Finance & Economics

  • NELP VII round contracts awarded
    • The government awarded 44 oil and gas exploration blocks, with the maximum going to ONGC and its partners and first timers BHP Billiton-GVK Power, to attract $1.5 billion investment.
    • Of the 45 blocks that received bids, only Cairn Energy's sole bid for deep water block off the Mumbai coast was not awarded.
    • NELP VIII is expected to be annonced in February 2009.
  • India Turkey begin FTA talks
    • Seeking to upgrade relations to a new level, India and Turkey on Friday decided to start talks for a free trade accord, double bilateral trade to six billion dollars by 2010 and deepen cooperation in counter-terrorism.
    • This was announced during the current visit of the visiting Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
  • Warren Buffet losing touch?
    • Going by the way investors are getting our of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, the company managed by Warren Buffet, one is sure to get this kind of doubt.
    • Can you imagine the share price of this company? Its Class A share quoted a high of $1,51,650 in December last. But now it is going for around $74,100.
  • Citigroup being troubled, JPMorgan Chase being closely watched
    • It is reportedly in talks with the US government for a bail out. Its CEO Vikram Pandit's job may be on the line.
    • But what are its troubles? Depositors and derivatives clients are reportedly fleeing the bank. The cost of protecting Citi's debt against default rose on Friday, but is still low enough to imply that investors are not worried about the bank making good on its obligations. Much more than what is wrong internally with it, it appears that the negative investor and stakeholder sentiment is what appears to be hurting it.
    • Get feel of the size of Citi. It has assets of over $2 trillion. In contrast, India's GDP is about $800 bn to $1 trillion (varying according to the dollar value.)
  • Florida boy's suicide live on web
    • I was aghast, am sure you will all be, on reading about a Florida boy (Abraham Biggs) who committed suicide while streaming it live on the web through his blog.
    • What is repulsive in the whole episode is that it was watched live by a number of people - some dissuading him, some encouraging him and some remaining in disbelief.
    • Incidents like these coupled with the various other misuses that the web is put to - pornography, crime, terrorism, financial embezzlement etc., - stun us into wondering whether or not mankind has invented something that is increasingly behaving like a Frankenstein.
    • Why can't the technology wizards of world come up with a solution for a more meaningful regulation and oversight of the web?
  • Zimbabwe health crisis: over 294 killed by cholera
    • Zimbabwean health care system is reportedly in tatters. Their sanitation systems also are reportedly in very worse condition. Because of this the country is paying a huge price in human lives.
    • WHO reports that over 294 people died of cholera outbreak and that about 6,072 cases of cholera are reported.
    • Do we need terrorists and wars to kill people? Would it not perhaps make sense to all the world leaders to pour their billions of dollars into education and health for a couple of years, declaring a moratorium on military spending?
    • Even in our country, the secenario on sanitation doesn't look encouraging. It is said that at any given time more than half the hospital beds in the entire country are occupied by patients of water borne diseases.
  • Al Qaeda targets Barack Obama; denounced by American Muslim clerics
    • In an audio message on the Internet, Al Qaeda compared Obama unfavourably to Malcolm X. The American Muslim clerics promptly came out in support of Obama and denounced the message attributed to Al Qaeda.
    • But who is Malcolm X?
      • He is the fiery African-American Muslim activist from the 1950s and 1960s, who was an early member and leader of the Nation of Islam. He left that group in 1963 over disillusionment with its then-leader, Elijah Muhammed, but remained a Muslim.

      • After months of death threats, he was assassinated in 1965 by members of the Nation of Islam who shot him 16 times at close range.

  • On toilets and their availability
    • Of the 2.5 billion people in the world who lack access to proper toilet facilities, India has the dubious distinction of accounting for 100 million. If we include the number who don't have a toilet in their house, that number goes up to 360 million.
    • The Planning Commission estimates we will need to build 112,300 toilets every day if we are to attain the Millennium Development Goal to end the scourge of open defecation by 2012. Part of the reason for this abysmal state of affairs is, as always in India, poor delivery; another is lack of awareness of the ill-effects of poor sanitation and hence societal reluctance to change toileting habits.
Science & Technology
  • International Space Station (ISS) marks 10th anniversary
    • It is now 10 years since the ISS has been put in place. Two of the developments that are worth our attention in this regard:
    • The space station is being expanded. The additions include -- a freezer, an oven for scientific experiments, two new sleeping quarters, exercise equipment and a second toilet.
    • It will also be set up with a $250 mn urine recycling machine which will obviate the need for ferrying large amounts of water from Earth. Every year about 6.8 tons of waste water is produced on the station. Now with recycling all of it can be used as drinking water.
  • 39th International Film Festival of India
    • The festival got off to a colourful start at Panaji on Saturday with more than 100 films from over 40 countries expected to be showcased during the ten-day extravaganza, dedicated to the celluloid world.
    • 'The Warlords', a Chinese flick by filmmaker Peter Chan opened the festival, while the Iranian film 'The song of the sparrows' directed by Majid Majidi will be the closing film.
    • IFFI 2008 will have a special tribute to Iranian filmmaker Niki Karimi.
    • Indian Panorama will have 47 Indian films including 26 feature films and 21 non feature films.
    • Indian film veterans Dilip Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, B Saroja Devi and Tapan Sinha would be conferred lifetime achievement award constituted by Government of India to commemorate 60th year of India's independence during the festival.
Language lessons
  • festoon
    • verb: Decorate with strings of flowers
    • eg: A place that is covered in graffiti and festooned with rubbish makes people feel uneasy.
  • squeamish
    • adjective: Excessively fastidious and easily disgusted
    • eg: "so squeamish he would only touch the toilet handle with his elbow"
  • shrinking violet
    • It was a learning experience seeing this phrase in this sentence: "Mrs G herself was no shrinking violet."
    • Who is a shrinking violet?
      • Noun:someone who shrinks from familiarity with others
      • shy person
      • coward - a person who shows fear or timidity
      • wallflower - remains on sidelines at social event