Politics & the Nation
  • Kapil Sibal gets a thumbs up from CABE; Exams for CBSE Class X students optional
    • You might remember the announcement regarding exams for Class X students being optional, made by Mr. Kapil Sibal soon after he took over as Union HRD Minister. The announcement was criticised even within the UPA circles as one that is made hastily without consulting the key stakeholders.
    • But now Kapil Sibal is given a thumbs up by the CABE -- Central Advisory Board on Education (Cabe) that comprises of state education ministers, Union ministers, heads of regulatory bodies, academics and other eminent persons.
    • After the 56th meeting of the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE), the Union Minister for HRD announced that the examination would give way to a grading system and students would be evaluated throughout the year. The move is believed to help relieve the stress on thousands of students and their families.
    • Cabe endorsed the proposal to establish a Central madarsa board through an appropriate legislation.
Finance & Economy
  • Cheers on economy front
    • INDIA’S economic growth accelerated for the first time in the past six quarters and clocked a rate of 6.1% for the first three months of the current financial year, a release by the Central Statistical Organisation on Monday showed.
    • A growth rate of 6.1% pales in comparison with the 9% that India had got used to prior to the global financial crisis. But that is a growth rate that most countries would die for, in the current global context.
  • The sugar crisis
    • Sugar production is expected to drop to 15 million tonnes in 2009-10 from 26 million tonnes a year ago. The price of sugar is expected to touch about Rs. 35 a kg.
    • In spite of the received wisdom that commodities follow a cycle of boom and bust what makes Sugar follow a cycle for extremely short durations of 2-3 years in India? Am excellent answer is given in today's ET editorial for this. Take a look:
    • Given the symbiotic relationship between farmers and mills — sugarcane cannot be transported beyond a certain distance as it loses sucrose content quickly and, thus, has to be processed by the local mill — there has to be some regulation on sugarcane prices. The Centre does set a price that seeks to cover input costs and give a reasonable return to the farmer, but these are distorted by the higher prices suggested by state governments. In a low sugar price year mills are not able to meet these prices, causing arrears to farmers, who then switch out of sugarcane to other crops causing a shortfall in the following years. Further distortions are introduced by the government’s attempt to keep retail sugar prices low through market interventions.
  • Concerns on fiscal deficit
    • Read this news report. While telling about fiscal deficit reaching targeted 40% in the first four months of the current fiscal year, it makes an interesting reading and throws some insights into other related issues. Worth a read. Do so here.
  • Interest rate futures trading makes a splashing start
    • Interest rate futures have clocked trading volumes of Rs 276 crore in their very first day of trade. Trade in the newly-launched derivatives is expected to pick up with regulators and government officials stating that the exchangetraded instruments are superior to over-the-counter overnight index swaps.
    • The contracts are based on 10-year government bonds, bearing a notional coupon of 7% per annum, compounded every six months. Close to 15,000 contracts of the two bond futures were traded on Monday — based on the 10-year notional bond maturing in December 2009 and March 2010.
  • History made in Japan's elections
    • In the recently concluded elections the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), which ruled the country uninterruptedly (almost) from 1955 onwards, was ousted from power. They lost the elections badly to the Democratic Party led by Yukio Hatoyama.
    • Many observers expect the untested Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) would overspend in a bid to revive the economy or would ruffle ties with Tokyo’s closest ally, Washington.
  • What is the row about Harpoon missile modification by Pakistan?
    • Between 1985 and 1988 the Ronald Reagan administration delivered 165 Harpoon missiles to Pakistan. These missiles are basically anti-ship missiles. But Pakistan has reportedly modified these missiles to target them at Indian land mass. The modified version of the missile would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India as these would enable its small navy to strike targets on land in India, this complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed.
    • The U.S. has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions. Both are violations of the U.S. law, including the Arms Control Export Act.
    • Pakistan is reported to have expressed its readiness for mutual inspection along with US teams to ensure that violation of arms supply contracts are not done by it.
    • Eruption of such a row even as the US Congress is in the final stages of taking a decision on providing $7.5 billion in civilian aid to Pakistan, doesn't inspire global confidence.
  • Interesting research on rice varieties
    • Researchers have identified a couple of genes that could script a new story of rice production in India and Bangladesh and Asia in general. The two genes allow deep-water rice varieties to elongate their stems to be above the rising water level, especially during floods, instead of drowning in it.
    • Transposing genes ‘Snorkel1’ and ‘Snorkel2’ into varieties that drown in deep water, these genes switched on the process by which their stems elongated. About 30% of rice acreage in Asia and 40% in Africa are rain-fed paddies exposed to fluctuating water levels.
  • DNA that gives apples their red colour is decoded
    • Scientists have deciphered the DNA code that practically paints the apple red — an advance that is helping breeders develop new apple varieties.
    • University of Auckland’s (UA) Richard Espley’s work is part of ongoing research into anthocyanins — pigments that are produced by most plants and which range in colour from red through to purple and blue.
  • India retains Nehru Cup!
    • Nehru Cup 2009 took place in New Delhi from August 19 to August 31, 2009. After the participation of Palestine was cancelled by the AIFF, the tournament was changed into a round-robin format with five teams playing each other and the top two clashing in the final.
    • The five teams participating in the Nehru Cup 2009 are Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Syria and hosts and defending champions India.
    • India defeated Syria by 5-4 (penalty shootout) in the finals on August 31, 2009 Nehru Cup International Football Tournament 2009.
Language Lessons
  • quaffing: Verb
    • To swallow hurriedly or greedily or in one draught
    • Synonyms: gulping; swigging
  • recant: Verb
    • Formally reject or disavow a formerly held belief, usually under pressure