification?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food fortification is defined as the practice of deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and to provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.

How is it regulated in India?

In October 2016, Food Safety and Standards Authority Of India (FSSAI) operationalized the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016 for fortifying staples namely Wheat Flour and Rice (with Iron, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid), Milk and Edible Oil (with Vitamins A and D) and Double Fortified Salt (with Iodine and Iron) to reduce the high burden of micronutrient malnutrition in India.

India’s National Nutritional strategy, 2017, had listed food fortification as one of the interventions to address anaemia, vitamin A and iodine deficiencies apart from supplementation and dietary diversification.