Essential Facts (Prelims): 9 and 10 December, 2018


  • A study has found that talcum powder is harmful to the lungs when inhaled during breathing and could possibly cause ovarian cancer when used by women in the genital area.
  • Talc or talcum is a clay mineral consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate.
  • Talc finds wide use including in cosmetics, paints, ceramics.


  • Sunspots follow a cyclic pattern of growing in number and disappearing in approximately 11 years, known as the sunspot cycle or the Sun’s activity cycle.
  • We are currently in the 24th sunspot cycle since the observation of this cycle began, in 1755.
  • There have even been speculations that the Sun may be heading towards a period of prolonged low activity – what solar physicists describe as a ‘Maunder-like minimum’.
  • The Maunder minimum refers to a period from 1645 to 1715 where observers reported minimal sunspot activity — the number of sunspots reduced by a factor of nearly 1,000, over a period of 28 years. During this and other such periods of low activity, some parts of Europe and North America experienced lower-than-average temperatures.
  • While the connection between the Maunder minimum and the climate on earth is still debated, it gives another reason to watch the sunspots.


  • Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is the most dangerous form of TB and occurs when the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium infects tissues in the central nervous system.
  • The disease, which disproportionately affects young children and HIV-infected individuals, is extremely difficult to treat because antimicrobials such as the first-line drug rifampin cannot adequately penetrate the blood-brain barrier that protects the nervous system.


  • India to retain top position in remittances with USD 80 billion: World Bank- The New Indian Express
  • Representational image of Indian workers in the Gulf. (Photo | File/Reuters) By PTI WASHINGTON:
  • India will retain its position as the world’s top recipient of remittances this year with its diaspora sending a whopping USD 80 billion back home, the World Bank said.
  • India is followed by China (USD 67 billion), Mexico and the Philippines (USD 34 billion each) and Egypt (USD 26 billion).
  • With this, India has retained its top spot on remittances, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief.
  • Over the last three years, India has registered a significant flow of remittances from USD 62.7 billion in 2016 to USD 65.3 billion 2017.
  • In 2017, remittances constituted 2.7 per cent of India’s GDP.
  • Global remittances are expected to grow 3.7 per cent to USD 715 billion in 2019.
  • Reducing remittance flows to three per cent by 2030 is a global target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.7.
  • The average cost of remitting in South Asia was the lowest at 5.4 per cent, while Sub-Saharan Africa continued to have the highest at 9 per cent.


  • Now that GSAT-11, the third and latest Internet-boosting communication satellite, is up in space, ISRO says it is in the process of readying a ₹150-200-crore ground infrastructure across cities to use it.
  • A Ka-band hub or gateway each is being set up in Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Ranchi to deliver high-speed broadband services via the giant satellite.
  • Along with its older HTS mates — GSAT-19, GSAT 20 (planned) and GSAT-29 — it forms an Indian quartet of high-throughput satellites (HTSs).
  • Each of them has a different space location over India and must have its own ground systems.
  • The ground systems are being put up by external agencies chosen through competitive bidding. They will also be operated and maintained by them for five to seven years.


  • Bioplastics — often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics — may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study.
  • Bioplastics are derived from renewable sources such as maize, wheat and sugarcane.
  • An increased consumption of bioplastics in the following years is likely to generate increased greenhouse gas emissions from cropland expansion on a global scale.
  • Plastics are usually made from petroleum, with the associated impacts in terms of fossil fuel depletion but also climate change.
  • It is estimated that by 2050, plastics could already be responsible for 15% of the global CO2 emissions.
  • Bioplastics, on the other hand, are in principle climate-neutral since they are based on renewable raw materials such as maize, wheat and sugarcane.
  • These plants get the CO2 that they need from the air through their leaves, researchers said. Producing bioplastics therefore consumes CO2, which compensates for the amount that is later released at end-of-life. Overall, their net greenhouse gas balance is assumed to be zero. Bioplastics are thus often consumed as an environmentally friendly alternative.
  • However, at least with the current level of technology, this issue is probably not as clear as often assumed.
  • The production of bioplastics in large amounts would change land use globally. This could potentially lead to an increase in the conversion of forest areas to arable land. However, forests absorb considerably more CO2 than maize or sugar cane annually, if only because of their larger biomass.

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, t proposes citizenship to six persecuted minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before 2014.


Karmapa is the head of one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism.


In a first-of-its-kind exercise code-named CROSS BOW-18, the Indian Air Force conducted combined guided weapons firing of Surface-to-Air Missiles.