Politics & the Nation
  • Yesterday was World No Tobacco Day
    • The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2009 is "Tobacco Health Warnings", with an emphasis on the picture warnings that have been shown to be particularly effective at making people aware of the health risks of tobacco use and convincing them to quit.
    • Want to know more about the effectiveness and the case for picture warnings? Read this content available on the WHO site.
    • In Australia, tobacco health warnings were first introduced in 1973 and continued in text form till 2006 when a new system of pictorial warnings became the norm. A 2008 study to evaluate the effectiveness of the graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging on consumers showed they have much larger impact than text-only warnings. Even better, they changed actual behaviour; raising concerns about smoking, helping smokers smoke less, increasing their intention to quit and actually quitting.
  • An excellent definition of racism; in the context racial attacks on Indians in Australia
    • It is a process whereby an individual gradually absorbs certain latent or overt exclusionary tendencies in a society and channels it against the ‘others’.
  • IAF gets new Chief: Pradeep Vasant Naik
    • THE stewardship of the IAF was handed back to a fighter pilot after a gap of 26 months. Air chief marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, a distinguished fighter pilot, on Sunday took over as chief of Indian Air Force. He replaces air chief marshal FH Major, who superannuated on Sunday.
    • Air chief marshal FH Major was the first officer from the nonfighter pilot stream to have been handed over the reins of the IAF. He was a helicopter pilot.
    • Air chief marshal Naik has assumed the charge at a time when the IAF is undergoing rapid modernisation and is in the process of acquiring 126 medium multi-role Combat Aircraft, 22 combat helicopters, 15 heavy lift and 197 Light Utility Helicopters for its fleet.
  • Keeping Maulana Masood Azhar on UN's terror list hits road block from UK
    • BRITAIN has put a roadblock on India’s efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Maulana Masood Azhar on the UNSC terror list. India’s request to put the JeM chief along with Lashar-e-Taiba intelligence chief Azam Cheema, who is an accused in the Mumbai train blasts, on the list has hit a hurdle after Britain asked for a confirmation of the evidence provided by India.
  • Jobless rate in US hits a record high in 25 years
    • The jobless rate climbed to 9.2%, the highest level since September 1983, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey ahead of the Labor Department’s June 5 report.
  • What is the expenses scandal that is rocking the British parliament?
    • The scandal has claimed so far the scalps of a dozen or so MPs besides that of its Speaker itself.
    • A former SAS officer leaked the details of parliamentarians’ expense account claims to a national daily. Some MPs have been caught ‘flipping’ their government paid-for second homes, and claiming on both. Others have been running minor diddles, renting from family members, or allowing kids to stay in official homes.
    • It has almost decimated UK’s Parliament — across all parties, with delicious details trickling out daily. Public outrage, fuelled by a maddened media, has peaked.
    • Consider the details that are being leaked. The names are irrelevant, but one claimed for dredging his moat in his country house, others claimed for hiring a tax advisor, for renting homes from their relatives and friends, for hiring drivers, and even for garden improvements that included a duck pond. Anti-posh Britain is horrified. I suppose it would be okay to claim for being out with the lads at rugby, but not for duck ponds.
    • Gordon Brown, himself, is accused of paying a few thousand quid for sharing a cleaner with his brother.
Finance & Economy
  • Banks can't guarantee corporate bond issues; rules RBI
    • BOND issues planned by a host of corporates to raise over Rs 3,000 cr on the back of bank guarantees will have to be scrapped with the Reserve Bank clarifying on Friday that existing norms do not permit such guarantees.
    • The trigger for the ruling arose out of the necessity to interpret a July 2008 circular issued by the RBI which had said that banks could guarantee loans from other banks and financial institutions. The RBI said that guarantees by the banking system for a corporate bond or any debt instrument not only have significant systemic implications but also impede the development of a genuine corporate debt market.
    • However the RBI clarified that Tata Motors Rs. 4,200 crore NCD issue will be allowed to be guaranteed by SBI. This is what is described as “regulatory forbearance.” In reaching this decision, RBI was mindful of the fact that the interest of investors would be jeopardised, if the guarantee were to be withdrawn after the event.
  • A graphical look at the state of the country's economy
    • When the UPA government took over the reins of power in 2004 what was the state of the economy? And what is its state today when it is voted back to power? Take a look at this picture.
  • An ET guide on circuit breakers in stock markets.
  • Now disinvestment process will have to meet targets
    • THE new UPA government at the Centre plans to raise Rs 10,000 crore through stake sales in state-owned units over the next one year, more than what the previous UPA government achieved during its entire five-year tenure.
    • During its previous tenure, the UPA government had raised about Rs 8,500 crore through disinvestment, less than a third of the Rs 28,000 crore raised by the Vajpayee-led NDA government.
    • Since the economy was liberalised way back in 1991, the central government has raised Rs 53,423.03 crore from stake sales in state-owned companies till May 31, 2008. While Rs 35,358.01 crore has been raised through sale of minority stakes, Rs 6,334 crore has been netted through strategic sales.
    • Revitalisation of the disinvestment process is considered important for providing resources to the government to bridge the fiscal deficit, which crossed 6% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2008-09. Especially, since the government has stepped up social and infrastructure spending to help the economy retain a healthy growth rate.
  • Record aviation industry losses
    • The industry is staring at a cumulative loss of Rs 30,000 crore per year, largely contributed by the three full-service carriers — Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher. The combined debt of the three could reach Rs 45,000 crore by the end of this fiscal.
    • While Indian aviation industry accounts for 17% of global losses, it only accounts for 2% of global traffic.
    • How did the trio fly into this air pocket?
    • Analysts point their fingers at the reckless expansions that Kingfisher and Jet undertook in both, the domestic and international sectors, without any real demand. The roller coaster ride of the aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices didn’t help things. Some analysts even say that the egos of the promoters, too, played a part in this aviation drama.
  • Competition Commission is on the prowl; corporates beware
    • The recently formed CCI (Competition Commission of India) appears to be in a hurry to rein in anti-competitive practices indulged in by corporates.
    • For example, predatory pricing, or selling cheaper than the rival’s product to capture the market, will be considered legal so long as the consumer benefits from it. The moment the company that captured the market through undercutting, raises the price in the absence of a rival product, the regulator will crack its whip, explained the official.
    • The commission was empowered from May 20 to impose a penalty of 10% of the turnover of any company entering into an understanding with another in a way that stifles competition in the market.
    • In the case of cartelisation, the penalty can be the higher of 10% of the turnover of each of the participants or three times the profits from the cartel.
Quote of the day:
  • “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones” -- Mark Antony
Language lessons
  • disingenuous: Adjective
    • Not straightforward or candid; giving a false appearance of frankness
    • eg: "an ambitious, disingenuous, philistine, and hypocritical operator, who...exemplified...the most disagreeable traits of his time"; "a disingenuous excuse"
  • palaver: Noun
    • Flattery intended to persuade; Loud and confused and empty talk
    • eg: The MPs' expenses scandal has till now claimed over a dozen MPs across all parties; the Speaker has quit, another 20-odd will stand down at the next elections, and Labour is trailing polls in third place, behind the Tories and even the UK Independent Party, for the local and European parliament elections next week. So what’s all the palaver about?
  • diddle: Verb
    • Deprive of by deceit; Manipulate manually or in one's mind or imagination