Politics & the Nation
  • Are the NPS (New Pension Scheme) charges too steep?  What is your take on the subject?
    • An ET editorial feels that they are indeed so.  We agree with that view.
    • Each subscriber is required to pay an annual record keeping charge of Rs 350. In addition, any subsequent transaction would invite a Rs 30 levy — Rs 10 by the CRA (Central Recordkeeping Agency) and Rs 20 from the intermediaries, point of presence (PoPs). Since there will have to be at least four transactions every year, the minimum annual cost comes to Rs 470. 
    • The base charges would drop to about Rs 350 a year once the subscriber numbers increase, but even that would be steep for the lowest bracket saver who puts in the minimum four contributions of Rs 500 each. For every Rs 2,000 he contributes to the scheme, such a saver is paying nearly Rs 350 in fixed costs every year. 
    • Wouldn't it make sense for the small investor to put the entire Rs 2,350 in a fixed deposit or other schemes such as the public provident fund? 
    • This debate on NPS that appeared in today's ET is worth a read.  Take a look.
Finance & Economy
  • The unfolding of the Satyam saga
    • Take a look at the conclusions arrived at by the SFIO -- Serious Fraud Investigation Office -- of the central government.  It shows that there was a systematic attempt at making undue gains.
  • Telecom licence renewal may cost more
    • Companies providing cellular services may have to shell out sizeable sums to renew their licences to continue operating which may be due to expire in the coming years. A government panel, which was set up to resolve all spectrum-related issues, has recommended that telecom companies should pay a fee equivalent to the market value of the spectrum they hold at the time of renewal. Most telecom operators had got their licences in the early 1990s for a 20-year period which is set to expire over the next couple of years. 
    • Currently, these companies can get a pan-India licence for Rs 1,651 crore, a rate determined in 2001. India is divided into 22 circles and each of them has a different entry fee, and the total adds up to this amount. 
  • Seimens and BHEL to form JV to manufacture power turbines
    • The proposed JV is expected to manufacture the entire range of super critical equipment ranging from 660 mw, 800 mw and 1000 mw turbines. Siemens, which is introducing power equipment based on ultra-super critical technology (having even higher efficiency), in the global markets may use its partnership with Bhel to manufacture the machines even for the Indian market. 
    • But what is super critical equipment?  Take a look at this noting we made in Discover It some time back that explains among other things, about this super critical technology.
  • Banks have reportedly parked huge sums with Mutual Funds.  A look at a question answer session on why they are doing so:
    • What are banks doing? 
      • Banks collectively parked Rs 40,423 cr in various MF schemes between Mar 27 and Apr 10. They have parked a total of Rs 85,557 cr with MFs 
      • This is over and above the Rs 82,074 crore that banks have pumped into govt bonds 
    • Why are they doing it? 
      • Banks cannot keep all their money in RBI’s daily money market operations since the returns here are less than their cost of funds 
    • Where are banks investing? 
      • Most of the investments are flowing into liquid MF schemes since these offer an instant exit with no penalty 
    • How much have banks lent? 
      • Banks have lent only Rs 1,429 cr in the first fortnight of FY10
  • Wolfram Alpha
    • Know anything about this?  It is the next generation web search engine.
    • Invented by Stephen Wolfram, the author of best-selling Mathematica software, a standard tool for scientists, engineers and academics for crunching complex maths, this search engine will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers.
    • Wolfram Alpha will not only give a straight answer to questions such as “how high is Mount Everest?”, but it will also produce a neat page of related information such as geographical location and nearby towns, and other mountains, complete with graphs and charts. If you ask it to compare the height of Mt Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you, says the inventor.
    • Scheduled to be launched later this month, this is already evoking a huge interest in Internet enthusiasts and novices alike.
  • What are WHO pandemic levels?
    • THE World Health Organization (WHO) may declare the outbreak of H1N1 influenza a pandemic even as many cases of swine flu show symptoms no more severe than seasonal flu.
    • The WHO raised its six-tier alert to 5 on April 29 and a further elevation would signal a pandemic, alerting governments to enact plans to curb the disease. Ireland became the 17th country on Saturday to confirm swine flu and the new virus may be spreading in five nations among people unconnected to Mexico, where cases were first reported. 
    • Take a graphical view of the spread of the virus.
    • But what are these pandemic levels?  Look at this 4 minute BBC video that explains the varous pandemic levels.

  • Mind blowing valuation for IPL
    • The Indian Premier League is now valued at $2 bn!!
    • Once derided by purists as ‘pyjama cricket’, IPL has generated huge economic value for both its owner, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), and the eight team franchisees. And it has set the stage for the franchisees to list their teams on the stock market.
    • The IPL brand alone has a value of over $312 million.  
    • The most-valued IPL team surprisingly is Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), which is languishing at the bottom of the table in the second edition of IPL, currently going on in South Africa.  It has a brand value of $42.1 million.
Language lessons
  • zeitgeist: Noun
    • The spirit of the time; the spirit characteristic of an age or generation
    • eg: Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown are feted as cheerleaders of the new zeitgeist.
  • hock: Verb
    • Leave as a guarantee in return for money; pawn
    • eg: This time of the year is when peasants usually hock their belongings to raise loans.
  • rococo
    • Adjective: Having excessive asymmetrical ornamentation
    • eg: It’s an outstanding example of 18th century rococo lavishness, with an elegant library, marble state rooms and elaborate parlours, and surrounded by high mountains which remain snowclad for much of the year.
    • Noun: Fanciful but graceful asymmetric ornamentation in art and architecture that originated in France in the 18th century
  • gainsaid: Verb
    • Take exception to
    • eg: Besides, it cannot be gainsaid that it is far better to debate a question without settling it, than to settle a question without really debating it!