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24th May Current Affairs

Long working hours are increasing deaths from heart disease

In News:

Report on long working hours and its impact were recently published by the WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO).

Key findings:

Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard.

Long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000.

The study concluded that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

Most vulnerable groups:

This work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72% of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers.

Most of the deaths recorded were among people aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years, said the agencies.

Concerns ahead:

Working long hours is now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease and is established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden.

This has shifted the thinking towards a relatively new and more psychosocial occupational risk factor to health.

Further, the number of people working long hours is increasing and is now 9% of the total population globally. This trend puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.

Impact of Pandemic:

The pandemic is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time.

Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work.

In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours.

What needs to be done?

No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers, and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.

Governments can introduce laws that ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time.

Israel Palestine conflict

In News:

At the United Nations Security Council, India has reiterated its strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution.

Background:

There is an ongoing fight in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Roughly 200 Palestinians have died, and officials say nearly half of them are women and children. Israel has reported at least 10 dead.

An escalation of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians has led the UN to warn of a “full-scale war”.

Firstly, where is the Gaza Strip?

The Gaza Strip is an entirely artificial creation that emerged in 1948 when roughly three-fourths of Palestine’s Arab population was displaced, in some cases expelled, during the course of Israel’s creation. And most of the refugees, they were sort of scattered across the region in neighboring countries like Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Some went to the West Bank, which came under Jordanian rule after 1948. And a very large number went to the Gaza Strip, which is this tiny little coastal strip between Egypt and what is now Israel. Today, the population of Gaza, about 70% of Gaza’s population are refugees.

Who controls it?

Hamas forcibly took control over the Gaza Strip in 2007. Shortly thereafter, the Israelis imposed a complete closure on Gaza’s borders. They declared Gaza to be an enemy entity. Of course, Gaza is not a state.

Hamas, of course, is viewed by Israel and by much of the international community as a terrorist organization, including the United States, for their history of attacks on civilians and so forth.

Israel- Palestine conflict- Historical Background:

The conflict has been ongoing for more than a 100 years between Jews and Arabs over a piece of land between Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea.

It was between 1882 to 1948, when the Jews from around the world gathered in Palestine. This movement came to be known as

Then in 1917, Ottoman Empire fell after World War 1 and the UK got control over Palestine.

The land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority.

The Balfour Declaration was issued after Britain gained control with the aim of establishing a home for the Jews in Palestine. However during that period the Arabs were in majority in Palestine.

Jews favoured the idea while the Palestinians rejected it. Almost 6 million Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust which also ignited further demand of a separate Jewish state.

Jews claimed Palestine to be their natural home while the Arabs too did not leave the land and claimed it.

The international community supported the Jews.

In 1947, the UN voted for Palestine to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city.

That plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side and never implemented.

The creation of Israel and the ‘Catastrophe’:

It was in the year 1948 that Britain lifted its control over the area and Jews declared the creation of Israel. Although Palestinians objected, Jews did not back out which led to an armed conflict.

The neighboring Arabs also invaded and were thrashed by the Israeli troops. This made thousands of Palestinians flee their homes. This was called Al-Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.

Israel had gained maximum control over the territory after this came to an end.

Jordan then went on a war with Israel and seized control over a part of the land which was called the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.

Jerusalem was divided between Israel in the West, and Jordan in the East. However, no formal peace agreement was signed, each side continued to blame each other for the tension and the region saw more wars.

Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank, various areas of Syrian Golan Heights, Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in the year 1967.

Present scenario:

Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.

Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of the city.

What’s happening now?

  • Tensions are often high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian militant group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Israel and Egypt tightly control Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas.
  • Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank say they’re suffering because of Israeli actions and restrictions. Israel say it is only acting to protect itself from Palestinian violence.
  • Things have escalated since the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in mid-April 2021, with nightly clashes between police and Palestinians.
  • The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger.

U.S. against militarisation of the Artic

In News:

On the eve of an Arctic Council meeting of Foreign Ministers, the US has expressed concerns about increased military activities in the Arctic.

This comes after Russia defended its military activities in the strategic region.

What are the concerns?

Increased military activities in the Arctic increase the dangers or prospects of accidents and undermines the shared goal of a peaceful and sustainable future for the region.

Background:

President Vladimir Putin has in recent years made Russia’s Arctic region a strategic priority and ordered investment in military infrastructure and mineral extraction, exacerbating tensions with Arctic Council members.

About Arctic council:

It is an Intergovernmental forum which addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and people living in the Arctic region.

It is Not a treaty-based international organization but rather an international forum that operates on the basis of consensus.

The decisions, recommendations or guidelines of the Arctic Council are non-enforceable and strictly the prerogative of the individual state.

Its mandate explicitly excludes military security.

Who takes part in it?

The 1996 Ottawa Declaration lists the following countries as Members of the Arctic Council: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.

In addition, six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples have status as Permanent Participants. They include: the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North and the Saami Council.

Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to non-Arctic states, along with inter-governmental, inter-parliamentary, global, regional and non-governmental organizations that the Council determines can contribute to its work.

Arctic Council working groups:

  • Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP)— strengthening and supporting mechanism to encourage national actions to reduce emissions and other releases of pollutants.
  • Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) — monitors the Arctic environment, ecosystems and human populations, and provides scientific advice to support governments as they tackle pollution and adverse effects of climate change.
  • Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) — addresses the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, working to ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources.
  • Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR)— protect the Arctic environment from the threat or impact of an accidental release of pollutants or radionuclides.
  • Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) –protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment.
  • Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) — works to advance sustainable development in the Arctic and to improve the conditions of Arctic communities as a whole.