Politics & the Nation
  • Republic Day parade celebrated with great fervour
    • The recent Mumbai terror attacks had made my resolve to observe R-Day stronger than ever.  Stayed glued to the TV to watch the parade at Delhi.  Took lot of pride in our military; though I was also immediately reminded of Rabindranath Tagore's and a few other sages' sayings that we all belong to one nation and one religion i.e., humanitarianism.
    • I was quizzed as to why our military wings have music bands.  I didn't recollect having studied anything about it.  I surmised that without music the march pasts of long columns of soldiers would be sombre and boring.  That is why I presume they would intersperse columns of marching soldiers with music bands.
    • Have a better explanation?  Please proffer it in our shout-box.
    • One important snippet that we should remember from GK point of view is the Chief Guest.  Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan.
    • And finally, it gives the government a lot of comfort that even Obama has sent out warm greetings on the occasion by saying that India has no better friend or partner than the US.
  • The DDA scam
    • Delhi Development Authority is known for being corrupt.  But what is shocking this time is that some top officials of the DDA in collusion with some real estate brokers have resorted to fictitious applications for the flats put on sale and garnered the flats for themselves.  The idea is to sell them in the kerb for a tidy profit.  To hell with the real and needy applicants.
    • Nationally, there is a huge demand-supply gap — over 20 million dwelling units — in low-to-middle income housing. 
Finance & Economics
  • Internet usage statistics in Asia
  • On generics and IMPACT
    • Generics are the cheaper versions of drugs on which the patent has expired. In India, very few drugs are patent-protected and almost all drugs are ‘generic’ as per international parlance. Indian firms — big as well as small — sell ‘generic’ or off-patent drugs at a price much lower than the inventor’s price. Indian generic drug industry exports medicines worth around Rs 30,000 crore. 
    • The MNC lobby therefore is obviously unhappy with the state of affairs and wants to clip India's pharma industry's wings.  It tried to do this through IMPACT (International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce), a WHO agency, which tried to redefine counterfeit drugs.  The redifinition would have made most of the generics made in India counterfeit, even when they contain the right amount of chemical ingredients.
    • The proposed new definition defines counterfeit drugs as medical products with ‘false representation about its identity, history or source.’ 
    • Luckily for India, WHO decided to shelve its plans of redefining counterfeit medicines.
  • What is scraping?  In internet parlance.
    • It refers to the act of stealing proprietary software like games.
    • When you can't stop your software from being stolen, what do you do?  Just join the thieves?  Right?  
    • That's what a web site called Games2Win.com has just done.  It came out with a technology called inviziads and placed ads on such stolen games from its website.  The moment a stolen game is played, the ads will pop up.
  • India ASEAN FTA to be signed in February?
    • India-Asean trade, which has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 27%, stood at $38.37 billion in 2007-08. It is projected to reach $48 billion in 2008-09. 
    • The FTA provides for elimination of tariffs on 80% of tariff lines in a phased manner by 2015. For about 10% of additional tariff lines on the sensitive track, the tariffs will not be eliminated but brought down to 5%. India has 489 items, mostly farm products, on the sensitive list which will not be subject to tariff cuts. 
  • Is there a difference between Hamas and Al Qaeda?
    • In an article of high intellectual calibre, Pothik Ghosh argues that it would be "inaccurate to equate Hamas with Al Qaeda merely because both articulate their politics in the idiom of religious Islam. The latter posits its Islam as an anti-democratic institution that needs to be imposed on the entire world in the form of an international caliphate. For Hamas, on the other hand, Islam is an organic language of resistance and autonomy. Al Qaeda is a force of fascist regression, Hamas, the harbinger of struggle and hope."
    • Students of political science should not miss such highly analytical articles.  Recommend a read for others also.
  • Japan urges people to have more babies!
    • At 1.34, its birthrate is well below the 2.0 needed to maintain Japan's population.  Hence the government as well as companies there are doing all they can to encourage people to have more babies.
    • As part of this effort Canon, is reportedly letting its employees leave early twice a week to encourage them to have more babies.
    • Keidanren, Japan's largest business group, with 1,300 major international corporations as members, has issued a plea to its members to let workers go home early to spend time with their families and help Japan with its pressing social problem.
  • What's the big deal about stem cell research?  Why is it in the news?
    • The US FDA has given its green signal to conduct stem cell research in humans.
    • Embryonic stem cells are master cells found in human embryos, which give rise to more than 200 specialised types of tissue in the adult body. They have vast medical potential, because the can be grown into any kind of tissue to replace cells damaged by injury or disease. Stem-cell therapies could eventually be used to treat conditions such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, as well as paralysis.
    • Use of embryonic stem cells, however, is contentious because they must be harvested from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process. This has raised moral objections from those who believe embryos have the same rights as living people and see the technology as unethical.
    • The issue is especially acute in the US, where it has become entwined with the fraught politics of abortion. Opposition to stem-cell research is led by the evangelical Christian lobby, whose influence prompted President Bush to ban most federal funding in 2001 — the Geron work was financed entirely by the private sector. Stem cell research is legal in Britain, where it is encouraged and funded by the Government.
Language lessons
  • conflate
    • Verb.  Mix together different elements
  • divvy up
    • Verb. Give out as one's portion or share