Politics & the Nation
  • How can we say that transparency is found wanting in the existing PPP (Public Private Partnership) model of infrastructure building?
    • The government is reported to be considering barring the participation of sector regulators from taking up equity in infrastructure projects being built on PPP basis.  The fact that this practice is allowed thus far, itself points to the lack of transparency.  How can a regulator be a party in a project, which he is supposed to regulate?
    • The proposal to bar regulators, was mooted by the Planning Commission last month.  If accepted, regulators and government entities such as port trusts and AAI would stop being a part of any infrastructure project.  A gist of some other proposals in the scheme:
      • Existing road projects would be the basic model for future ventures.  
      • The changes would be applicable on future projects & existing projects won’t be affected.  
      • JVs between private and public sector entities may be allowed.
Finance & Economy
  • Terrorism pool
    • This is a fund which was created by our insurance industry to offer insurance cover for losses arising out of terrorist activity.  Consequent to the 9/11 attacks in US, the global reinsurance companies made terror attacks an 'excluded risk'; meaning that they won't be covered under the reinsurance.  Following the creation of the pool, terrorism cover began to be sold as an add-on risk on property insurance (residential and non-residential) and on group covers. 
  • We have heard corporate head honchos reel off volumes about innovation being very crucial for results and / or survival.  But if it comes from a Chess player, it is worth a re-look; isn't it?
    • Do read this interview  with Vishwanathan Anand, our celebrated Chess champion sharing his thoughts on how to navigate these troubled times.  Interesting read. 
  • Explaining dollar's strength
    • In spite of the US being in recession and facing humungous financial troubles, how is that its currency is appreciating against major currencies of the world?  Conventional wisdom tells us that a currency's strength is determined by the fundamentals of its economy.  When the fundamentals are weak, how is it that it is still appreciating?
    • Take a look at Neeraj Kaushal's explanation:
      • Clearly, the dollar has benefited from the fact that it continues to be the international currency of exchange, trade and reserve. 
      • The strengthening of the dollar is also helped by the fact that Japan and the economies of the euro zone are as deeply sunk in recession as is the American economy and growth in China and India is projected to be lower than it had been in the previous few years. 
      • Most of all, fright in world financial markets has sent investors running away from risky assets towards the US dollar and US treasury bonds. 
    • Having said that he argues that Asian economies have to creatively invest their resources in productive activities instead of parking them in US treasuries, to bring the world economy out of recession.
    • With calls like these, it is a matter of time before some flight of capital happens away from the dollar.
    • Those of you, who are as enamoured as I am with this subject, can read this story.
  • With reports of Japan facing a severe recession than what was expected, it looks like as if the world should be prepared for a long haul
    • Japan, which slashed interest rates to 0.1% last week, reported the biggest drop in exports in November.
    • The People’s Bank of China announced its fifth cut in lending rates since mid-Sept 
    • British central bankers feel interest rate cuts alone could not be the remedy
    • Does it mean that the central bankers are searching something beyond quantitative easing?  What could it be?
  • Union for the Mediterranean
    • Launched in July by Mr Sarkozy the current President of the EU, it brings together leaders of 43 countries from the EU and the sea’s rim. It is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.
    • BTW Presidency of the EU is a rotating one.  Currently, it is France which holds the post.  From January 1, 2009 it will be going to Czechoslovakia.
  • Schengen visa
    • It should be something related to China; isn't it?  
    • Wrong.  It is European visa that allows the holder to visit any of the 24 countries that allows tourists a visit without a further visa.
    • The latest country that has joined this Schengen visa system is Switzerland.
  • A new way of preserving lungs for transplantation
    • It is very difficult to preserve lungs out of a human body for long hours.  Just two hours is what is considered possible.  But a new system which is tried raises hopes of preserving them for about 12 hours.
    • The Toronto XVIVO Lung Perfusion System technique involves pumping a bloodless solution containing oxygen, proteins and nutrients into the damaged donor lungs, which are protected in a special chamber.
    • This allows the surgeons the opportunity to assess and treat injured donor lungs, while they are outside the body.
Language lessons
  • insouciance
    • Noun: The cheerful feeling you have when nothing is troubling you
  • schadenfreude 
    • Noun: Delight in another person's misfortune
    • eg:  Under her larger-than-life predecessors, N Vaghul and K V Kamath, ICICI Bank earned a reputation for professionalism but also an insouciance that inspired both awe as well as a certain amount of schadenfreude among its rivals when it ran into trouble. 
  • spinmeister
    • Noun: A public relations person who tries to forestall negative publicity by publicizing a favourable interpretation of the words or actions of a company or political party or famous person


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sriram srirangam said...

Czech Republic, not Czechoslovakia is the President of EU from Jan 1, 2009. Please recall the velvet revolution, Ramakrishnaji.

ramkyc said...

Thank You Sriram. Old habits die hard, you know. I stand corrected. It is Czech Republic.