Antarctica island loses 20% ice in 10 days, NASA images show 





  • Antarctica, earth’s coldest continent, experienced a dramatic warm spell in February. One of its islands, the Eagle Island, lost 20 per cent of its ice in 10 days, according to a new pair of images captured by National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Landsat-8 satellite.
  • The images were released by NASA’s Earth Observatory. They showed the island — with major pond-like formations on its snowpack — on February 4, 2020 and February 13, 2020.
  • These images, when compared by experts, showed that mercury peaked to 18.3 degrees Celsius in the Antarctic Peninsula on February 6. This surpassed the previous record of 17.5°C, set in March 2015, according to NASA data.
  • On February 9, researchers on the nearby Seymour Island saw their thermometers hit 20.75°C, setting another all-time high for the continent.




  • Scientists have attributed the rising temperatures to climate change.
  • Strong ‘foehn’ winds — which are dry and warm — also contributed to the melting of ice, according to NASA Earth Observatory.
  • The Eagle Island is off the Graham Land of the Antarctic Peninsula. According to climate models, three centimetres (cm) of ice on the island melted on February 6, 2020. A total of 10.6 cm — which is about 20 per cent of the island's seasonal snow accumulation — has melted so far.
  • Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist at Nichols College in Massachusetts, said the heat wave has melted the island’s 1.5 sq km ice, according to NASA Earth Observatory.
  • Melting down of huge amount of ice can lead to rising sea water levels, causing floods and disruption of marine ecosystem.


What Thailand can teach us about mental health 


  • If we do not increase our efforts to tackle mental health problems, the global economy could lose up to $16 trillion by 2030;
  • In Thailand, more than 3 million people live with poor mental health and face stigmatization.
  • The Sati app aims to address the issue while offering a more empathetic approach to mental health care.


  • By the time you’ve finished reading this article, at least four people will have taken their own lives.
  • According to the WHO, there is one death by suicide every 40 seconds and each year more than 800,000 people end their own lives.
  • One of the leading causes of suicide is mental health disorders. Globally, one in four live with some sort of mental health disorder – around 450 million people.


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Here are some of the facts from Thailand : 

  • More than 3 million Thais live with poor mental health;
  • Every 9 mins 55 secs, one person attempts suicide;
  • Every two hours, one person is pronounced dead as a result of suicide;
  • More than 50,000 people attempted suicide in 2018;
  • There were 4,134 deaths registered as suicides in 2018;
  • Not all deaths were reported owing to stigmatization;
  • The government-run suicide hotline received 800,000 calls in 2018;
  • Less than 20% of the calls were answered by the hotline owing to a limited number of staff and lines.

       Taking all this into account, Sati app has been developed. 

        An on-demand, listening service that connects users with a trained, empathetic listener via app. 


Why invest in mental health? 


  • If we do not increase our efforts to tackle mental health problems, the global economy could lose up to $16 trillion by 2030.
  • In the US alone, the cost of one suicide is estimated at $1.32 million. Despite these figures, mental health has been neglected globally.
  • The actions of one group alone will not change this. We need the private and public sectors and advocacy groups to tackle the issue plaguing societies across the globe.
  • Mental health is one of the most stigmatized issues in Eastern cultures.
  • We need to provide far better education on the issue for the public, as well as for the media, in order to prevent copy-cat suicides or the Werther Effect.
  • Apart from educating the public, governments need to dramatically increase their spending on mental health.
  • According to the WHO, in 2017 the global median for mental health expenditure was only $2.5 per capita compared to $141 per capital for general domestic health. There is also a shortage of mental health workers – the global median is 9 workers per 100,000 people.


Need more mental health advocates 


  • Mental health advocates play a major role in tackling, destigmatizing, empowering and creating an understanding of mental health.
  • This is because many, if not all, of these advocates have lived experience with mental health disorders.
  • There is no one cause, one solution or one way a person will experience these disorders.
  • Ones experience with major depressive disorder may be similar but is not the same as the next person. This is why we need to empower those living to share their stories.
  • The more we are able to share, the more understanding we will have of the issue and the more we can assure those currently living with mental health disorders that they are not alone.


Way forward 


  • For a long time, we have neglected what being an empathetic human means. 
  • We have always been taught how to present and look smart and intelligent, yet when it comes to listening from our heart, we don’t know what to do.
  • Let us work towards a world where we don’t just look at GDP to tell us how well our economy is doing, but rather at the well-being of people. Let us move towards a world where ROI doesn’t mean return on investment, but “return on individuals” instead.




  • As India and the US elevated the partnership to India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership, the joint statement covered major areas of defence, terrorism, Afghanistan, and a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.


  • According to the statement issued, the two countries looked forward to an “early conclusion” of Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), expressed interest in the Blue Dot Network, added Haqqani network and Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) in the list of terror groups against which concerted action are to be taken, reaffirmed US support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group “without any delay”.


Some key takeaways in the joint statement: 




  • A thrust on “early conclusion of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement” is a key feature of the joint statement, as this is one of the last of the foundational agreements, and it largely pertains to geo-spatial intelligence requiring information sharing on maps and satellite imaging for defence purposes.
  • The US has already submitted a draft pact, and India has sought more details on the extent of information needed to be shared under this arrangement.




  • With China moving to expand its strategic footprint through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Blue Dot network, a new proposal to cover infrastructure and development projects across the region and other countries, found a mention.




  • There is just one paragraph on terrorism, and it omits any mention of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which was mentioned in the 2017 statement.
  • But, names of the Haqqani network and TTP are included, along with terrorist groups LeT, JeM and Al Qaeda, which was missing in the 2017 statement.
  • It mentioned Pakistan, cross-border terrorism and expeditiously bringing justice to the perpetrators of Mumbai and Pathankot terror attacks.




  • In a major development, the two sides have agreed on a common language, which was very identical to India’s traditional position, and even talked about India’s role in development and security assistance to Afghanistan.
  • While it talks about Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, it does not mention Afghan-controlled –– since in reality the peace process is controlled by other players, including the US.




  • With India in other multilateral export control regimes, it said Trump reaffirmed US support for India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group “without any delay”.




  • For Trump, this has been the most important issue. After months of negotiations, they were unable to come to a deal.
  • But the joint statement said that the two countries “agreed to promptly conclude the ongoing negotiations, which they hope can become phase one of a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement that reflects the true ambition and full potential of the bilateral commercial relations, advancing prosperity, investment, and job creation in both countries”.




  • With US President Donald Trump on his maiden visit to India, the two countries are expected to have discussed the Blue Dot Network, a proposal that will certify infrastructure and development projects. Observers have referred to the proposal as a means of countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was launched over six years ago.




  • Led by the US’s International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Blue Dot network was jointly launched by the US, Japan (Japanese Bank for International Cooperation) and Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in November 2019 on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Thailand.
  • It is meant to be a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to bring governments, the private sector and civil society together to promote “high quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development”.
  • The projects that are approved will get a “Blue Dot”, thereby setting universal standards of excellence, which will attract private capital to projects in developing and emerging economies.




  • The proposal for the Blue Dot network is part of the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed at countering Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious BRI.
  • Blue Dot may be seen as a counter to BRI, it will need a lot of work for two reasons.
    • First, there is a fundamental difference between BRI and Blue Dot — while the former involves direct financing, giving countries in need immediate short-term relief, the latter is not a direct financing initiative and therefore may not be what some developing countries need. “The question is if Blue Dot is offering first-world solutions to third-world countries?”
    • Secondly, Blue Dot will require coordination among multiple stakeholders when it comes to grading projects. “Given the past experience of Quad, the countries involved in it are still struggling to put a viable bloc. Therefore, it remains to be seen how Blue Dot fares in the long run.” (Quad is an informal strategic dialogue between the US, Japan, Australia and India)




  • Prior to 2001, US foreign policy was focussed towards integrating China into its plan, but this changed after China’s emergence as a global superpower.
  • Under Barack Obama, US foreign policy started shifting focus to Asia, where the US wanted to counter China’s growing influence.
  • In fact, the National Security Strategy (NSS) under Trump says the following, “China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favour.”
  • From the US’s point of view, the Indo-Pacific region, which stretches from India’s west coast to the west coast of the US, is the most economically dynamic and populous part of the world.
  • Further, the US sees China’s infrastructure investments and trade strategies as reinforcing its geopolitical aspirations, including efforts to build and militarise outposts in the South China Sea, which as per the US, restricts the free movement of trade and undermines regional stability.




  • Trump said, will “enhance our joint defence capabilities, as our militaries continue to train and operate side by side”.
  • In the absence of a major trade deal, the deal to buy these helicopters for the Army and the Navy have been one of the biggest outcomes of Trump’s visit. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the purchase of 24 multi-role MH-60 Romeo helicopters, through the Foreign Military Sale government-to-government route, and six Apache AH 64E Apache helicopters for the Army.
  • While the 24 Romeo helicopters will cost close to $2.2 billion, the six Apache helicopters will cost approximately $800 million. The six choppers for the Army will be in addition to the 22 Apache helicopters that have already been ordered for the Air Force.
  • The MH-60 Romeo Seahawk, made by defence giant Lockheed Martin, is one of the most advanced naval helicopters in the world, used by the US Navy, among others. It can not only track and hunt ships, but is also used by the US Navy as anti-submarine weapon.






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