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Daily Current Affairs – 9th Dec. 2020

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 9th Dec. 2020. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

GEOPHYSICAL

Mt. Everest ‘grows’ taller as China, Nepal announce new height

Context:

The Foreign Ministers of Nepal and China jointly certified the elevation of Mount Everest at 8,848.86 metres above sea level 86 cm higher than what was recognised since 1954.

 About Mount Everest:

  1. Mount Everest rises from the border between Nepal and China.
  2. Everest is also known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and Mount Qomolangma in China.

Background:

No other mountain has perhaps been the subject of as much debate. Over the years, there have been debates on issues like whether it should be “rock height”, or whether the snow cladding it, too, should be accounted for.

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How and when was the earlier measurement of 8,848 m done?

  1. Earlier measurement was determined by the Survey of India in 1954, using instruments like theodolites and chains, with GPS still decades away. The elevation of 8,848 m came to be accepted in all references worldwide except by China.
  2. In 1999, a US team put the elevation at 29,035 feet (nearly 8,850 m).

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

We won’t order any step that will hobble economy: SC

Context:

The Supreme Court has orally said it would not pass any order that would risk the economy going “haywire”.

What’s the issue?

The Supreme Court is hearing the government’s response to separate pleas made by industry, real estate and power sectors and others for debt relief, including waiver of interest, during the moratorium.

  1. The Court said this after the Union government revealed that a blanket waiver of interest on debts incurred by all classes and categories of borrowers for the moratorium period would mean forgoing an estimated over ?6 lakh crore.

Why is the Centre concerned?

  1. A possible crippling of the banking sector was one of the main reasons for “not even contemplating waiver interest” and restricting relief to “deferment of payment of instalments”.
  2. If the banks were to bear this burden, it would necessarily wipe out a substantial and a major part of their net worth, rendering most of the banks unviable and raising a very serious question mark over their very survival.
  3. For every loan account, there were about 8.5 deposit accounts in the Indian banking system. Therefore, the government cannot do anything which would topple the economic scenario.

Various measures by the Government:

The Ministry of Finance, under the Disaster Management Act, and the RBI have acted proactively.

  1. The government had sanctioned over ?90,800-crore liquidity injection for the power distribution companies. This would enable them to pay their outstanding dues to power producers and transmission companies.
  2. In the real estate sector, a government advisory was issued allowing the extension of registration and completion dates of projects under Real Estate Regulatory Authorities by treating COVID-19 as an event of force-majeure.
  3. The government spelt relief for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector by launching an emergency credit line of up to ?3 lakh crore, backed by 100% government guarantee to enable the MSMEs to get back to regular operations. A sum of ?1.87 lakh crore had been sanctioned.
  4. The resolution framework announced by the RBI took care of the apprehensions raised about the possible downgrading of loan accounts from standard to non-performing asset (NPA) and consequent impact on ratings.
  5. The Securities and Exchange Board of India had issued circulars to relax the “recognition” of defaults committed during moratorium.
  6. The Kamath Committee set up by the RBI has recommended financial parameters for debt restructuring of 26 sectors affected by COVID-19.

HEALTH

Eluru mystery disease: AIIMS finds traces of lead in blood samples of affected:

Context:

At least 550 people fell sick in Eluru town in Andhra Pradesh since Saturday evening due to an undiagnosed illness.

  1. Following this, the AIIMS team conducted the blood tests.

What caused this?

  1. The results indicate lead and nickel content in drinking water or/and milk as the possible reason behind people falling ill.

What symptoms did the patients show?

Some of these people complained of seizures, anxiety, vomiting, and headache. So far, the illness has not spread from one to another person.

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Concern:

The presence of the chemicals in the blood samples was very less as the patients were recovering fast. If the quantity of the toxins was high, or spread through air, it would affect the neurological system.

General factors contributing to lead poisoning:

  1. Informal and substandard recycling of lead-acid batteries.
  2. Increase in vehicle ownership, combined with the lack of vehicle battery recycling regulation and infrastructure.
  3. Workers in dangerous and often illegal recycling operations break open battery cases, spill acid and lead dust in the soil.
  4. They also smelt the recovered lead in crude, open-air furnaces that emit toxic fumes poisoning the surrounding community.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Pakistan, China violate religious freedom: U.S.

Context:

The US has designated Pakistan and China among eight other countries that are of particular concern for violation of religious freedom.

Key Points:

  1. Pakistan and China among eight other countries that are of particular concern (CPC) for violation of religious freedom. Others include- Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
  2. Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.
  3. Al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and the Taliban are ‘Entities of Particular Concern’.

Notably, the State Department did not accept the USCIRF recommendation that India, Russia, Syria and Vietnam be also designated as CPCs.

WHAT IS THE U. S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM (USCIRF)?

  1. USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan, U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.
  2. USCIRF uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USCIRF AND THE STATE DEPARTMENT’S OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM?

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity, while the Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) — also established under IRFA—is part of the U.S. State Department.

Both USCIRF and the State Department release annual reports on international religious freedom, but each has different purposes.

  1. The State Department’s report documents religious freedom violations in every country in the world.
  2. USCIRF’s Annual Report, by statute, recommends countries to be designated as “countries of particular concern” which the Executive Branch must consider.

Background:

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest this religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Sri Lanka to get $300 mn Chinese tyre factory

Context:

Sri Lanka announced the first large-scale Chinese investment in manufacturing in the country.

Details:

  • Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has approved the setting up of a tyre plant under legislation that allows generous tax concessions.
  • The Chinese investment is in a $300-million tyre factory near a strategic deep-sea port.
  • The factory will be adjacent to the Hambantota port, which was leased to a Chinese company in 2017 after Sri Lanka failed to service the $1.4-billion debt from Beijing used to build it.

Concerns:

  • Western nations, as well as India, have long been concerned about Chinese influence in Sri Lanka through projects under its gargantuan Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, Sri Lanka borrowed billions from China, accumulating a mountain of debt for a string of infrastructure projects.
  • This includes an international airport dubbed “the world’s emptiest” by media for its lack of flights.
  • The Colombo Port City, a $1.4 billion land reclamation project which started in 2014 — has doubled the size of Sri Lanka’s current financial district.

Britain, EU strike deal on Ireland border

Context:

Britain has embraced a deal with the European Union over how to manage the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

Background:

  • Britain left the European Union on January 31, 2020, and entered a transition period to allow negotiations to establish a trade relationship with zero tariffs and zero quotas.
  • The trade negotiations were on between Britain and the EU for a post-exit trade relation between the two.

Details:

  • It is an agreement in principle on all issues, in particular with regard to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • Britain will drop clauses in draft domestic legislation that breached the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
  • It covers issues such as what export declarations are needed, supply rules for medicines and food to supermarkets, and the process for border checks on animals and plants.

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