Current Affairs 17th August 2022

1.   HUB AND SPOKE MODEL

  • News: The government on Tuesday said it has received 38 technical bids for setting up silos under the ‘hub and spoke model’ at 14 locations in six states.
  • About the Hub and Spoke Model:
    • Hub and Spoke Model is a transportation system which consolidates the transportation assets from standalone locations referred to as “Spoke” to a central location named as “Hub” for long distance transportation.
    • Hubs have a dedicated railway siding and container depot facility while the transportation from Spoke to Hub is undertaken through road and from Hub to Hub via rail.
    • This model by harnessing the efficiency of railway siding, promotes cost efficiency through bulk storage & movement, reduces cost and time of handling and transportation and simplifies operational complexities in addition to economic development, infrastructure development & employment generation in the country.

2.    COMPOSTABLE PLASTIC

  • News: The government Tuesday approved a startup loan of ₹1.15 crore to a bioplastics firm for commercializing “compostable” plastic and mitigating the usage of Single Use Plastics (SUP).
  • About Compostable Plastic:
    • Biodegradable and compostable materials can be broken down by microorganisms into water, carbon dioxide, mineral salts and new biomass within a defined period of time.
    • Whether a biodegradable or compostable plastic item biodegrades and how quickly that happens, strongly depends on the conditions it is exposed to during disposal. These include temperature, duration, the presence of microorganisms, nutrients, oxygen and moisture.
    • Biodegradable or compostable plastics can be produced from either bio-based or fossil raw material.

3.    PETCOKE

  • News: Indian companies are importing significant volumes of petroleum coke from Venezuela for the first time, shipping data show, as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries nation boosts exports not specifically targeted by US sanctions.
  • About Petroleum Coke:
    • Petroleum coke, abbreviated coke or petcoke, is a final carbon-rich solid material that derives from oil refining, and is one type of the group of fuels referred to as cokes.
    • Petcoke is the coke that, in particular, derives from a final cracking process—a thermo-based chemical engineering process that splits long chain hydrocarbons of petroleum into shorter chains—that takes place in units termed coker units. (Other types of coke are derived from coal.)
    • Coke is the “carbonization product of high-boiling hydrocarbon fractions obtained in petroleum processing (heavy residues)”.
    • It is are mainly used in the aluminium and steel industry.
    • Petcoke is over 80% carbon and emits 5% to 10% more carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal on a per-unit-of-energy basis when it is burned.

4.    JOINT COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF ACTION

  • News: The European Union said it’s studying Iran’s response to a proposed blueprint for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal and consulting with the US on a “way ahead” for the protracted talks.
  • About Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:
    • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna on 14 July 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) together with the European Union.
    • Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years.
    • For the next 15 years, Iran will only enrich uranium up to 3.67%. Iran also agreed not to build any new heavy-water facilities for the same period of time.
    • Uranium-enrichment activities will be limited to a single facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years. Other facilities will be converted to avoid proliferation risks.
    • To monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities.
    • The agreement provides that in return for verifiably abiding by its commitments, Iran will receive relief from the U.S., European Union, and United Nations Security Council nuclear-related sanctions.

5.    GLOBAL FUND, GAVI AND CEPI

  • News: Bill Gates on Tuesday called for South Korea to become more involved in international efforts to prevent infectious diseases like covid-19 as he stressed the need for the world to be better prepared for the next pandemic.
  • About The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria:
    • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (or simply the Global Fund) is an international financing and partnership organization that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to support attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations”.
    • This multistakeholder international organization maintains its secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.
    • The organization began operations in January 2002.
    • Microsoft founder Bill Gates (through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) was one of the first donors to provide seed money for the partnership.
    • The Global Fund is the world’s largest financier of AIDS, TB, and malaria prevention, treatment, and care programs.
    • The Global Fund is a financing mechanism rather than an implementing agency.
    • The Global Fund typically raises and spends funds during three-year “replenishment” fund-raising periods.
  • About Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations:
    • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is a foundation that takes donations from public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations, to finance independent research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases (EID).
    • CEPI is focused on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “blueprint priority diseases”, which include: the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the Nipah virus, the Lassa fever virus, and the Rift Valley fever virus, as well as the Chikungunya virus and the hypothetical, unknown pathogen “Disease X”.
    • CEPI investment also requires “equitable access” to the vaccines during outbreaks, although subsequent CEPI policy changes may have compromised this criterion.
    • CEPI was conceived in 2015 and formally launched in 2017 at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
    • It was co-founded and co-funded with US$460 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the governments of India and Norway, and was later joined by the European Union (2019) and the United Kingdom (2020).
    • CEPI is headquartered in Oslo, Norway.
  • About Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization:
    • GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance is a public–private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunization in poor countries.
    • In 2016, Gavi channeled more than half of total donor assistance for health, and most donor assistance for immunization, by monetary measure.
    • Gavi supports the immunization of almost half the world’s children. Gavi has helped immunize over 760 million children, preventing over 13 million deaths worldwide, helping increase diphtheria vaccine coverage in supported countries from 59% in 2000 to 81% in 2019, contributing to reducing child mortality by half.
    • It also seeks to improve the economics of vaccines, negotiating bulk prices, supporting price discrimination, and reducing the commercial risks that manufacturers face when selling vaccines to the poor and developing vaccines.
    • It also provides funding to strengthen health systems and train health workers across the developing world, though the effectiveness of its health-system-strengthening programs is disputed.
    • Gavi facilitates vaccinations in developing countries by working with donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

6.    TALAQ – E – HASAN

  • News: The Supreme Court on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, prima facie observed that the Muslim personal law practice of talaq-e-hasan is “not so improper”.
  • What is Talaq – e – Hasan:
    • Talaq-e-hasan is a form of divorce by which a Muslim man can divorce his wife by pronouncing talaq once every month over a three-month period.

7.    ETHANOL BLENDING

  • News: Blending ethanol with petrol to burn less fossil fuel while running vehicles is called ethanol blending. Ethanol is an agricultural by-product. It’s mainly obtained in the processing of sugar from sugarcane, but also from other sources such as rice husk or maize.
  • About Ethanol Blending:
    • Blending ethanol with petrol to burn less fossil fuel while running vehicles is called ethanol blending.
    • Ethanol is an agricultural by-product which is mainly obtained from the processing of sugar from sugarcane, but also from other sources such as rice husk or maize. Currently, 10% of the petrol that powers your vehicle is ethanol.
    • Though we have had an E10 — or 10% ethanol as policy for a while, it is only this year that we have achieved that proportion. India’s aim is to increase this ratio to 20% originally by 2030 but in 2021, when NITI Aayog put out the ethanol roadmap, that deadline was advanced to 2025.
    • Ethanol blending will help bring down our share of oil imports (almost 85%) on which we spend a considerable amount of our precious foreign exchange.
    • Secondly, more ethanol output would help increase farmers’ incomes.
    • The NITI Aayog report of June 2021 says, “India’s net import of petroleum was 185 million tonnes at a cost of $55 billion in 2020-21,” and that a successful ethanol blending programme can save the country $4 billion per annum.
    • With an aim to augment ethanol supplies, the government has allowed procurement of ethanol produced from other sources besides molasses — which is first generation ethanol or 1G. Other than molasses, ethanol can be extracted from materials such as rice straw, wheat straw, corn cobs, corn stover, bagasse, bamboo and woody biomass, which are second generation ethanol sources or 2G.
    • While inaugurating the Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) 2G ethanol plant last week, Mr. Modi referred to not only the prospect of higher farmer income but also dwelt upon the advantages of farmers selling the residual stubble — left behind after rice is harvested — to help make biofuels. This means lesser stubble burning and therefore, lesser air pollution.
    • Though the U.S., China, Canada and Brazil all have ethanol blending programmes, as a developing country, Brazil stands out. It had legislated that the ethanol content in petrol should be in the 18-27.5% range, and it finally touched the 27% target in 2021.
    • Sources in the auto industry state that they prefer the use of biofuels as the next step, compared to other options such as electric vehicles (EV), hydrogen power and compressed natural gas. This is mainly because biofuels demand the least incremental investment for manufacturers.
    • Even though the industry is recovering from the economic losses bought on by the pandemic, it is bound to make some change to comply with India’s promise for net-zero emissions by 2070.

8.    FACTS

  • South East Central Railway (SECR) test run its longest freight train Super Vasuki on 15 August as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebration: The 3.5 km long train with 295 loaded wagons and powered by five locos carried total trailing load of about 27,000 tonne of coal, the highest fuel transportation ever carried by the Indian Railway in a single train arrangement. The amount of coal carried by Super Vasuki is enough to fire 3,000 MW of power plant for one full day.
  • China has kept its stranglehold on making EV batteries: China controls 80% share of global EV battery making capacity.
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