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19 April 2024 Daily Current Affairs

1. Factors Affecting Global Gold Prices


This passage discusses the recent rise in global gold prices and the factors influencing it.


  • Positive correlation with crude oil prices:When oil prices rise, it can signal inflation, leading to increased demand for gold as a hedge.


  • Inverse correlation with the U.S. dollar: A weaker dollar makes gold priced in dollars more attractive.


  • Supply: Rising production costs due to deeper mining and increased energy costs can limit supply and push prices up.


  • Demand:

  • Central banks: They buy gold as a store of value, especially during economic uncertainty.

  • Investors: They invest in physical gold or gold-backed instruments for diversification and safety.

  • Consumers: In major consumers like China and India, gold is a traditional form of wealth storage and ornamentation, with seasonal fluctuations in demand.

  • Industries: Gold's unique properties make it desirable for some industrial applications.


2. EU Carbon Price Drop Threatens Green Tech Fund: Details on Innovation Fund

  • A drop in the EU carbon price this year could significantly impact the EU Innovation Fund, a crucial financial instrument for Europe's green transition.

  • The Innovation Fund, established by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), is the bloc's main funding mechanism for nascent low-carbon technologies. These technologies are critical for achieving the EU's ambitious climate goals, but are often considered too risky for private investors.

  • The Fund was designed to raise €40 billion by 2030, based on an estimated average carbon price of €75 per tonne of CO2. However, the benchmark carbon price has remained below this level for months, raising concerns about the Fund's ability to meet its target.

  • The Innovation Fund supports projects across various sectors, including:

  • Hydrogen production: A clean-burning fuel seen as a key alternative to fossil fuels.

  • Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS): Technologies that capture CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial facilities, preventing their release into the atmosphere.

  • The Fund provides grants that can cover up to 60% of the innovation costs associated with these projects. This funding acts as a critical catalyst, enabling companies to develop and demonstrate these new technologies at scale.

  • Examples of successful Innovation Fund projects include:

  • Holcim's carbon capture projects in several European countries.

  • Low-carbon methanol fuel production by German start-up ICODOS.

  • High-temperature industrial heat generation using renewable electricity by Heatrix, another German company.


The potential funding shortfall due to the carbon price dip creates uncertainty for these and many other promising green tech initiatives. Delays in project timelines or even cancellations could hinder Europe's progress towards its climate targets.


3. Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Mosque Dispute


Latest Developments:

  • ASI survey ordered by Madhya Pradesh High Court on March 11th, 2024.

  • Supreme Court cautioned on April 1st, 2024 to avoid altering the site's character during the survey.

  • Supreme Court stayed any actions based on the survey's outcome until further notice.


Historical Background:

  • The complex has been a shared space for Hindus (Vagdevi temple) and Muslims (Kamal Maula Masjid) for the past 20 years, with Hindus performing puja on Tuesdays and Muslims performing namaaz on Fridays.

  • A "Hindu Front for Justice" recently challenged this arrangement, claiming the mosque was built over a Hindu temple.

  • Muslims assert their mosque has existed for centuries and revere the Sufi saint Kamaluddin Chishti associated with it.


Previous Surveys and Controversies:

  • British survey in 1822 by John Malcolm mentioned the mosque but not a "Bhojshala."

  • The dispute arose in 1902 when a Hindu official found Sanskrit inscriptions, leading to claims of a demolished temple.

  • Legal challenges by Hindu groups continued throughout the 20th century, including attempts to claim the site during the Babri Masjid conflict.

  • Violence erupted in 2002, but a "truce" was established in 2003 with designated prayer days for both religions.


Current Status:

  • The future of the complex and the ASI survey's implications remain uncertain due to the Supreme Court's intervention.


4. Private Investment Woes in India


The Problem:

  • India's private investment (measured by GFCF) has been declining since 2011-12, hindering economic growth.

  • The government hoped large corporations would invest more, but this hasn't happened.


What is GFCF and Why Does It Matter?

  • GFCF refers to the growth in fixed capital (buildings, machinery) in an economy.

  • Higher private GFCF indicates a willingness of the private sector to invest.

  • Fixed capital allows workers to produce more goods and services, boosting living standards.

  • Developed economies have more fixed capital per capita than developing economies.


Trends in Private Investment in India:

  • Private investment rose significantly after economic reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

  • Before that, it remained around 10% of GDP. Public investment grew steadily during this period.

  • Post-liberalization, private investment took the lead, reaching a peak of 27% of GDP in 2007-08.

  • However, it has fallen since 2011-12, reaching a low of 19.6% in 2020-21.

Reasons for Decline (Debated):


  • Consumption-led Investment Theory:

  • Some economists blame low private consumption for the decline.

  • They believe strong consumption spending encourages businesses to invest.

  • However, historical data shows an inverse relationship in India.

  • Consumption spending actually rose while private investment fell after 2011-12.

  • Structural Problems Theory:

  • Other economists believe structural issues are the core reason.

  • Unfavorable government policies and uncertainty discourage investment.

  • The rise in private investment in the 1990s and 2000s correlated with economic reforms.

  • The decline coincides with a slowdown in reforms under recent governments.

  • Policy uncertainty makes investors hesitant for long-term projects.

Costs of Low Private Investment:

  • Slower economic growth due to a smaller fixed capital base.

  • Government investment can crowd out private investment.

  • Public investment might not be as efficient as private investment.

The Debate Continues:

  • Economists disagree on the best solution to revive private investment in India


5. From Sanatoriums to Elimination:


A Revolution in Tuberculosis Treatment

This article highlights the dramatic shift in tuberculosis (TB) treatment, from limited options to the possibility of global eradication.


Grim Past:

  • Kamala Nehru and M.A. Jinnah, prominent figures, fell victim to TB, illustrating the disease's indiscriminate nature.

  • Before the 20th century, treatments were largely ineffective, with sanatoriums and surgeries offering limited success.


Turning Point:

  • Sir Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin in 1928 opened a new chapter in antibiotic development, offering hope for TB treatment.

  • Sir Austin Bradford Hill's pioneering work in the mid-20th century revolutionized the field.


Hill's Contributions:

  • He championed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), a robust method to evaluate treatment efficacy. This technique is now a cornerstone of modern medicine.

  • He played a critical role in testing streptomycin, the first antibiotic proven effective against TB. His meticulous work established optimal dosages and transitioned TB treatment from specialists to primary care physicians, making it more accessible.

  • His "Bradford Hill Criteria" are fundamental for establishing causal links in epidemiology. These criteria are used to assess evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship between factors and health outcomes, influencing research across various fields.

  • He provided evidence linking smoking to lung cancer through a case-control study. His research provided irrefutable evidence, debunking the tobacco industry's claims and causing a significant shift in public perception and policy towards tobacco.


Looking Ahead:

  • The article celebrates the possibility of TB elimination by 2030.

  • Challenges like MDR-TB and XDR-TB remain, but advancements offer hope.

  • We owe a debt of gratitude to scientists like Fleming and Hill for paving the way for this progress.


The message:

This article emphasizes the power of scientific research and highlights the pivotal roles of Sir Alexander Fleming and Sir Austin Bradford Hill in transforming TB treatment. Their legacies inspire continued efforts towards eradicating TB.


6. The Liver-Gut Connection: A Two-Way Street to Better Health


This article explores the often overlooked but crucial relationship between the liver and the gut.


The Mighty Liver:

  • Performs various functions including detoxification, nutrient storage, and blood sugar regulation.

  • Vulnerable to damage from alcohol, poor diet, and infections.


The Gut: A Microscopic Powerhouse:

  • Hosts trillions of bacteria that aid digestion, vitamin synthesis, and immunity.

  • A balanced gut microbiome is essential for overall health.

  • Modern lifestyles can disrupt this balance, leading to digestive issues.


The Liver-Gut Axis:

  • This two-way communication system connects the liver and gut through:

  • Bile (from liver) aids fat digestion and influences gut bacteria.

  • Gut bacteria metabolites affect liver function and inflammation.

  • A healthy gut microbiome strengthens the gut barrier, protecting the liver.


Strategies for a Healthy Liver and Gut:

  • Eat a fiber-rich diet: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes promote gut bacteria growth and reduce liver burden by aiding bile excretion.

  • Include probiotics: yogurt, kefir, and kimchi introduce beneficial gut bacteria.

  • Limit sugar and processed foods: they harm gut bacteria and contribute to liver problems.

  • Stay hydrated: water supports toxin elimination and bile production.

  • Manage stress: chronic stress disrupts gut health. Practice meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to counter its effects.


Conclusion:

The liver and gut work together to maintain our health. By nurturing gut health through diet, stress management, and probiotics, we can support liver function and overall well-being.


7. Forever Chemicals Contaminating Chennai's Water


The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is alarmed by the presence of "forever chemicals" in Chennai's water bodies.


Forever Chemicals Defined:

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic human-made chemicals that do not break down naturally in the environment, earning them the nickname "forever chemicals."


The Problem:

  • A study by the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras found PFAS contamination in Chennai's Buckingham Canal, Adyar River, and Chembarambakkam Lake.

  • These chemicals were present in surface water, groundwater, and even treated water.


Health Risks:

Exposure to PFAS can cause various health problems, including:

  • Liver damage

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Immune system issues

  • Cancer


The Study's Findings:

  • Groundwater near Perungudi dumpsite had PFAS levels exceeding safe limits set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • Worryingly, the concentration of PFAS actually increased in treated water compared to raw water, suggesting conventional treatment methods might be ineffective.


The Response:

  • The NGT expressed concern and demanded action from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Water Resources Department, and the Environment department.

  • The study recommends implementing advanced water treatment systems specifically designed to remove PFAS.


Editorial Analysis


A world in disarray, a concern about the future


The article paints a bleak picture of the current global situation, highlighting a lack of leadership and potential for further conflict.


Here are the key points:


Leadership Crisis:

  • Reckless leaders like Zelenskyy, Netanyahu, and Putin are seen as fueling ongoing conflicts.

  • The US struggles to maintain order and influence.

  • Other world leaders lack the vision and capability for peaceful solutions.


Global Conflict:

  • The stalemate in Ukraine and violence in Gaza raise fears of escalation.

  • The potential use of nuclear weapons is a growing concern.

  • A resurgent Iran could take a more aggressive stance in the Middle East.


Shifting Alliances:

  • The US-led world order is weakening, with new alliances emerging (e.g., China-Russia-Iran).

  • These alliances are motivated by competition and self-interest, not global stability.


Economic Strain:

  • The US, Europe, and China all face economic challenges.

  • A global economic slowdown could worsen the situation.


Technological Disruption:

  • Artificial intelligence and advanced military technology are creating new threats and challenges.

  • Smaller nations are using AI to potentially counterbalance larger powers.


Nuclear Proliferation:

  • Existing arms control agreements are weak, and new nuclear weapons are being developed.

  • The possibility of nuclear war, even through low-yield battlefield weapons, is increasing.


The Future:

  • The article warns of a "doomsday scenario" if current trends continue.

  • Urgent action is needed from world leaders to address these challenges and prevent further conflict.



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