Politics & the Nation
  • The third Third Front
    • For those of us who are political novices, some gyan about 'Third Fronts' from today's ET:
    • Vishwanath Pratap Singh led the first third front government at the Centre in November 1989.  It was called the National Front and had parties like DMK, TDP and Akali Dal, apart from Janata Dal.  The NF needed the support of the Left Front & BJP to cross the half-way mark, as Congress was still the largest party with over 190 seats.  The National Front collapsed 10 months later, when BJP withdrew support and Singh lost a confidence vote, in the aftermath of the Mandal-Mandir agitation.
    • The second time a ‘third front’ was formed was in 1996. It was christened the United Front and was headed by Deve Gowda. .It had several parties like DMK, Tamil Manila Congress, TDP, AGP, apart from Janata Dal.  The United Front had to be supported by Congress to secure a majority in the Lok Sabha.  Congress withdrew support to the Gowda government in a year but supported it under the leadership of I K Gujral.  The UF government collapsed after it refused to budge to Congress demand for removal of DMK ministers, following the Jain Commission report which supposedly passed adverse remarks against DMK's links with LTTE.
    • Now in its third version, the regional parties and the Left have appeared on one platform in Tumkur, Karnataka.  Pundits are however writing it off in spite of its gaining some political gravitas.  Let's wait and see how events will eventually unfold.
Finance & Economics
  • FDI inflows are on the rise
    • Foreign investment inflows into India grew 90% in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, indicating that the country continues to be an attractive destination for investors despite a fall in economic growth rate. 
    • Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows during the April-November period stood at Rs 85,700 crore compared with Rs 45,000 crore in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, despite most of the developed world reeling under the impact of a global recession. According to the FDI data compiled by the commerce and industry ministry, investments from three Asian countries — Mauritius, Singapore and Japan — contributed more than 55% of the total inflows during the period. 
  • A dip in inflation is no longer headline news!
    • India's inflation rate fell for the sixth straight week to 2.43% for the week ended February 28, in line with expectations, but there was little succour for household budgets with food items more than 8% dearer than what they were a year ago. 
  • Some encouragement from IIP numbers?
    • India's industrial output fell by 0.5% year-on-year in January, but a strong showing by the consumer durables and capital goods sectors helped lift the sense of gloom, as economists predicted a recovery was underway and numbers would improve in the months ahead. 
    • These are only provisional figures as yet.  Finally when the figures are released, it is likely that they will see a revision upwards.  Experts are predicting that by the time the final revisions are in place, the IIP figure may even be in the positive territory.
Science & Technology
  • A battery that gets charged in a few seconds
    • Scientists at MIT are designing a battery that can recharge in a few seconds as against a couple of hours at present.  
    • If the attempt succeeds this will be like a manna from heaven for all the laptop and cell phone users, besides perhaps speeding up the use of battery driven vehicles.
    • What exactly happens when a battery is being charged?
    • When a lithium battery is being recharged, positively charged atoms or ions flow from the lithium electrode to the carbon one. When a battery is discharging, the ions flow the other way. 
  • In spite of the IMF expectations that global GDP growth would dip below zero in the current calendar year, how can we say that the World may escape a repeat of the 1930s experience?
    • One, world leaders and central banks have been far more proactive than during the Great Depression. We’ve seen country after country announce huge stimulus packages. 
    • Two, there is growing realisation that co-ordinated policy action, at least by the bigger powers, can alone save the day. So despite all the posturing about raising protective barriers and rise of economic nationalism, chances are we will not see a return to protectionist trade practices on a large scale. 
    • Three, the Fund itself is likely to see a sharp increase in its resources. The US administration has called for a tripling of ‘IMF firepower’. So, with a little luck, the immediate global resource crunch might be resolved. 
  • Take a look at this table.
    • It gives you details of the top forex reserves hoarders of the world today.
  • Take a look at this Forbes list of the world's richest
    • Can you identify all of them and what they do?
    • Mukesh Ambani pipped Lakshmi Mittal to the post as the richest Indian.
    • The other richest Indians are Anil Ambani, Sunil Mittal, Azim Premji and the Ruia brothers.
    • This ET report is an interesting read.
  • Killing in self defence is legal; rules Supreme Court
    • What a judgment!!  But it has come 30 years slow for the duo that killed another person in self defence.
    • A person can kill another when there exists a reasonable apprehension that his adversary is going to cause him/her grievous injury even though he might not have actually inflicted any, the Supreme Court ruled.  Read this news report in full.
Language lessons
  • gravitas: Noun
    • Formality in bearing and appearance
  • oeuvre: Noun
    • The total output of a writer or artist (or a substantial part of it)