7 October 2023 important news
Science & Technology
Myths Regarding Microbiome Research
Microbiome research has developed over the past two decades from a “Niche subject area” to “one of the hottest topics in all of science.”
The interactions and activities of microbes in the human gut have been the focus of much study and debate.
Contrary to widespread belief, new analyses revealed the intricacy of the human microbiome and cast doubt on certain commonly held beliefs.
The government allocated Rs. 1,660 crore towards biotechnology research and development in the Union Budget 2021–22.
The group of microorganisms that live in a certain habitat, including fungus, bacteria, and viruses, is known as the microbiome. The phrase is frequently used to refer to the microorganisms that exist in or on a certain area of the human body, such as the skin or digestive tract.
These microbe groups are dynamic and adapt to a variety of environmental circumstances, including physical activity, dietary choices, drug use, and other exposures.
Myths About Microbiome in Human Body
One misunderstanding is that microbiome research is a relatively young topic. Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, scientists have reported and hypothesised about the advantages of gut bacteria like Escherichia coli and Bifidobacteria.
The phrase “microbiome” was used before it became well-known in 2001, casting doubt on Joshua Lederberg’s usual claim of invention. Joshua Lederberg won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2001 for establishing the discipline. In 1988, the phrase had been used to refer to a group of bacteria.
The magnitude of the microbiome is one of the more pervasive and destructive fallacies. The weight of the human microbiota is roughly 200 grammes, not 1-2 kg as is sometimes claimed, and there are really 1010 to 1012 microbial cells per gramme in human faeces.
Contrary to popular belief, moms do not transfer their microbiomes to their newborns. A small percentage of the human microbiota is directly transmitted at birth, and only a smaller percentage of those germs survive and persist throughout the child’s life. Even identical twins reared in the same home end up with different microbiome configurations as adults.
According to some experts, unfavourable interactions between microbial populations and our cells are what lead to illness. The context will determine whether a microorganism and its metabolite are “good” or “bad,” though.
For instance, the majority of people carry the bacterium Clostridium difficile for their whole lives without developing any symptoms. Only the elderly or those with weakened immune systems are affected, which is when it presents issues.
One urban legend links obesity to the proportion of the two bacterial phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. The issue with this misconception is that the level of phylum is too vast to make reliable predictions about impacts.
A phylum is a class that belongs to a kingdom. A kingdom consists of many phyla; a phylum consists of classes; next come orders, families, genuses, and eventually species in the hierarchy of classification of life.
Several bacterial strains behave differently even within the same bacterial species, leading the host to display various clinical signs.
Not all bacteria have redundant tasks; many of these are exclusive to certain species within the microbiome. According to some scientists, certain bacteria are essentially redundant in some ways. Although the many bacteria in the human microbiome perform certain crucial activities in common, many of these are the domain of a small number of species.
Biases can be introduced at several phases of the sequencing process, skewing the data and drawing false conclusions.
While standardised methodologies are useful for evaluating results across research, it is vital to recognise that no technique is without flaws.
Even though it can be difficult to cultivate bacteria from the human microbiome in the lab, earlier attempts have been successful, suggesting that present gaps in culture collections are caused by a lack of prior effort rather than intrinsic “unculturability.”
Linked with Bodily Functions
- Complex carbohydrates, fibres, and other indigestible substances that the body is unable to break down on its own are broken down with the help of the gut microbiome, which is mostly found in the intestines.
In the fermentation process, microbes help to create vital nutrients like vitamins (such Vitamin B and K) that the body can absorb and use.
- The immune system and the microbiota work closely together to shape immune system growth, training, and responses. A healthy microbiome aids in controlling immune responses, reducing unwarranted reactions, and improving the body’s capacity to fight off pathogens.
- Metabolic conditions including obesity and type 2 diabetes have been related to the gut microbiome’s makeup. A number of bacteria may have an influence on metabolism, how well food provides energy, and fat storage, all of which can affect body weight and metabolic health.
- The neurological, hormonal, and immunological connections that connect the stomach and the brain in both directions are represented by the gut-brain axis.
- By creating neurotransmitters and interacting with the central nervous system, the gut microbiota can affect how the brain works, behaviour, and mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and stress.
Source- The Hindu
For Mains: Parliament and State Legislatures Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business
According to a recent report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW), a disturbing number of Indian MPs are being investigated for using hate speech.
Hate speech lawsuits have been filed against a total of 107 Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). These results underline the necessity of moral behaviour on the part of people in positions of authority.
Since 2002, more than 1200 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other citizen-led organisations have joined forces as part of the NEW effort to improve India’s democracy and governance. ADR is a New Delhi-based Indian NGO that was founded in 1999.
What is Heat Speech
Hate speech is described as an incitement to hatred directed principally towards a group of people who are identified by their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. This definition is found in the 267th Report of the Law Commission of India. When deciding whether or not anything is hate speech, the context of the utterance is extremely important. By inspiring hate, violence, prejudice, and intolerance, it can hurt the targeted individuals and groups as well as society as a whole.
- All Indian people have the basic right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
- The limitations imposed by Article 19(2) on this right strike a balance between its proper use and improper use.
- In the interests of public order, dignity, morality, public order, integrity, security, friendly relations with other governments, judicial contempt, defamation, or the incitement of an offence, restrictions are permitted.
Indian Penal Code
- The IPC’s Sections 153A and 153B penalise activities that incite animosity and hostility between groups.
- Acts that purposefully or maliciously offend a group of people’s religious sentiments are punishable under Section 295A of the IPC.
- Sections 505(1) and 505(2): Make it unlawful to publish or distribute anything that can incite animosity or hatred among certain communities.
- The RPA of 1951’s Section 8 prohibits anyone who have been found guilty of abusing their right to free expression from running for office.
- The encouragement of animosity or hostility between various groups of Indian people on the basis of race, religion, community, caste, or language is prohibited by Sections 123(3A) and 125 of the RPA and is classified as corrupt electoral practises.
Prevention of Atrocities Act
- prohibits the use of hate speech against a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe anywhere that is visible to the public.
- The 1955 Protection of Civil Rights Act: penalises the promotion of untouchability by spoken or written words, signs, visual cues, or other means, as well as untouchability encouragement.
Judicial Cases Related to Hate Speech
- According to the Indian Supreme Court (SC), there cannot be brotherhood until various religious communities are willing to coexist in peace.
- The SC expressed worry over the rising number of hate speech instances in the nation and ordered the government and police to act immediately in such situations rather than waiting for formal complaints to be filed.
- Since hate speech is not covered by any of India’s pre-existing laws, the SC did not penalise it. Instead, in order to avoid entering the realm of judicial overreach, the Supreme Court asked the Law Commission to handle this matter.
- The Information Technology Act of 2000’s Section 66A has come under fire for violating the fundamental right to free speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Supreme Court made a distinction between discussion, advocacy, and incitement and determined that the first two were what Article 19(1) was all about.
Issues of Hate Speech
- Encourage education and knowledge of the negative impacts of hate speech, emphasising both its personal and societal costs.
- Enact new laws or strengthen current ones that already exist to particularly address hate speech, in addition to other initiatives like media literacy, discourse, counter-speech, self-regulation, and civil society involvement.
- These actions may counteract hate speech’s narratives, support opposing viewpoints, and encourage a climate of respect and tolerance.
- Create and uphold norms of behaviour for parliamentarians, hold elected officials and political parties responsible for hate speech, and encourage media ethics to stop its spread.
The necessity for ethical behaviour among individuals in positions of authority is urgent. Hate speech has wide-ranging effects that endanger both individual and society equilibrium. Promoting education, strengthening the law, and upholding behaviour norms are essential elements in creating a culture of tolerance, respect, and responsible governance in the nation.
Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in Sikkim
Recently, a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) occurred in Sikkim. In the northwest of the state, at a height of 17,000 feet, the South Lhonak Lake is a glacier lake that ruptured as a consequence of persistent rain.
According to the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SSDMA), water was therefore released into the downstream areas, resulting in flooding in the Teesta River and having an effect on four Sikkim districts: Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong, and Namchi. The Chungthang Hydro-Dam in Sikkim (on the Teesta River) also burst due to the flooding, making the total situation worse.
Glacial Lake Outburst Flood
- An abrupt and possibly disastrous flood known as a GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) happens when water that has been trapped behind a glacier or a moraine (a naturally occurring collection of ice, sand, pebbles, and debris) is released quickly.
- These floods occur when water builds up behind flimsy moraine barriers in glacial lakes created by melting ice.
- These moraine dams, in contrast to reliable earthen dams, are prone to sudden failure, releasing massive amounts of water in a matter of minutes to days, causing catastrophic floods downstream.
- The high slopes of the Himalayan region make it particularly sensitive to GLOFs.
- The Sikkim Himalayan glacier melting process has been accelerated by climate change and rising world temperatures.
- More than 300 glacial lakes presently exist in the area, eleven of which have been recognised as being vulnerable to outburst floods.
- GLOFs have the potential to cause devastating downstream floods. They have the capability to quickly unleash millions of cubic metres of water.
- According to the National Disaster Management Authority, peak flows during GLOFs have been seen to reach up to 15,000 cubic metres per second.
How Susceptible is South Lhonak Lake
About 5,200 metres above sea level, in northern Sikkim, is where you’ll find the South Lhonak lake.
The lake has been growing for years, potentially due to the melting of the ice cap at its head, scientists have previously warned. Notably, seismic activity, including an earthquake of a magnitude of 6.9 in 2011, increased the GLOF danger in the region.
- A crucial strategy was undertaken in 2016 by the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority and other stakeholders to drain extra water from South Lhonak Lake.
- Sonam Wangchuk, a brilliant inventor, oversaw the project and used High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipes to syphon water from the lake.
- This campaign was effective in lowering the lake’s water level by around 50%, somewhat reducing the risk.
- The new catastrophe, however, is said to have been brought on by an avalanche that started from the lake’s surrounding ice-capped feature.
Other Recent GLOF Incidents in India
- The unusually heavy rains that Uttrakhand experienced in June 2013 caused the Chorabari glacier to melt and the Mandakini river to erupt.
- The Ladakh town of Gya was struck by a glacier lake outburst flood in August 2014.
- Flash floods that are thought to have been brought on by GLOFs occurred in the Chamoli area of Uttarakhand in February 2021.
Actions aginst to Reduce the Risk of GLOFs
- Establishing a thorough monitoring system to track the development and stability of glacier lakes in susceptible areas.
- It is possible to periodically monitor changes in glacial lakes and the related moraine dams using satellite imaging, remote sensing technologies, and field studies conducted using drones.
- Early Warning Systems: and early warning systems that, in the case of a GLOF, can provide prompt notifications to towns downstream.
- Additionally, it is necessary to supplement it with flood protection measures, such as building levees, diversion channels, or protective barriers to move floodwaters away from populous areas.
- Public knowledge and Education: In accordance with NDMA’s GLOF-related rules, there is a need to increase public knowledge of the dangers of GLOFs and inform people living downstream about evacuation protocols and safety measures.
- To ensure that inhabitants are prepared to act in the event of a GLOF, conduct exercises and training programmes.
- International Cooperation: Given that GLOFs may have cross-border effects, India can work with its neighbouring nations in the Himalayan area.
- The danger can be reduced by exchanging knowledge and best practises for GLOF risk reduction and management with nearby nations.
State of Global Internet Freedom in 2023
For Prelims: Global Internet Freedom in 2023, Artificial intelligence (AI), Censorship Regime, Indian Penal Code,
According to a report on the state of global internet freedom in 2023 by the non-profit organisation Freedom House, which is based in Washington, DC, there is a worrying trend of declining internet freedom for the 13th year in a row, with 29 countries experiencing a worsening of the online environment for human rights.
The time period covered by the study is from June 2022 to May 2023. It assesses the level of internet freedom in 70 nations, which account for 88% of all internet users worldwide. The survey rates nations using five censorship techniques, including as Internet access limitations, social media platform blocks, website blocks, VPN blocks, and forced content removal.
- Digital repression heavily relies on artificial intelligence (AI). AI-based technologies are becoming more advanced and widely available, and they are being used to propagate misinformation in at least 16 different nations.
- Additionally, by automating the removal of information considered inappropriate for political, social, or religious reasons, AI improves the effectiveness of content filtering in 22 nations.
- A record number of 55 out of the 70 nations evaluated experienced legal ramifications for internet speech.
- Furthermore, because of their online comments, people were beaten up or killed in 41 different nations.
- Due to Internet blackouts, social media platform blockage, and intensified monitoring to quell anti-government rallies, Iran saw a major surge in digital repression.
- Myanmar was the second-most oppressive nation for online freedom, trailing China for the seventh year in a row as the worst nation for Internet freedom.
- India’s legal system now includes AI-based censorship, which has an effect on the right to free speech and opposition to the government.
- According to the paper, as India gears up for general elections in 2024, the growing censorship regime would have negative effects on democracy there and create an unlevel playing field.
What is Censorship?
- The act of censoring or regulating ideas, information, or speech that is considered offensive, damaging, sensitive, or threatening to a specific group, organisation, or government is known as censorship.
- It entails limiting or forbidding people, organisations, or authorities from disseminating, publishing, or gaining access to specific material.
- The scope of India’s censorship rules includes all forms of art, dance, literature, written, documentary, and oral works, as well as ads, theatre, films, television shows, music, speeches, reports, and debates.
- Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) permits the confiscation of specific publications and material.
- If any newspaper, book, or document, wherever printed, includes any information that the State Government deems injurious to the state, it is penalised by the State Government via an official notification issued under this provision.
- Under the Cinematograph Act of 1952, the Central Bureau of Film Certification (CBFC) was established as a statutory organisation.
- It controls what is included in films that are made available to the public.
- Films are subject to prior certification by the CBFC, and broadcasters are required to abide by the certification’s requirements under the “Programme Code and Advertisement Code” rules.
- It was created by the Press Council Act of 1978 and is a statutory and quasi-judicial authority.
- It controls what enters the media realm and serves as the press’s self-regulatory organisation.
- This organisation emphasises the necessity for media professionals and journalists to practise self-regulation and serves as a watchdog on media material in general to determine whether it violates press ethics and the needs of the public.
- The type of content that may be transmitted is likewise filtered by this action.
- The statute requires cable providers to register voluntarily in order to keep track of them.
- Given the rapid rise of social media, censorship of it has become a rising issue in India because, until recently, it was not directly regulated or under the direct control of any government agency.
- Currently, social media usage is governed by the Information and Technology Act, 2000, and in particular, Sections 67A, 67B, 67C, and 69A include the relevant regulatory provisions.
- These were preceded by changes made to the “Allocation of Business Rules” under the IT Act, 2000, which placed control of digital and online media, including OTT (Over The Top) platforms like Amazon, Netflix, and Hotstar, under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B), Government of India. This included films, audio-visual programmes, news, and current affairs content.
Advantages and Limitations of Censorship
- Discord Prevention: Discord in society is avoided by preventing the revelation of offensive material that can cause racial or other forms of social unrest.
- maintains the state’s security: Internet filtering can contribute to the preservation of social harmony and public security.
- The stability of society benefits from internet filtering since it can assist reduce the prevalence of illicit activities and online crimes.
- Black information may be released by some unlawful organisations or individuals, upsetting the country’s politics and economy.
- Prevents the Spread of incorrect Beliefs or Rumours: The government can employ censorship to restrict access to harmful activities by limiting their public presentation, among other things. It can also be used to prevent the spread of incorrect beliefs or rumours.
- Internet filtering may screen out undesirable content online and shield kids from frightening websites that feature child pornography, sexual assault, and comprehensive how-to guides for committing crimes or using drugs.
- Tool for Moral Policing: By actually putting the censorship laws into practise, instead of focusing on more important social concerns, this legislation may end up controlling the lives of other people.
- The expansive authority granted to the regulatory body under the new regulations—which is made up of bureaucrats—runs the risk of being subject to political whim.
- In India, there are many different definitions of morality, taste, and disgust, which goes against the constitution’s guarantee of free speech.
- As a result, this level of rigorous censorship is in stark contrast to the constitutional guarantee of all Indian citizens’ right to free speech and expression (subject to some justifiable limitations).
Through robust legal and regulatory protections for digital communications and information access, freedom of speech and expression must be protected.
For AI to be utilised to support internet freedom rather than curtail it, there has to be adequate legislation in place.
Nobel Peace Prize 2023
The Royal Swedish Academy recently announced that Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi would receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 2023 for her work to end the persecution of women in Iran and to advance human rights and freedom for all.
- The Award honours their many years of service in advancing the freedom to object to arbitrary government decisions and defending individuals’ basic rights.
- Ales Bialiatski, a Belarusian human rights activist, Memorial, a Russian human rights organisation, and Centre for Civil Liberties, a Ukrainian human rights organisation, were each given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.
- Other 2023 Nobel Prizes have already been announced in literature, chemistry, physics, and medicine.
Who is Narges Mohammadi?
Woman, human rights activist, and freedom warrior Narges Mohammadi is the 2023 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
According to the Academy, the Nobel Peace Prize this year also honours the hundreds of thousands of individuals who protested the theocratic regime’s oppressive and discriminatory laws against women.
The slogan chosen by the Iranian protesters, “Woman – Life – Freedom,” accurately captures Narges Mohammadi’s commitment and labour of love.
- Ms. Mohammadi opposes the death penalty in a nation where most state executions are reported. a committed supporter of women’s rights ever when she was a college student.
- She was detained for the first time in 2011 as a result of her efforts to support activists who were jailed and their families.
Fight for Human Rights
- She started resisting the regime’s routine use of torture and sexualized violence against political prisoners, particularly women, while she was incarcerated in Iran.
- She organised solidarity activities among her fellow prisoners during the Mahsa Amini Protests (Iranian Hijab Movement) and showed support for the protesters from within the prison.
- Other honours received by Mohammadi include the Olof Palme Prize in early 2023 and the Alexander Langer Award, given in 2009 in conjunction with the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
- She also received a reporting prize for her book, “White Torture: Interviews with Iranian Women Prisoners,” at the International Film Festival and Human Rights’ Forum.
Iranian Hijab Movement
- The headscarf or hijab is strongly advised by Iranian legislation for women to wear with their everyday attire. Recently, everyone who disobeyed this was either arrested, issued a harsh warning, or both.
- Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, was detained for violating the Iranian women’s clothing code.
- An enormous demonstration by Iranian women seeking more freedom broke out when Mahsa Amini was detained by the morality police of Iran and later killed.
- These days, this demand is not only limited to Iran; a global uprising has developed around it.
- In other significant western cities, such as Auckland, London, Melbourne, New York, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Stockholm, Sydney, and Zurich, there were other protests with banners reading “Women, life, liberty.”