Here are today’s important headlines with key details for UPSC, SSC, IBPS and other competitive examinations.
Extra Second added to Indian Time
A ‘leap second’ was added to the Indian clock at 5:29.59 hours on January 1, 2017, to synchronize with the Earth’s rotational clock. As the atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) struck 23:59:59 last night, it was programmed to add an extra second to 2017 to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation.
- Adding a second barely has an impact on the daily life, but it does matter in the fields of satellite navigation, astronomy and communication.
- The Earth and rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes it speeds up and sometimes it slows down, due to various factors including earthquakes and moon’s gravitational forces that often results in ocean tides.
- As a result, astronomical time (UT1) gradually falls out of sync with atomic time (UTC), and as and when the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a leap second is added to UTC through atomic clocks worldwide.
- Adding the leap second to the Indian clock is done by the NPL under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SCIR). The NPL, one of the oldest laboratories in the country, has five atomic clocks and nearly 300 such pieces exist across the globe.
- Atomic clocks are so precise that the margin of error in its functioning is just of a second in 100 million years.
- To be in sync with the Indian Standard Time (IST) and the Earth’s rotational clock, the Indian clock need to be adjusted after the insertion of a leap second.
- The Indian atomic clock was also synchronised with the atomic clock of International Bureau of Weight and Measure (BIPM), France.
- The leap second adjustment is not so relevant for normal everyday life. However, this shift is critical for applications requiring of time accuracies in the nanosecond, which are critical in the fields of astronomy, satellite navigation, communication networks.
- Those utilising CSIR-NPL time dissemination services need not worry as they will receive the corrected time post the insertion of the leap second.
- Since 1972, 36 leap seconds have been added at intervals varying from six months to seven years and this will be 37th year.
New regimen of drugs launched for HIV/TB
A new daily regimen of Fixed Dose Combinations (FDC) for TB/HIV patients was launched at the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Kathirkamam. This follows the Central TB Division deciding to adopt FDC with daily regimen wherein all the four ATT drugs are combined and packed in a single tablet to reduce the number of pills intake and to improve the patient compliance.
- Tuberculosis is the most common opportunistic infection among HIV positives in India with about 25 per cent of deaths in HIV due to TB.
- With about 5 per cent of diagnosed TB patients found to be HIV positive in India, the situation posed a major public health challenge.
- Aiming to control this menace, the Central TB Division and National AIDS Control Organisation have started collaboration since 2001. All the clients attending Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC), the Facility Integrated ICTC and the anti-retroviral therapy centres were screened for TB with four symptoms complex and the diagnosis are made swiftly with a newer technology called CBNAAT wherein the results are obtained within the same day. At present, the DOTS treatment (intermittent regimen) was the standard for the diagnosed TB/HIV co-infected patients.
- The FDC regimen adopted by the Central TB Division was launched at the antiretroviral therapy centre at the IGMCRI by Dr K V Raman, Director (Health and Family Welfare Services).
Credit Guarantee for MSME increased
Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the nation on the eve of the New Year announced an increase in credit guarantees for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crores. He added that Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) loans will also be covered under this scheme. Banks should give loans, we take guarantee, he said adding that the government has told banks that cash credit limit for small enterprises be increased to 25 per cent from 20 per cent.
- Reiterating the government’s decision to give tax relief to small businessmen on cashless transaction, Prime Minister Modi said, “Now on their (small businessmen) digital transactions, tax will be calculated on six per cent of their income (which was earlier calculated on eight percent).”
- Announcing a new scheme for pregnant women, the Prime Minister said, “Rs. 6,000 will be credited to (pregnant) women’s accounts for registration, delivery, vaccination, nutrition.” However, the scheme will only be launched in 53 districts in the initial phase and only Rs 4,000 will be given.
UNSC endorses Syria ceasefire by Russia, Turkey
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) welcomed a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war, but rebel groups threatened to abandon the two-day-old truce if violations persisted. A resolution welcoming the ceasefire, the third truce this year seeking to end nearly six years of war, was adopted unanimously by the 15-member Council, meeting in New York.
Factions belonging to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — a loose alliance of militias excluding more radical Islamist groups — said government forces and Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah fighters had been trying to push rebels back in the Wadi Baradavalley, northwest of Damascus.
- The rebels and political opposition said the government side was massing forces to launch a ground attack in the area. There has been no new announcement by the military since it launched operations in the area last week.
- FSA factions said in a separate statement that they would abandon the truce deal if Russia, whose air power has helped President Bashar al-Assad to turn the tide of the war, did not use its influence to halt the Wadi Barada attacks.
- The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed that there had been fighting in the area, source of most of the capital’s water, and said there had also been government shelling in the southern provinces of Quneitra and Deraa. The British-based Observatory said the level of fighting had fallen on Saturday, and the truce was not currently at risk,although one rebel official said it was ‘in serious danger’.
- In their statement, the FSA factions said it appeared that the government and the opposition had signed two different versions of the ceasefire deal, one of which was missing “a number of key and essential points that are non-negotiable”, but did not say what those were.
- The ceasefire deal is the first not to involve the United States or the United Nations.
- The Security Council welcomed the truce despite being urged by FSA factions not to endorse the deal until the Syrian government and Russia had shown they would respect it.
- The resolution also welcomed plans for the talks in Kazakhstan before a resumption of U.N.-brokered talks in Geneva in February.
- In particular, Turkey is trying to push back Kurdish forces and the jihadist Islamic State, both excluded from the deal, from areas south of its border.
- The position of other Islamist groups such as Jabhat Fatehal-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham with respect to the ceasefire is unclear; both have criticised it.
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