Daily Current affairs and Questions from The Hindu & PIB- January 10

Supermassive Black Hole


  • A supermassive black hole, which is estimated to weigh up to 100 billion times the mass of the Sun, is seemingly missing, leaving astronomers perplexed.
  • Scientists have been looking for the black hole using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, and have so far found no evidence that it is anywhere to be found.

The ‘missing’ black hole

  • The black hole is supposed to be located in Abell 2261, an enormous galaxy cluster that is about 2.7 billion light-years away from our planet.
  • Every large galaxy in the universe has a supermassive black hole at its centre, whose mass is millions or billions of times that of the Sun, according to NASA. The black hole at the centre of our galaxy– the Milky Way– is called Sagittarius A*, and is 26,000 light-years away from Earth.
  • Scientists have been using data gathered in 1999 and 2004 to look for the centre of the Abell galaxy, but have so far been unable to find its black hole.

What Is a Black Hole?

  • A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out.
  • The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.
  • Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes
  • They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars.

How Big Are Black Holes?

  • Black holes can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom. These black holes are very tiny but have the mass of a large mountain. 
  • Another kind of black hole is called "stellar." Its mass can be up to 20 times more than the mass of the sun. There may be many, many stellar mass black holes in Earth's galaxy. Earth's galaxy is called the Milky Way.
  • The largest black holes are called "supermassive." These black holes have masses that are more than 1 million suns together. 
  • Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center. 
  • The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is called Sagittarius A. It has a mass equal to about 4 million suns and would fit inside a very large ball that could hold a few million Earths.

How Do Black Holes Form?

  • Scientists think the smallest black holes formed when the universe began.
  • Stellar black holes are made when the center of a very big star falls in upon itself, or collapses. When this happens, it causes a supernovaA supernova is an exploding star that blasts part of the star into space.
  • Scientists think supermassive black holes were made at the same time as the galaxy they are in.

If Black Holes Are "Black," How Do Scientists Know They Are There?

  • A black hole can not be seen because strong gravity pulls all of the light into the middle of the black hole. 
  • But scientists can see how the strong gravity affects the stars and gas around the black hole. Scientists can study stars to find out if they are flying around, or orbiting, a black hole.
  • When a black hole and a star are close together, high-energy light is made. This kind of light can not be seen with human eyes. Scientists use satellites and telescopes in space to see the high-energy light.

Note 

One light-year 
  • One light-year is the distance that a beam of light travels in one Earth year, which is 9 trillion km. On the scale of the Universe, astronomers measure the distance from stars and galaxies in the time it takes for light to reach us. So, when we look at a celestial object, we are looking at how it appeared that long ago in the past.


Economic Impact of Bird Flu


  • Avian influenza, popularly known as bird flu, has been reported from Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in recent weeks. 

Key points

  • The two virus types identified so far in the outbreaks — H5N1 and H5N8 — come under the category of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which is of major concern to those keeping birds, because it leads to disease and death of fowl and causes economic havoc.
  • H5N1 is a known threat to humans as well. 
  • The spread of the disease in a variety of birds in several geographical regions, and the seasonal movement of migratory birds, have prompted the Centre to issue an alert to States to adhere to the National Action Plan for Prevention, Control and Containment of Avian Influenza 2021. 
  • Internationally, the World Animal Health Information System in December 2020 identified outbreaks of HPAI in Taiwan, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, a dozen European Union countries, Ukraine, Russia and the U.K., leading to a loss of over 4.8 million birds by the end of December 2020.

How serious is avian flu for bird health?

  • Avian Influenza (AI) is a highly contagious viral disease, affecting a variety of birds, including those connected with human consumption — chickens, ducks, turkeys, quails — as well as pet birds and wild birds.
  • The World Organization for Animal Health, which collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says HPAI virus strains H5N1, H5N2, H5N8, H7N8 have been identified in outbreaks, indicating active circulation.
  • Infection histories point to H5N1 and H7N9 viruses posing a threat to human health as well.
  • The FAO says wild birds act as a natural reservoir of AI viruses.
  • Their migratory movement could bring these pathogens to poultry, waterfowl and other domestic birds through contact.
  • HPAI produces severe clinical signs of disease in birds, causing a high degree of mortality and economic loss.

What is the economic impact of bird flu?

  • Avian flu is seen as a threat to the further growth of the sector as a whole. 
  • India’s poultry sector, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, is worth ₹80,000 crore, of which the organised sector represents 80%, and the rest is distributed among unorganised sectors, including backyard poultry keeping which is crucial for income and nutritional security.
  • Exports, mainly focused on West Asia, neighbouring countries and East Asia, were valued at ₹532 crore in 2017, with an emphasis on processed products such as egg powder, yolk powder, pharma ingredients, and chicken products.
  • By the government’s estimates, there are 30 million farmers who keep backyard birds, while small and medium farmers who contribute to aggregators are crucial players in the larger ecosystem.
  • India has a base of over 729 million poultry birds, of which 30% are layers and 40% are broilers, according to the National Action Plan for Egg and Poultry 2022.
  • This large base shows that a serious outbreak of HPAI, as was witnessed during 2005-06 in some States, can be catastrophic.
  • During that year, official data put the number of culled birds at over one million.

Does bird flu pose a threat to human beings?

  • The WHO, in its literature on avian influenza, states that humans can be infected with virus subtypes H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2.

Preventive Measures 

  • It is impossible to eradicate influenza viruses because they persist in a vast reservoir of aquatic birds.
  • The periodic outbreaks that spread to domestic environments may lie in local bird keeping conditions.
  • Governments must lay down bio security measures to keep domestic birds safe from transmission by wild or migratory birds and prevent local spread.
  • The measures, which have general relevance to farmers everywhere, include housing or netting all captive birds, cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear and vehicles, reduction of people’s movement in the farm bird areas to reduce contamination, eliminating or reducing contact between captive and wild birds, particularly through feed and water storage, and cleansing and disinfecting production areas.
  • Use a checklist approach to help farmers with best practices.
  • Make it legally necessary for bird keepers in that country to house them in such a manner that they do not come into contact with wild birds.

Note 

  • After 2005-06, bird flu surfaced in several States, such as Manipur, Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Bihar, and Kerala, leading to destruction of millions of birds. Where culling of birds is undertaken to combat bird flu, the National Action Plan prescribes compensation to be given to farmers at fixed rates. This, once again, underscores the value of prevention to protect captive birds.
  • In India, the Central government requires veterinary staff to conduct inspections periodically under the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009, to catch any signs of disease among birds and other animals early.



World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)



  • The need to fight animal diseases at global level led to the creation of the Office International des Epizooties through the international Agreement signed on January 25th 1924. 
  • In May 2003 the Office became the World Organisation for Animal Health but kept its historical acronym OIE.

Key points 

  • The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide.
  • It is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in 2018 has a total of 182 Member Countries. 
  • The OIE maintains permanent relations with nearly 75 other international and regional organisations and has Regional and sub-regional Offices on every continent.

How does the organisation function?

  • The organisation is placed under the authority and control of a World Assembly of Delegates consisting of Delegates designated by the Governments of all Member Countries.
  • The day-to-day operation of the OIE is managed at the Headquarters situated in Paris and placed under the responsibility of a Director General elected by the World Assembly of Delegates.

Note 

WAHIS

  • The World Animal Health Information System, better known as WAHIS, is an internet-based computer system that processes data on animal diseases in real-time and then informs the international community.

The system consists in two components:

  1. An early warning system to inform the international community, by means of “alert messages”, of relevant epidemiological events that occurred in OIE Member Countries, and
  2. A monitoring system in order to monitor OIE Listed diseases (presence or absence) over time


H-1B visas


  • The US administration has once again amended the H-1B visa norms by changing the rules to give priority to higher wages and skills for selection of deserving candidates. The old lottery system of work visa selection will not be followed now.

What are H-1B wok visas?

Background

  • In 1952, after the US started expanding its presence in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, it felt the need to hire quality workers who could help the country achieve innovation in these areas at reasonable costs. This need to hire workers paved way for the introduction of the H-1 work visa system.
  • This work visa system was further subdivided into H-1B, H-2B, L1, O1, and E1 visas, depending on the qualification required and the area for which workers were sought. 
  • Of these, the H-1B visa remains the most popular due to the relatively better wage chance it offers.
  • Currently, every year the US administration issues 85,000 H-1B work permits.
  • Of these, 65,000 are for people with specialty occupations, while the rest are reserved for foreign workers who have earned a Master’s or a higher university degree in the US.

What is the new wage-based H-1B work visa regime?

  • The new wage-based work visa regime will now give priority in selection of visas to applications of those employers where the “proffered wage equals or exceeds” the prevailing level in that area of employment.
  • The proffered wage is the wage that the employer intends to pay the beneficiary.
  • This will be done for both the 65,000 regular visas and the 20,000 advanced degree exemption visas.
  • This regime will also take into account the skill set that the respective worker brings to the country and cross check it whether such skill set is available at the same cost among the US workers.

Freight Business Development Portal


  • Railway Minister Piyush Goyal launched a Freight Business Development Portal as one stop solution for all the needs of freight customers.

Key points 

  • The dedicated freight portal will ensure that all operations stay customer-centric, reduce the costs for logistics providers, provide the online tracking facility for suppliers and also simplify the process of goods transportation. 
  • The portal has been designed to replace the physical process with an online way, in order to minimize human interaction.
  • The new portal will help in tracking consignments online for fright customers. 
  • It offers customer-centric incentive schemes to facilitate logistic requirements, scheduled timetables movement of cargo over Indian Railways network, live tracking, and monitoring of parcels. 
  • It also offers ease of doing business opportunities as businesses can look for investment opportunities with Indian Railways for owing a private freight terminal. 



Multiple-choice question (MCQ)



1)  Freight Business Development Portal as one stop solution for all the needs of freight customers. Freight Business Development Portal is closely associated with 

a) Stock Market
b) Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises
c) Railway
d) None of the above



2) World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. The day-to-day operation of the OIE is managed at the Headquarters situated in 

a) Paris
b) Tokyo
c) London
d) Delhi


3) Avian influenza, popularly known as bird flu, has been reported from Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in recent weeks. The two virus types identified so far in the outbreaks — H5N1 and H5N8 — come under the category of HPAI. HPAI stands for 

a) Highly Pathogenic Air Borne Influenza
b) Highly Periodic Avian Influenza
c) Highly Pathogenic Avian Infection
d) Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza



Answers


1-c
2-a
3-d

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