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Prelims Booster

28th August – Prelims Booster

Hurricanes

Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm, made landfall in southwestern Louisiana with wind speeds reaching up to 250 km (150 miles) an hour. The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned of “life-threatening conditions”.

What are hurricanes and how do they form?

  • Tropical cyclones or hurricanes use warm, moist air as fuel, and therefore form over warm ocean waters near the equator.
  • As NASA describes it, when the warm, moist air rises upward from the surface of the ocean, it creates an area of low air pressure below. When this happens, the air from the surrounding areas rushes to fill this place, eventually rising when it becomes warm and moist too.
  • When the warm air rises and cools off, the moisture forms clouds. This system of clouds and winds continues to grow and spin, fuelled by the ocean’s heat and the water that evaporates from its surface.
  • As such storm systems rotate faster and faster, an eye forms in the centre. Storms that form towards the north of the equator rotate counterclockwise, while those that form to the south spin clockwise because of the rotation of the Earth.

‘Eye’ of the cyclone –

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the centre of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 kilometres (19–40 miles) in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur.

Is there a difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm?

  • There is no difference. Depending on where they occur, hurricanes may be called typhoons or cyclones. As per NASA, the scientific name for all these kinds of storms is tropical cyclones.
  • The tropical cyclones that form over the Atlantic Ocean or the eastern Pacific Ocean are called hurricanes and the ones that form in the Northwest Pacific are called typhoons. Tropical storms that form in the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea are called cyclones.

Rohtang Tunnel

The Atal Tunnel at Rohtang, near Manali, is a 9-km-long tunnel under the Pir Panjal range, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will be the world’s longest highway tunnel above the altitude of 10,000 feet.

Background –

  • A feasibility study of the project Rohtang Tunnel was carried out in May 1990 following which the geological report was submitted in June 2004. This was followed by a design and specification report which was prepared and finalised in December 2006.
  • Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials say the project received final technical approval in 2003. Following approval by Cabinet Committee on Security in 2005, tenders were floated in 2007 and the foundation stone was laid in July 2010 by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
  • The project was scheduled to be completed by February 2015 but it got delayed due to unexpected problems. It was originally designed to be 8.8 km long but GPS readings taken on completion show it to be 9 km long.

Strategic significance of the tunnel –

  • Cutting through the Pir Panjal range, the tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km.
  • The Rohtang Pass, to which the tunnel provides an alternate, is located at a height of 13,050 feet, and a journey from Manali Valley to Lahaul and Spiti Valley, which normally takes around five hours to negotiate, would now be completed in little over ten minutes.
  • While the tunnel will be a boon to the residents of the Lahaul and Spiti Valley who remain cut off from the rest of the country in winters for nearly six months due to heavy snowfall, the tunnel will provide almost all-weather connectivity to the troops stationed in Ladakh.
  • However, for full all-weather connectivity, additional tunnels will have to be built on the Manali-Leh route so that the high passes on the axis do not impede movement due to snowfall.

Features of Rohtang Tunnel –

  • Bridges in rivers on the approach to the tunnel from both the portals have also been completed and are now being painted.
  • Snow galleries have also been built at the approach road to the tunnel from Manali side, and this will ensure all-weather connectivity.
  • Other features include an emergency escape tunnel under the main tunnel. This would provide an emergency exit in case of any untoward incident which may render the main tunnel unuseable.

Lincoln Project

Over the past few months, the Lincoln Project has launched a vitriolic campaign against President Donald Trump on social media, with its videos raking millions of views.

The group caught public attention early in May when its video — ‘Mourning in America’ — went viral. The minute-long video is a critique of Trump’s governance over spiralling Covid-19 deaths and high unemployment. 

What is Lincoln Project’s mission?

  • The Lincoln Project was started on December 17 last year, with four of its founders announcing the group’s launch in a New York Times opinion piece. George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson wrote in the article that their objective was to “stem the damage (Donald Trump) and his followers are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character,” and that the effort “transcends partisanship”.
  • The Projects openly supports Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and aims to convince enough conservatives and independents in swing states to ensure that Trump loses the Electoral College– “even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.”
  • Political analysts believe that the group’s principal aim is to hand back control of the Republican Party to more moderate figures, thus defeating “Trumpism”.

Who is running the group?

The Lincoln Project’s creators have all played influential roles in the Republican Party, and include conservatives who have been a part of the “Never Trump” movement.

Eat Out to Help Out

Since the lockdown began in India, different bodies representing the country’s hospitality sector, including the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) and Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), have repeatedly asked the government for financial assistance to help tide over the crisis.

What is the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme?

  • The EOHO Scheme is an economic recovery measure by the UK government to support hospitality businesses as they reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.
  • Under the EOHO Scheme, the government would subsidise meals (food and non-alcoholic drinks only) at restaurants by 50 per cent, from Monday to Wednesday every week, all through August. The discount is capped at GBP 10 per head and does not apply to take-away or event catering.
  • There is no minimum spend and no limit on the number of times customers can avail the offer, since the whole point of the scheme is to encourage a return to dining in restaurants.

How much will the scheme cost the British government?

When presenting the Plans for Jobs update, the Treasury estimated that EOHO would cost GBP 500 million. However, according to the House of Commons research briefing on the scheme, “the final figure will depend on take up of the scheme and could be higher or lower. If take-up continues at the rate shown over the first two weeks of the Scheme, the cost of the scheme would be around £388 million, less than that forecast.”

Performance of the scheme –

As of August 16, GBP 18 million had been claimed by registered businesses, with 35 million covers having been served until that date. In an official statement on the data released, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said that this was “equivalent to over half of the UK taking part and supporting local jobs in the hospitality sector”.

Criticism of the scheme –

In its analysis of the summer economic update, the London-based Institute for Fiscal Studies, a microeconomic research institute, argued that the scheme may have been introduced too early, since it was not yet clear whether the problem was on the demand side, with people being reluctant to go out and eat, or on the supply side, with restaurants unable to serve enough people, thanks to social distancing.

Vaccine Nationalism

The United States of America has entered into multi-billion-dollar agreements with at least six big pharmaceutical companies for assured supplies of a combined 800 million doses of vaccines that they are separately developing for novel coronavirus. That is more than two doses for every American citizen.

The agreements mean that if any of these companies are successful in developing a vaccine, they would be obligated to provide the agreed supplies to the United States before anyone else.

Why is ‘vaccine nationalism’ a concern?

  • The concerns arise from the fact that these advance agreements are likely to make the vaccine inaccessible to large parts of the world that do not have the money to bet on candidates whose success is not guaranteed.
  • After all, there is limited capacity to produce a vaccine. The wait for a vaccine for these countries could get prolonged because whatever is produced in the first few months or years would have to be sent to the richer countries to fulfil the contractual obligations.
  • Also, not all the candidate vaccines are likely to succeed. The ones that do would be in great demand, especially from the countries that have entered into advance agreements that have clauses to enable increased supplies for more money. It would thus drive up the prices of the vaccine, making it potentially unaffordable for a large number of countries.

Why do counties hoard vaccines?

  • The coronavirus vaccine is being used by governments across the world as an opportunity to make an impression on their own people, as well as the international community.
  • To their citizens, the governments want to show how concerned they are about their safety and health, for which they want to hoard as many vaccines as they potentially can.
  • And for the international community, and also for their own public, they want to flaunt their scientific capability and expertise. This is also the reason why China and Russia have gone ahead in approving vaccines that have not yet completed necessary trials to prove they are safe and effective. There are political dividends for declaring oneself the first one to develop a vaccine.

What is the correct ‘way forward’?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO), along with some other international alliances, have launched a platform called ACT (or Access to Covid19 Tools) Accelerator Programme.
  • Its objective is to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to CoVid-19 vaccines, and also therapeutics and drugs. The vaccine part of the programme is called the COVAX facility.
  • COVAX is supposed to do for the world what the richer countries are doing at an individual level —invest money into the leading candidate vaccines to accelerate their development and production. But it also has another important objective — to ensure that the successful vaccines are made equally accessible to all, at an affordable price.
  • It seeks to achieve this by ensuring that all participating countries are provided supplies to cover at least 20% of their populations, at a uniform price. Then as more vaccine doses become available, they would be distributed to countries in proportion to their population size and the extent of the problem they face.
  • COVAX is supposed to fund the research and development of multiple vaccine candidates. As of now, the facility is backing nine leading candidates. It is asking countries to join the platform and contribute funds, so that everyone can benefit.

Daily MCQs

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