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Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS: 19th Dec 2023

Today’s Current Affairs: 19th Dec 2023 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc

Shaikh Hassan Khan Climbed Mount Vinson:

Kerala government employee Shaikh Hassan Khan has climbed Mount Vinson.

  • Mount Vinson is the highest mountain in Antarctica.
  • It rises 4,892 metres (16,050 feet) above sea level.
  • It is part of the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, near the Ronne Ice Shelf.
  • There are five other tall mountains in the same area as Mount Vinson—the next five highest summits on the continent of Antarctica which are collectively referred to as Vinson Massif.
  • It is located about 1,200 kilometres from the South Pole, one of the coldest places on Earth.
  • Ellsworth Mountains are the mountain ranges in Antarctica.
  • They are forming a 360 km (224 mi) long and 48 km (30 mi) wide chain of mountains in a north to south configuration.
  • They are bisected by Minnesota Glacier to form the Sentinel Range to the north and the Heritage Range to the south.

Guru Teg Bahadur : Tribute

The Prime Minister of India paid tributes to Sri Guru Teg Bahadur on his martyrdom day

  • Guru Teg Bahadur’s name earlier was Teyag Mal.
  • He was the ninth of ten Gurus of the Sikh religion.
  • His father and the sixth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind Sahib (1595-1644) changed the name to Teg Bahadur.
  • He got his name from his fighting and sword skills on the battlefield.
  • He built the city of Anandpur Sahib.
  • Here the last two Sikh Gurus lived and where Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699.
  • He contributed more than 100 poetic hymns to Granth Sahib which cover various topics, such as the nature of God, human attachments, body, mind, dignity, service etc.
  • He was instrumental in the conciliation between Raja Bishan Singh and Raja Paranpal, thus avoiding a war.
  • He was first arrested by the Mughals on the orders of Aurangzeb in 1665.

Hydrogen Cyanide : New Study

Scientists have found hydrogen cyanide — a key molecule in the creation of life — in the oceans of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, according to a new study based on data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Cassini spacecraft.

  • Hydrogen cyanide is a colourless or pale-blue liquid or gas with a bitter, almond-like odour.
  • It is also known as hydrocyanic acid or HCN.
  • Hydrogen cyanide interferes with the body’s use of oxygen and may cause harm to the brain, heart, blood vessels, and lungs.
  • It is an excellent solvent for many salts, but it is not widely used as a solvent because of its toxicity.
  • It may be used in the workplace for fumigation, electroplating, mining, chemical synthesis, and the production of synthetic fibres, plastics, dyes, and pesticides.

Noma Disease : Inclusion In Official List Of Neglected Tropical Diseases

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the inclusion of noma (cancrum oris or gangrenous stomatitis) in its official list of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

  • Noma disease is a rapidly progressing severe gangrenous disease of the mouth and the face.
  • The disease, also called cancrum oris or gangrenous stomatitis, is mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • It mostly affects children aged 2–6 years suffering from malnutrition, affected by infectious diseases, living in extreme poverty with poor oral health or with weakened immune systems.
  • It can also occur among immunocompromised adults due to HIV, leukaemia and other diseases.
  • It starts as a soft tissue lesion (a sore) of the gums.
  • It then develops into an acute necrotizing gingivitis that progresses rapidly, destroying the soft tissues and further progressing to involve the hard tissues and skin of the face.
  • It is generally considered an opportunistic and non-contagious disease.
  • Cases are seen in African countries outside this area as well as in other parts of the world, including Asia and Asia-Pacific, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe.
  • Evidence indicates that the causative agents of noma are non-specific polymicrobial organisms.
  • There is no documented evidence to support direct transmission from person to person.
  • Early detection is essential, as therapy is most effective at the early stages of disease when it appears as aggressively swollen gums (acute necrotizing gingivitis).

Akash Surface-To-Air Missile Defence System:

India has effectively showcased the capabilities of its indigenous Akash surface-to-air (SAM) weapon system as part of its plans to export these systems.

  • In the recent Exercise Astrashakti 2023, a single unit of the Akash weapon system successfully engaged and obliterated four unmanned targets simultaneously.
  • This demonstration established India as the first country to exhibit the ability to engage four targets at such distances simultaneously using command guidance from a single firing unit.
  • Akash Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Defence System is a Short-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (SRSAM) Defence System to protect vulnerable areas and points from air attacks.
  • It was indigenously designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • It can simultaneously engage multiple targets and destroy manoeuvring targets, including unmanned aerial vehicles, fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, and missiles launched from helicopters.
  • It has built-in Electronic Counter-Counter Measures (ECCM) features.
  • The entire weapon system has been configured to be launched from static or mobile platforms such as battle tanks and wheeled trucks, providing flexible deployment.
  • It is road and rail transportable, with quick mobilisation and deployment capabilities.
  • It can engage aerial targets up to a range of approximately 25 km.
  • Altitude of Operation: 100 m up to 20 km
  • Weight: 710 kg

United Nations Declared 2024 The International Year Of Camelids:

The United Nations recently declared 2024 the International Year of Camelids.

  • A Camelid refers to any of the even-toed ungulates of the family Camelidae. g. camels, llamas,alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas.
  • They are known for their remarkable adaptations to arid and high-altitude environments.
  • These ungulates can be classified into two major groups: the Old World and the New World.
  • The Old-World Camelids, found in northern Africa and central Asia are the true camels, such as the dromedary camels (one-humped camel) and the Bactrian camels (two-humped camel), characterised by:
    their humps on their backs and
  • The dulla, which is an organ found on the throat of male camels and is believed to be associated with the display of dominance among males and for attracting females.
  • The South American Camelids (New World Camelids) include the modern llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas. Wild populations of South American Camelids, such as vicuñas, inhabit the high-altitude regions of the Andes Mountains.

Radon : Leading Cause Of Lung Cancer

Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, with 21000 deaths per year in the US, as per reports from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).According to the WHO, radon is estimated to cause between 3% to 14% of all lung cancers in a country, depending on the national average radon level and smoking prevalence.

  • Radon is a radioactive gas that forms naturally when uranium, thorium, or radium, which are radioactive metals, break down in rocks, soil, and groundwater.
  • It is an inert, colourless, and odourless gas.
  • Radon gas usually exists at very low levels outdoors, but the gas can accumulate in areas without adequate ventilation, such as underground mines.
  • Radon can get into homes and buildings through small cracks or holes and build up in the air.
  • Radon levels may be higher in homes that are well insulated, tightly sealed, and/or built on soil rich in the elements uranium, thorium, and radium.
  • When we breathe, these particles are deposited on the cells lining the airways, where they can damage DNA and potentially cause lung cancer.
  • It is the second-most important cause of lung cancer after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Indira Gandhi Peace Prize 2023:

The Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2023 has been jointly awarded to Daniel Barenboim and Ali Abu Awwad for their efforts in bringing together the youth and peoples of Israel and the Arab World for a non-violent resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

  • Barenboim is an Argentine-born distinguished classical pianist, and Awwad is an eminent Palestinian peace activist who has been working for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
  • The Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development award has been conferred every year since 1986 by Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust in honor of Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India.
  • The award recognizes individuals or organizations for their exceptional contributions to international peace, disarmament, and development.
  • The prize is awarded annually and is considered one of the highest honors in the field of peace and development.
  • It consists of a monetary award of 25 lakh rupees along with a citation.
  • The award is bestowed in three categories: peace, disarmament, and development.

Microsoft Release Phi-2 : Language Model

Microsoft’s recent release of Phi-2, a small language model marks a significant leap in the world of language models.

  • Positioned as an upgraded version of Phi-1.5, this model boasts capabilities in generative AI that challenge larger counterparts like Llama-2, Mistral, and Gemini-2.
  • The key lies in Phi-2’s training on diverse, “textbook-quality” datasets, empowering it with common sense, language understanding, logical reasoning, and even prowess in solving complex mathematical and physics problems.

Generative Artificial Intelligence:

  • GAI is a rapidly growing branch of AI that focuses on generating new content (such as images, audio, text, etc.) based on patterns and rules learned from data.
  • The rise of GAI can be attributed to the development of advanced generative models, such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) and Variational Autoencoders (VAEs).

New Scheme To Expedite The Exploration Of Critical Minerals:

The Ministry of Mines has introduced a new scheme to expedite the exploration of critical and deep-seated minerals.

  • Under this initiative, the ministry will directly sanction exploration projects to Notified Private Exploration Agencies (NPEAs).
  • Additionally, these NPEAs are now permitted to bid for auctioning mineral blocks they have explored, a privilege previously unavailable to them.
  • This decision aims to eliminate delays in project approvals, accelerate project execution, and encourage larger companies and international players to engage in exploration projects with NMET funding.
  • Critical minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies i.e from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Demand for these minerals is growing quickly as clean energy transitions gather pace.

Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB) Program:

Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB) program, a collaborative effort between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), was recently launched in Saint Lucia.

  • India has been selected as the Partner Administration and will contribute Tax Experts to the 12-18-month initiative.
  • This marks the seventh TIWB program supported by India through the provision of Tax Experts.
  • The program’s focus is on the effective use of automatic exchange of information under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) framework.
  • TIWA will facilitate the transfer of tax audit knowledge and skills to developing country tax administrations using a practical, “learning by doing” approach.
  • Saint Lucia is an Eastern Caribbean island nation with a pair of dramatically tapered mountains, the Pitons, on its west coast.
  • Saint Lucia is one of two sovereign states in the world named after a woman and is the only one named after a human woman.