Politics & the Nation
  • Today is the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy
    • It is being marked in 16 countries around the world including the US.
    • Many of you would not have been born when this tragedy occurred. But we are sure, you would have heard/read about this tragedy sometime in your life.
    • That being the presumption some facts / snippets that are worth our attention on this solemn occassion (culled out from an article in today's ET) are:
    • In 1983, almost a year before Tank Number 610 at the Union Carbide factory leaked, spitting out 42 tonne of the lethal methyl isocyanate into the air, Shahnawaz Khan sent a legal notice to the management asking them to install foolproof safety measures at the unit. “It had become impossible to sit in my office, which was just across the plant. My eyes would start burning, and the skin would constantly itch,” says Khan, now 58, and still practising in Bhopal.
    • On April 29, 1983, Union Carbide works manager J Mukund sent a reply to Khan, threatening legal action “to be defended at your risk and cost”.
    • On December 3, 1984, the disaster struck, killing thousands instantly, and compromising the health of a generation.
    • About Rs 600 crore is the amount that the central government has distributed thus far among Bhopal’s 5,74,367 victims. The first cheque arrived in 1992 in the form of an interim relief of Rs 200 per month, three years after Dow deposited $470 million in its account.
    • The former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson, who has been declared a fugitive by Indian courts, lives in retirement in the US.
    • Not a single person has been convicted so far, 25 years after the tragedy, though there is no dearth of trials and charges.
    • On the eve of this occasion look at what ET has penned in its editorial today:
      • ...However, that was only the beginning of the tragedy, which continues to unfold as a saga of official callousness, political and administrative ineptitude, legal procrastination, botched medical study of the effects of mass poisoning, large-scale, prolonged human suffering and its cynical exploitation by a few and overall failure to leave the accident behind and move ahead.
      • As as far as the victims are concerned, no one has played fair — not the courts that put their seal on a paltry monetary settlement that remains final although the actual number of victims has turned out to be five times as large as the group for whom the compensation was worked out; not the government that distributed compensation 20 years after the accident and arbitrarily terminated a judicial probe; not the Indian Council of Medical Research, which discontinued its studies for mysterious reasons; not industry, which turned its back on the accident.
  • Lata conferred with France's highest civilian honour
    • Noted singer Lata Mangeshkar was conferred with 'Officier de la Legion d'Honneur', France's highest civilian award at a glittering function in Mumbai on Wednesday night.
    • The award was presented to the 81-year-old singer by French Ambassador to India Gerome Bonnfont.
Finance & Economy
  • RBI brings cheer to expats
    • RBI has amended the rules making it possible for expats to take their entire post-tax salaries home.
    • Earlier, expats could take only 75% of their salaries abroad.
    • This will benefit sectors such as aviation, telecom and infrastructure that employ a large number of expats, making it easier for them to attract talent from abroad.
    • The entire salary of expat employees is taxable in India, according to current tax provisions. Experts said the move would insulate expats from exchange rate fluctuations.
  • Winemakers to target masses?
    • The country is expected to produce 3,000 tonne more grapes in 2009 than current demand. This is obliging winemakers to pick up the demand and look at ways of taking wine to the masses.
    • Though official figures are difficult to obtain, by expert consensus, current wine consumption in India stands at around 1.2 million cases of domestic wine and around 300,000 cases of imported wine annually.
  • Fiscal deficit worries
    • The country's fiscal deficit at the end of the first half of the current fiscal year (April-September) stood at a high 7.9% of the nominal GDP compared to 4.4% in the corresponding period last year.
    • Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had estimated the full-year fiscal deficit in Budget 2009 presented in July at 6.8%, assuming the nominal GDP would be Rs 58,56,569 crore.
    • Expectedly, the rise in fiscal deficit was due to a sharp decline in government’s tax revenues during the period even while its total expenditure, which included payment of arrears of the Sixth Pay Commission award, climbed nearly 29%, year-on-year.
    • Take a look at this graphic to get the details of figures.
  • Remember Steven Levitt of the "Freakonomics" fame?
    • Here is one more such research that exemplifies seemingly simple facts delivering monumental insights into societal phenomena.
    • This one says that ‘female’ scores lag ‘male’ scores in maths. It goes on wonder why there is this difference and why it persists. Read about it here.
    • Let us hope he will come up with an answer soon.
  • What causes 'haze' over cities?
    • Light absorbing carbon particles or Black carbon.
  • Some 'gyan' on baby boomers
    • Know who are called baby boomers? People who are born between 1946 and 1966 are called baby boomers traditionally.
    • This particular age group should be of significant interest to marketers since it is in this group is a large sub-group that has the disposable income to spend on myriad products and services.
    • Take a look at this discussion about baby boomers and their potential. Normally such 'gyan' is the preserve of marketing MBAs.
  • Nato secretary general: Anders Fogh Rasmussen
  • Trivia on Scotch Whisky
    • The liquor being distilled today can’t be called Scotch whisky until it’s three years old and then often has to age for at least another seven before it’s bottled as a single malt. It also has to be made in Scotland.
  • It rained records in the third test
    • India, replying to Sri Lanka's 393 in the first innings of the third and final test, raced to 443 for one in just 79 overs of batting on the second day.
    • Despite the host batting 36 minutes after start in the morning, 443 is the most runs scored by India in a day in Tests.
    • Sehwag's 284 runs in a day ranks only behind Walter Hammond's 295 and Don Bradman's 309.
    • And Sehwag's 200 – reached in a mere 168 balls – is the second quickest in Tests.
Language Lessons
  • ergo: Adverb
    • (used as a sentence connector) therefore or consequently
    • eg: ...That leaves producers like Mr Nathe with two options: convert the excess grapes to brandy, or produce more wine and market them better to the uninitiated. Ergo, the 180-ml bottle from new player Redwing Wines, priced at Rs 120; and Associates Wines’ brands launched between Rs 100 and Rs 150.
  • Yank: Noun
    • An American who lives in the North (especially during the American Civil War); An American (especially to non-Americans)
  • pestilential: Adjective
    • Likely to spread and cause an epidemic disease
    • eg: "pestilential plagues"