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EU successfully launches 5th satellite of Copernicus observation program

European Space Agency (ESA) successfully launched Sentinel-2B satellite, fifth of its Sentinel Earth observation satellites part of its multi-billion-euro Copernicus observation program.

The optical imaging satellite was launched on board of a Vega rocket from ESA’s spaceport in French Guiana. It marks overall ninth successful launch of the Vega launcher since its debut in 2012. 

Key Facts
  • The Sentinel-2B satellite is part of satellites system that monitors Earth. It will join its twin Sentinel-2A, which has been in orbit since 2015. The two satellites will orbit 786 km above Earth, on opposite sides of planet.
  • They will take high-resolution, colour and infrared images for a wide array of environmental initiatives, including crop forecasting and monitoring natural disasters.
  • Together, they will cover all of Earth’s land surfaces, large islands, inland and coastal waterways every five days, providing more up-to-date images and at higher resolution than have been available.
  • It will help track pollution of lakes and coastal waters, monitor land changes and produce disaster maps by providing information on floods, landslide and volcanic eruptions.

About Copernicus observation program

  • Copernicus observation program is the world’s largest single earth observation programme. It is directed by the European Commission in partnership with ESA.
  • It consists of constellation of seven Sentinel Earth observation satellites. The first satellite of the series was launched in April 2014.
  • It aims at achieving a global, continuous, autonomous, high quality, wide range Earth observation capacity by providing accurate, timely and easily accessible information.
  • It also aims at improving the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure civil security.
  • Copernicus observation program is successor of previous European Envisat program which operated from 2002 to 2012.

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2 Yazidi women Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar win 2016 Sakharov Human Right Prize

Two Yazidi women Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar have been selected for European Union’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for Human Rights for year 2016.

Both of them were among thousands of Yazidi girls and women who were abducted by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and forced into sexual slavery in 2014. But both survived and had escaped sexual enslavement. Now they campaign for the Yazidi community.

They also have become figureheads for effort to protect Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion with more than half a million believers concentrated in northern Iraq.

About Sakharov Prize

  • The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is annual award given by the European Parliament.
  • It is bestowed on individuals or organisations who have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought.
  • It was established in December 1988 and is named after Soviet scientist (physicist) and dissident Andrei Sakharov.
  • The first prize was jointly awarded to Nelson Mandela and Russian human rights campaigner Anatoly Marchenko.
  • It is awarded annually on or around December 10 (also celebrated as Human Rights Day), day on which UN General Assembly ratified Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

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United Kingdom in historic referendum votes to exit European Union

People of United Kingdom (UK) in a historic Brexit referendum have voted in favour of leaving European Union (EU).

In the Brexit referendum, the ‘Leave’ side won decisively by securing 51.9% of the total votes overturning ‘Remain’ side which secured 48.1% votes.

This is the second referendum on UK’s relationship with the EU. In 1975, in a referendum on whether the UK should stay or leave the EU, the country voted for staying with 67.2% votes.

After results were declared UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the architect of the referendum and a passionate supporter of UK within the EU, announced stepping down as Prime Minister in October 2016.

What now?

The vote to leave the EU now has triggered a two-year ‘withdrawal process’ which will determine the future of UK’s relationship with the EU. At the end of withdrawal process, UK exits the single market, then EU countries will start imposing tariffs on British products.

Why UK wants to leave the EU?

  • Many in the UK think that the EU has transformed a lot over the years.
  • Since formation of EU, several countries have joined it and UK thinks that since then EU’s hold over everyday aspects of these countries has increased.
  • Many think that Britain is shelling out billions of pounds every year in the form of EU fees without much gain in return.
  • UK also thinks that EU’s some constraints have imposed many opposing rules on Britain’s business.

What does UK’s exit means?

  • Henceforth UK will be able to secure independent trade deals with important countries such as India, China and US.
  • Thus, it can have a stronger influence for free trade and cooperation with other countries as in EU it was having independent influence.
  • Now it will have control over wide areas like employment, health, law and safety and immigration policies.
  • UK can also save billions of EU fees and use it for scientific researches and for building new industries.

What critics believe?

  • By leaving EU, UK would not be able to obtain better trade terms with other countries. It would face problems with different regulations of EU.
  • Leaving EU will not help UK to reduce immigration as countries that trade with EU from outside have higher rated of immigration, including from EU countries.
  • Other EU members may call for independent protectionism and ultra-nationalism which in recent times is getting hardened across the world.

Impact on India

  • UK’s exit from the EU will affect the flow of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in India over the short-medium term and the long term periods.
  • In short-medium term period FDI may decrease temporarily and potentially led to financial instability and a legal regime overhaul. In the long-term FDI may fall.
  • Many Indian information technology (IT) companies based in the UK with large work forces that offer services to Europe Union member countries will be hit.

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