Current Affair – May 27, 2021

Super moon

∙ Moon had nearest approach to Earth on May 26, and therefore appeared to be the closest and largest Full Moon or  “supermoon” of 2021.

∙ Today’s celestial event coincides with this year’s only total lunar eclipse, the first since January 2019. Significantly, a  supermoon and a total lunar eclipse have not occurred together in nearly six years.

What is a super moon?

∙ Supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest to the Earth at the same time that the Moon is full. The term  supermoon was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979. 

∙ As the Moon orbits the Earth, there is a point of time when the distance between the two is the least (called the perigee when the average distance is about 360,000 km from the Earth) and a point of time when the distance is the most (called  the apogee when the distance is about 405,000 km from the Earth). 

∙ Now, when a full Moon appears at the point when the distance between the Earth and the Moon is the least, not only does  it appear to be brighter but it is also larger than a regular full moon.

 ∙ In a typical year, there may be two to four full super moons and two to four new super moons in a row.

∙ About a month ago on April 26, there was another full moon, but the supermoon that witnessed on May 26 was closer to the Earth by a margin of 0.04%.

What happened on May 26?

∙ On May 26, two celestial events will take place at the same time.  

∙ One is the supermoon and the other is a total lunar eclipse, which is when the Moon and Sun are on opposite sides of  the Earth. 

 ∙ Because of the total lunar eclipse, the moon appear to be red.

This is because the Earth block some of the light from  the Sun from reaching the moon and as the Earth’s atmosphere filters the light, it softens “the edge of our planet’s  shadow” “giving the Moon a deep, rosy glow.”

Source: Indian Express

The Reclining Buddha Statue

∙ On Wednesday, May 26 — Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, or Vesak — India’s largest statue of the Reclining Buddha  was to have been installed at the Buddha International Welfare Mission temple in Bodh Gaya. 

∙ The ceremony has been put off due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the giant 100-foot fibreglass statue, built over three  months by a team of 22 artisans in Kolkata, remains a fascinating work of art, as much for its size as for the way The  Buddha has been depicted.

The Reclining Buddha

A reclining Buddha statue or image represents The Buddha during his last illness, about to enter Parinirvana, the  stage of great salvation after death that can only be attained by enlightened souls.  

∙ The Buddha’s death came when he was 80 years old, in a state of meditation, in Kushinagar in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

∙ The Reclining Buddha comes from this very well-recorded final moment of the Buddha’s life, which is why it could be recreated visually with such distinct details in statues and paintings. 

∙ This also signifies the Buddha’s last deeksha — even while on his deathbed, he took a follower into the fold.

Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha is supposed to be a very important event that happened in Kushinagar; it is not  simply a demise, it is the great demise, after which there is no rebirth for him. So, it is his final going away.

Iconographic representation

∙ Statues and images of the Reclining Buddha show him lying on his right side, his head resting on a cushion or on his  right elbow. It is meant to show that all beings have the potential to be awakened and be released from the cycle of death  and rebirth. 

The Reclining Buddha was first depicted in Gandhara art, which began in the period between 50 BC and 75 AD,  and peaked during the Kushana period from the first to the fifth centuries AD. 

∙ Since the Buddha was against idol worship, in the centuries immediately following his parinirvana (483 BC), his  representation was through symbols. As the devotional aspect subsequently entered Buddhist practice, however,  iconographic representations of The Buddha began.

Reclining Buddha outside India

∙ In Sri Lanka and India, the Buddha is mostly shown in sitting postures, while the reclining postures are more prevalent  in Thailand and other parts of South East Asia. 

The largest Reclining Buddha in the world is the 600-foot Win Sein Taw Ya Buddha built in 1992 in Mawlamyine,  Myanmar. 

∙ In the late 15th century, a 70-metre statue of the Reclining Buddha was built at the Hindu temple site of Baphuon in  Cambodia’s Angkor. 

∙ The Bhamala Buddha Parinirvana in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which dates back to the 2nd century AD,  is considered the oldest statue of its kind in the world.

 ∙ There are several statues of the Reclining Buddha in China, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Reclining Buddha in India

Cave No. 26 of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta contains a 24-foot-long and nine-foot-tall sculpture of  the Reclining Buddha, believed to have been carved in the 5th century AD.

 ∙ Kushinagar, where the Buddha actually attained parinirvana, has a 6-metre-long red sandstone monolith statue of the  Reclining Buddha inside the Parinirvana Stupa.

Other depictions of the Buddha

∙ Elsewhere in India, there are a lot of Buddhas in sitting postures, mostly pertaining to his Enlightenment rather than  to his demise. 

∙ At the Mahabodhi temple, the Buddha is sitting in the bhoomi-sparshamudra, where his hand is pointing towards  the ground. It symbolises earth as being witness to his enlightenment. 

∙ At Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon, the stone statue has a hand gesture called the dharmachakra  mudra, which signifies preaching. This is also the most popular depiction in India, along with the Bodhi tree depiction.

∙ Buddha is depicted in over a hundred poses around the world. While the Sitting Buddha — most common depiction — is  believed to be teaching or meditating, the Standing Buddha signifies rising to teach after reaching nirvana.

∙ The Walking Buddha is either beginning his journey toward enlightenment or returning after giving a sermon. This is the least common of the Buddha postures, and is seen mostly in Thailand.

 ∙ Buddha statues found in South East Asia are an amalgamation of all his various postures and life events, including mahaparinirvana, but not limited to it.

Source: Indian Express

The Incidence of Smoke

∙ Ahead of World No Tobacco Day (May 31), the Global Burden of Disease collaboration has published three new studies  in The Lancet and The Lancet Public Health journals. They use data from 3,625 nationally representative surveys in 204  countries. 

India had the second highest number of tobacco smokers aged 15-24 in 2019 (nearly 2 crore), and witnessed the  highest increase of male smokers in this age group since 1990. 

∙ Globally, the number of smokers increased to 1.1 billion in 2019, with tobacco smoking causing 7.7 million deaths — including 1 in 5 deaths in males worldwide. ∙ Among new smokers, 89% become addicted by age 25.


The 10 countries with the largest number of tobacco smokers in 2019, together comprising nearly two-thirds of  the global tobacco smoking population, are China, India, Indonesia, the USA, Russia, Bangladesh, Japan, Turkey,  Vietnam, and the Philippines.

 In the 15-24 age group, China (26.5 million), India (19.8 million), and Indonesia (9.91 million) had the largest  numbers of tobacco smokers in 2019. Globally, there were 155 million smokers in this age group.

India (4.67 million), Egypt (1.24 million) and Indonesia (1.22 million) had the largest absolute increases in the  number of male smokers aged 15-24. The largest increases in female smokers aged 15-24 were in Turkey (4.6 lakh)  Jordan (1.1 lakh) and Zambia (1.1 lakh).

Tacking the prevalence of smoking

∙ Reducing prevalence in any country requires two-pronged strategy.  

Step up cessation services to help current users quit

Focus on preventing initiation among adolescents and youth. 

∙ India has had excellent evidence on effectiveness of school health interventions in reducing tobacco use among  adolescents, through well conducted and published interventions like Project MYTRI (Mobilising Youth for Tobacco  Related Initiatives in India).  

∙ India has already enforced policies in favour of protecting youth from new emerging tobacco and nicotine products by  banning gutkha/smokeless tobacco in some states and e-cigarettes. 

 ∙ India can consider adopting a vision for Tobacco Endgame and Tobacco Free Future Generations to protect the youth of  the country from this growing tobacco epidemic.

Source: Indian Express

WhatsApp challenged the New social media code

 WhatsApp is taking the Indian government to court over the traceability clause in the new IT Rules 2021. WhatsApp’s  lawsuit has been filed in the Delhi High Court. 

The new IT rules include a traceability clause that requires social media platforms to locate “the first originator of  the information” if required by authorities.

 ∙ This rule will impact most messaging apps such as Signal, Telegram, Snapchat, Wire and others.  ∙ Signal and Telegram have recently gained popularity in the market. Signal is completely end-to-end encrypted (E2E)  and, in fact, WhatsApp relies on the Signal protocol for its own encryption.

What does WhatsApp’s lawsuit state?

∙ WhatsApp is invoking the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy vs Union Of India case to argue that the traceability  provision is unconstitutional and against people’s fundamental right to privacy as underlined by the Supreme Court  decision.  

∙ The plea states that the court should declare the traceability clause as “unconstitutional” and should not allow it to come  into force. 

 ∙ It is also challenging the clause which puts “criminal liability” on its employees for non compliance, it is learnt.

What has WhatsApp said about ‘traceability’?

∙ WhatsApp said that the requirement to ‘trace’ chats would be the “equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every  single message sent on WhatsApp.” This would mean that the platform will have to break end-to-end encryption,  which is turned on by default for all messages.

 ∙ Traceability would mean re-engineering the app just for the Indian market, which is unlikely to happen. End-to-end  encryption ensures that no third-party, not even the messaging app itself can track or read messages.

Why is WhatsApp against finding the originator of a message?

End-to-end encryption ensures that no one can read the message, except for the sender and the receiver. This  includes WhatsApp itself.  

∙ Nor does the app keep a log of who is sending what message and to whom. 

∙ And given it cannot read the contents of a message, finding the originator is even harder. Further many of the messages  are just copied or forwarded by users. 

∙ WhatsApp says that if it had to trace an originator, then it would have to “store information”. The argument is tracing  even one message means tracing every single message on the platform. 

∙ In order to trace messages, WhatsApp will have to add some sort of “permanent identity stamp” or effectively  ‘fingerprint’ each message, which it says will be like a mass surveillance program.

∙ WhatsApp’s argument is that traceability, even if enforced, is not foolproof and could lead to human rights violations.

Source: Indian Express 

Hurricane in Atlantic 

∙ According to United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – There was a 60% chance of an  above normal storm season in the North Atlantic Ocean. There was a 30% chance of a near normal storm season and a  10% chance of a below normal storm season.  

∙ The North Atlantic Ocean was likely to experience 13-20 named storms. In an average hurricane season there are 14  named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

 ∙ Another highlight from the NOAA release is the probable return of the La Nina conditions at a later time in the  season which begins in June and lasts till November.

La Nina 

∙ La Nina is the cooling phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. 

∙ It decreases the vertical wind shear over the North Atlantic Ocean, which is mostly responsible for an above average  storm season.

2020 Hyperactivity 

∙ The 2020 hurricane season had witnessed 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes and six major hurricanes, making it the  stormiest season on record in the North Atlantic Ocean. The 

∙ The biggest contributor to the hyperactive 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was by far the much-warmer-than- normal  ocean temperatures. ∙ Another factor was the cooling La Nina phase of the ENSO phenomenon.

Source: Down-to-earth

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