Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 11 May 2023

The Arab League reinstated Syria

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The Arab League voted to reinstate Syria’s membership after its suspension more than 10 years ago, underlining the thawing relations between Damascus and other Arab countries. The decision was taken at a closed-door meeting, attended by foreign ministers from 13 out of 22 member states of the organisation, held in Cairo, EgyptSyria was ousted from the Arab League in 2011 following President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests, which led to the ongoing civil war in the country.

What is the Arab League?

  1. The Arab League, formally known as the League of Arab States, was established in 1945 with initially just six nations: EgyptIraqJordanLebanonSaudi Arabia, and Syria.
  2. Currently, it has 22 member states, who have pledged to cooperate on economic and military affairs, among other issues.
  3. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think tank, “The League makes decisions on a majority basis, but there is no mechanism to compel members to comply with resolutions.

What made the Arab League reinstate Syria’s membership?

  1. The Arab League’s decision is the culmination of Assad’s diplomatic efforts to return to the fold, which gained momentum after this February’s massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
  2. The devastating disaster that killed thousands helped the president rebuild ties, seeking humanitarian aid, with rival Arab countries and gain their support while pushing for an end or ease of sanctions imposed on Syria by the Western nations.
  3. Assad, long shunned as a pariah in the region, has received a favourable response from several Arab nations like Egypt and Oman not just because they wanted to help the earthquake victims.
  4. Experts believe these countries have realised they need to end Damascus’ isolation for the stability of West Asia. Moreover, they want some sort of repatriation of refugees back into Syria and a curb on the trade of captagon, a highly addictive amphetamine produced in the country — according to the reports, nations such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan are facing a big addiction problem due to Syria’s sprawling multi-billion dollar drug industry.

 

Nuclear medicine in cancer care

GS Paper -3 (Disease)

Advancements in medical sciences and technology have done wonders in improving the quality of health and lifespan of the human race. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or nearly one in six deaths.

More about the news:

  • Various cancers are curable today and a few of them, like cervical cancer can also be prevented, all due to the availability of HPV vaccines, known to have 100 per cent efficacy.
  • Another wonderful technology used in cancer diagnosis and treatment is nuclear medicine.

Nuclear medicine:

It is a rapidly advancing field of medicine that uses small amounts of radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, to diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions, including cancer.

Advantages of Nuclear medicine:

  • Unlike chemotherapy, which can cause damage to healthy cells along with cancerous cells, nuclear medicine targets cancer cells while sparing normal tissues.
  • Nuclear medicine can help in the accurate and early diagnosis of various conditions, leading to better treatment planning and improved patient outcomes.
  • It can also be used to monitor the progress of treatment and detect potential relapses. In some cases, nuclear medicine offers targeted therapy that can help treat specific diseases with fewer side effects compared to conventional therapies.

Role of nuclear medicine in cancer

It plays a crucial role in oncology, both in diagnosing cancer and in providing targeted therapy for certain types of cancer.
Diagnosis and staging:
 

  • Nuclear medicine techniques, such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans, are invaluable in diagnosing various types of cancer.
  • They help identify tumours, determine their size and location, and assess whether cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.
  • This information is essential for determining the stage of cancer and planning the appropriate treatment approach.

Treatment planning: 

  • By providing detailed information about cancer’s location and extent, nuclear medicine helps oncologists develop personalized treatment plans for patients.
  • It helps determine whether surgery, radiation therapychemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments is most appropriate.

Targeted therapy: 

  • It can be used as a targeted therapy for cancer, known as radio immunotherapy or radio ligand therapy.
  • This approach involves attaching a radioactive substance to a molecule that specifically targets cancer cells, allowing for precise delivery of radiation directly to the tumour while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
  • This can result in fewer side effects compared to traditional radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Monitoring treatment response: 

It can also be used to assess the effectiveness of cancer treatments. PET scans and other nuclear medicine imaging techniques can help doctors monitor how well a tumour is responding to therapy and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Difference between nuclear medicine and chemotherapy:

v  Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that involves using powerful drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It can be effective in treating many types of cancer, but it often has significant side effects due to its impact on healthy cells as well.

v  Nuclear medicine, on the other hand, offers a more targeted approach, particularly when used as a therapeutic option. It allows for more precise delivery of radiation to cancer cells, potentially leading to fewer side effects. However, nuclear medicine’s therapeutic applications are limited to specific types of cancer, and it may not be suitable for all patients.

India and USA in nuclear medicine:

  • India is ahead of the USA in the use of nuclear medicine to treat cancer. Nuclear medicine has been available in India for the last 50 years, adding that “PRRT therapies got US FDA approval last year.

In USA:

  • Regulatory hurdles regarding the approval of radiopharmaceuticals are a major challenge to the growth of the global nuclear medicine industry. In the USA, when the FDA is convinced regarding the safety and efficacy of the molecule, the product is approved for usage.
  • Owing to extensive toxicology testing, there are very few nuclear medicines approved by the US FDA and hence, the usage of nuclear medicine for therapy is relatively lower”.

In INDIA:

Ø  In India, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has been proactive in clearing the use of radio-pharmaceuticals for therapy. And in many ways, India and Australia are among the leading countries in the adoption of RPT”.

Ø  The reasons for India’s success in nuclear medicine are the country’s strong focus on research and development. India has a large pool of talented scientists and researchers who are working on innovative technologies and techniques to diagnose and treat cancer.

Ø  The country has also established several research institutes and universities that are dedicated to nuclear medicine, such as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences”.

 

EU’s carbon border tax and its implications

GS Paper -3 (Climate)

The 27-member European Union (EU) has been ramping up its climate action efforts with the European Parliament, the bloc’s legislative body, adopting a rapid pace in climate negotiations. Along with this phasing out of free carbon allowances, the EU will phase in another ambitious and first-of-its-kind policy, the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).

More about the news:

v  European Parliament lawmakers reached a political deal on the carbon border tax in December last year, but India, along with China, Brazil, and South Africa opposed the plan at the 27th edition of the Conference of Parties (COP27) climate summit in Sharm El Sheikh.

v  It aimed at levelling the playing field for EUand non-EU manufacturers and spurring trading partners to adopt carbon pricing regimes as a critical approach to the climate fight.

v  The trading partners such as the United States, China, Russia and developing countries including India, have opposed the measuredescribing it as unilateral, “protectionist” and even a trade weapon.

v  They say it could lead to market distortion and impact developing countries which have not originally contributed to industrial emissions.

About Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM):

The EU contends that while pursuing emission reduction ambitions, the prevalence of weaker climate policies in other countries poses the risk of what is called ‘carbon leakage”.

Carbon Leakage:

  • Companies in order to meet climate policy requirements or to avoid restrictions on carbon emissions in their home country, relocate the production or manufacturing of carbon-intensive materials to countries with less stringent climate rules.
  • This means that instead of getting sequestered, carbon emissions end up happening in another place. In the EU’s context, carbon leakage also assumes an extended meaning, when products manufactured in the EU (meeting emission standards) get replaced by carbon-intensive products imported from other countries.

Ø  In order to prevent this and reach other climate change mitigation goals, the EU in 2021, came up with a proposal for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).

Ø  The CBAM plans to impose a tariff on a set of carbon-intensive imports, which will have to be paid by EU importers and companies who export such goods to EU countries.

Ø  With the CBAM, the EU also wants to create a level-playing field for business in the bloc with those outside by making equal the price for the carbon content of goods regardless of where they are made.

Ø  The EU argues that with the CBAM, domestic businesses, who currently risk being disadvantaged by cheaper, carbon-tax free imported products, would be put on a fairer footing.

Working mechanism of the CBAM:

  • The CBAM initially plans to impose a carbon border tax on the most carbon-intensive imports on iron and steel, cement, fertilisers, aluminium and electricity.
  • The CBAM will start phasing in from October 2023, if all approvals go through, first requiring importers in the EU to collect data about the number of metric tons of carbon dioxide released during the manufacture of the goods they import.
  • After that, importers will need to buy a new type of pollution certificate to reflect that discharge at prices aligned with the bloc’s Emissions Trading System.

Reason developing countries including India opposing it:

ü  India has invoked climate justice on the global fora and contends that it places a carbon charge on companies from countries that did not primarily or historically cause climate change.

ü  According to the Global Trade Research Initiative, the tax will translate into a 20-35% tariff on India’s exports of steel, aluminium and cement, which now attract an MFN duty of less than 3%.

ü  As much as 27% of India’s exports of steel, iron and aluminium products, or $8.2 billion, head to the EU.

ü  China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has opposed the CBAM as a trade barrier, while it is also planning to develop its own emissions trading market.

ü  China’s communication to the WTO said that “environmental objectives should be consistent with the fundamental principles and basic rules of the WTO, strike a balance between environmental considerations and trade considerations, and not constitute protectionist measures or green trade barriers”.

 

Common uniforms at higher ranks of the Army

GS Paper -2 (Governance)

decision has been taken at the recent Army Commanders Conference that from August 1, all officers of the rank of Brigadier and above, Major Generals, Lieutenant Generals, and General will wear common uniform items irrespective of their regimental or corps affiliation.

More about the news:

Changes in uniforms worn by senior Army officers:

  • All officers of the rank of Brigadier, Maj General, Lt General, and General will now wear berets (caps) of the same colour, common badges of rank, a common belt buckle, and a common pattern of shoes.
  • They will no longer wear regimental lanyards (cords) on their shoulders. They will also not wear any shoulder flashes like ‘Special Forces’, ‘Arunachal Scouts’, ‘Dogra Scouts’, etc.
  • There will be no item of uniform that will identify them as belonging to a particular Regiment or Corps. All officers of these higher ranks will dress alike in the same pattern of uniform.

Present position on wearing such items in the Army:

Ø  As of now, all officers from the rank of Lieutenant to General wear uniform accoutrements (additional items of dress or equipment) as per their regimental or corps affiliation.

Ø  Presently, Infantry officers and Military Intelligence officers wear dark green berets; armoured corps officers wear black berets; Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Air Defence, EME, ASC, AOC, AMC, and some minor corps officers wear dark blue berets; Parachute Regiment officers wear maroon berets; and Army Aviation Corps officers wear grey berets.

Ø  The ceremonial headgear also varies, while most Infantry regiments, Armoured Corps regiments, and other arms and services have a peak cap with the regimental badge, the Gorkha Rifles regiments, Kumaon Regiment, Garhwal Regiment, and Naga Regiment officers wear a kind of slouch hat which is called Terai Hat or Gorkha Hat colloquially.

Ø  Each Infantry Regiment and Corps has its own pattern of lanyard which they wear around the shoulder and which tucks into the right or left shirt pocket as the tradition may be.

Ø  The badges of rank also differ; the rifle regiments wear black coloured badges of rank, while some regiments wear gilt and silver coloured badges. There are different coloured backings, which are worn with these badges of rank as per individual traditions and customs of the Regiment or Corps.

Ø  The buttons on the uniform also vary in accordance with the regimental tradition. The rifle regiments wear black buttons while officers of the Brigade of The Guards wear golden buttons.

Ø  The belt has varied buckles as per regimental traditions, and each carries its own crest.

So what is the reason for making the change?

  • Regimental service in the Army ends at the rank of Colonel for most officers who rise further. Thus, all uniform affiliations with that particular Regiment or Corps must also end at that rank, so that any regimental parochialism that may exist is not promoted to the higher ranks.
  • Since appointments at higher ranks can often mean commanding troops of mixed regimental lineage, it is only appropriate that the senior officers commanding these troops should present themselves in a neutral uniform rather than a regimental one.

Practice followed earlier:

ü  In fact, the Army is now reverting to the practice that was followed almost 40 years ago, when the changes towards wearing regimental affiliations took hold in the service.

ü  Until about the mid-1980s, the regimental service was till the rank of Lt Colonel. Officers of the rank of Colonel and above had common uniform patterns and insignia.

ü  Colonels and Brigadiers shed their regimental insignia and wore the Ashoka emblem on their cap badges. The colour of beret was khaki.

What is the tradition in other armies?

v  In the British army, from where the Indian Army derives its uniform pattern and associated heraldry, the uniform worn by officers of the rank of Colonel and above is referred to as the Staff uniform, to distinguish it from the Regimental uniform.

v  Among neighbouring countries, the Pakistan and Bangladesh armies follow the same pattern as the British army. All regimental uniform items are discarded beyond the rank of Lt Colonel.

 

Same Sex Couples Not Included In Surrogacy Laws

GS Paper - 2 Health

The government in the Supreme Court has said that same sex couples and live-in partners are not included in surrogacy and assisted reproduction laws to avoid ‘misuse’ and provide children a ‘complete family’.

Concerns

  1. The Union’s Department of Health Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research, said the welfare of the child “trumps any notions of equality amongst prospective/intending parents/couples”.
  2. The government said though “the Supreme Court has decriminalized same sex relations and live-in relations, neither any special provisions have been introduced with respect to same sex/live-in couples nor have they been granted any additional rights”.
  3. The government said the inclusion of live-in and same sex couples within the ambit of the Surrogacy Act would lead to “misuse”.
  4. “It would be difficult to ensure a better future for the child born through surrogacy,” the government cautioned.
  5. In a recent hearing of the same sex marriage case, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, heading the Constitution Bench, had remarked that same sex couples could offer as stable and loving a homeif not better, to children as heterosexual married parents.

Jarring Note

  1. The government’s affidavit struck a jarring note, saying “the only kind of couples that are eligible to avail benefits of surrogacy or assisted reproduction are heterosexual married couples, to the exclusion of live-in couples or any other relationships and that too with strong regulations with respect to age, consent, etc.

Government stand

  1. The government’s perspective is not in tune with several Supreme Court judgments that long live-in relationships “presume” marriage.
  2. The response from the Centre is based on a petition filed by Chennai-based IVF specialist ArunMuthuvel, represented by advocate MohiniPriya, challenging several provisions of the Surrogacy Act, 2021 and the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act, 2021 as discriminatory and violativeof the reproductive rights of women and an impediment to the right to privacy.
  3. The government argued that both Acts made it clear that couples opting for surrogacy or assisted reproduction should be “legally married biological man and woman”.
  4. It said even single men or women were not allowed to avail surrogacy.
  5. “The Act intends to provide a complete family to the child born out of surrogacy,” the government insisted.

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