Politics & the Nation
  • Swiss to amend laws to accommodate Indian concerns
    • Switserland has reportedly said that it will amend its laws to accommodate India’s demand for providing it with the list of tax evaders who have parked money in its banks.
    • Swiss Law does not permit fishing expeditions, or indiscriminate trawling through bank accounts in the hope of finding something interesting. It began disclosing the identity only after they were presented with evidence of terror finance after the 9/11 attack.
  • Obama knows how to reach out to various peoples of the world
    • Take a look at this snippet! He is celebrating Diwali in White House!
    • He is not preaching -- either conversion to other religions, beliefs or faiths -- he is just practicing what he has been preaching -- tolerance and accommodation to other beliefs and faiths.
    • This is what Gandhiji has said while he was alive. If only a majority of us could follow Gandhi, the way Obama could.
  • Peace prize or not, we get to learn more about the way Nobel Peace prize is awarded
    • Take a look at this news report, which is reporting about the objections to peace prize for Obama.
    • It is perhaps the first time in recent times that it is being drilled in everyone's mind that it is Norwegian Parliament which declares the peace prize. Many of us would have otherwise been blissfully attributing it to Sweden.
  • Pakistani chickens come home to roost
    • Take a look at this news report about Pakistan being under seize from within. Terrorists have been relentlessly striking at it with impunity. This is what happens when you groom terrorists. They will one day turn against you. This has what happened to the US in Afghanistan. This is what is happening to Pak now. It has happened to us in India too. Remember Bhindranwale and the LTTE?
  • An excellent insight into China's claims over Arunachal Pradesh
    • Take a look. This is from Brahma Chellany a noted strategic affairs expert.
Finance & Economy
  • Know the Sivakasi of the World?
    • We all know that Sivakasi in Tamilnadu is the place from where we all get our firecrackers for every Diwali. The town makes eight out of every 10 crackers made in the country.
    • But it is Liuyang city (China) — which produces 90% of the world’s firecrackers.
    • More on Sivakasi:
      • Historians say Sivakasi’s association with China dates back a long time. Ever since the British imposed curbs on Indian fireworks factories in Kolkata after the first war of independence, India has been importing crackers from China.
      • The Nadar community, which built Sivakasi’s matchwork factories, embarked on the firecracker business by importing crackers from China in the early decades of the 20th century. An industry cluster started getting built around Sivakasi as Shanmugam Nadar and Iya Nadar set up the first units in late 1930s to combat import restrictions during the Second World War.
      • Today, Sivakasi is home to around 450 firecracker units employing 40,000 people, and providing livelihood to another 1 lakh. Revenues from cracker sales last year were Rs 1,500 crore, which could take a 30% hit this year because of sluggish demand.
  • What is the estimated potential of our country in so far as crude and natural gas are concerned?
    • The estimates suggest that 1 billion tonnes of crude and a trillion cubic metres of gas may be in situ in sedimentary basins.
  • Why is the NELP VIII round a failure? Can you identify some causes?
    • First, the fiasco over tax exemptions on the production of natural gas. While there were no questions over tax exemptions till two years back, now it was stated that all investments made so far (till 2008) will not be eligible for tax breaks if the exploration results in the production of natural gas. Although tax sops will be available for new finds irrespective of oil or gas, investors are unsure of how long it would continue.
    • Then there is the flip-flop over the terms in the production-sharing contract and the various interpretations to the tenets of the contract over the last one year has raised far too many questions on the contractual sanctity and India’s regulatory regime.
    • Thirdly, the new Production Sharing Contract (PSC) has reduced the oil company to a mere contractor. It mandated that the oil company will have to sell as per the government’s utilisation policy and at prices approved by the government. This is in sharp contrast with the previous PSCs that were more liberal and market friendly.
    • Last but not the least is the impact of the ugly legal battle between two of India’s largest corporate groups — RIL and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group — that has raised some fundamental questions over regulatory issues and the role of the government.
    • If you want a greater elaboration on the above points, read today's op-ed in ET.
  • On chaos theory
    • Chaos theory, more commonly known as the ‘butterfly effect’, revolves around the notion of vast consequences emanating from a rather small action.
    • The 1972 paper read at a US science meet, which first made this idea popular, was titled “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” The idea being that the flapping of those wings might alter or affect the course of a storm far away.
Science & Technology
  • What are the risks associated with the introduction of GM foods? What exactly needs to be done to mitigate these risks?
    • Three possible consequences of GM foods present rational risks: allergic reactions, gene transfer and outcrossing. The first is self-explanatory. The second one relates to the possible transfer of the ingested new genes to the bacteria inside the gut leading to unforeseen consequences like resistance to antibiotics. Outcrossing is jargon for GM crops getting mixed up with traditional crops. All GM foods are extensively tested to prevent and control for these risks.
    • Only when it is ensured after repeated trials and tests that these risks are minimal or have been mitigated is approval given for introduction of a GM crop or foods based on GM crops.
    • The problem in India is the general lack of faith in the integrity of the testing and approval process. Even if the final committee that grants the approval is above board, suspicion lingers that the data they are presented with have been tampered with. People fear that agribusinesses can influence decisionmakers in high places, who could, in turn, make science pliable in the mouths of weak-kneed scientific personnel. This is a systemic issue that goes beyond particular ministers and officials. Reforming this is the key to introduction of GM foods.
    • (Answer is an excerpt from today's ET editorial.)
Language lessons
  • chickens come home to roost: Idiom
    • earlier actions come back to cause trouble for a person; haunt
  • cringe: Verb
    • Draw back, as with fear or pain; Show submission or fear
  • shrink: Noun
    • A physician who specializes in psychiatry
    • Such worries present healthy commercial opportunities — for the shrink, for science fiction publishers and the seminar/protest circuit, respectively — but pose no serious threat to human well-being.
  • patio: Noun
    • Usually paved outdoor area adjoining a residence


Satish Mantha said...

Please fix the "Pak under seize" link. It currently refers to the Peace Prize link.
Thank you.

icamaven said...

Hi thanks for pointing it out. Since done.