Politics & the Nation
  • Jharkhand gets hung assembly
    • The Jharkhand electorate has once again delivered a fractured veridict, but catapulted the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) to the role of the decider. The election has shattered the expectations of BJP that its downwards slide of the last two years would be halted in Jharkhand. Equally importantly, it has ensured that Congress’ momentum is not halted.
    • The Congress, which took the right political call by signing a poll-eve deal with Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM), has managed to take the alliance’s tally to 25 in the 81-member assembly. But a new government in Ranchi will be contingent upon the support of the JMM. It not only staged an impressive comeback by bagging 18 seats, one more than its previous tally of 17, the party has also made it clear that it will support whoever backs Mr Soren’s claim to lead the government.
  • Home ministry revamp on cards?
    • In a proposal that aims to give the home ministry full control over the plethora of intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including those under the ministries of defence and finance and even the PMO, in matters relating to internal security, Union home minister P Chidambaram has proposed the setting up of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), an overarching mechanism that will be singularly responsible for preventing, containing and countering terror attacks across the country.
    • According to him, a separate department could be created within the MHA to deal with matters not directly related to internal security — such as centre-state relations, justice, human rights, UTs, disaster management, census, freedom fighters welfare — and be dealt with by a junior minister, “more or less independently.”
    • Mr Chidambaram’s radical proposal not only seeks to limit national security advisor’s (NSA) role in presiding over counter-terrorism matters, leaving him to concentrate on external threats and policy, but also aims at making the home minister somewhat of an internal security czar.
Finance & Economy
  • How are cash subsidies better than oil bonds?
    • The government is reportedly ready to compensate state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) with cash instead of oilbonds for selling petro-fuels below cost. How is this a better system?
    • The principal gain in a system of giving oil companies cash subsidies is accounting transparency of public finances. When the government issues OMCs bonds, it doesn’t show the borrowing as part of the fiscal deficit, only the interest outgo on the bonds is shown in the budget, and the final cost of redeeming the bonds, when government borrowing will take a quantum jump.
    • From a systemic point of view, this piece of fiction matters little — having invested notional receipts from the government in the so-called oil bonds, the oil companies will have to borrow from the market for cash to spend. Gross public sector borrowing requirement, which is what puts upward pressure on interest rates and inflation, remains the same whether we have oil bonds or cash compensation. But cash compensation will do away with the fiction that oil subsidies do not widen the fiscal deficit.
  • India is largest producer of milk worldwide!
    • India retained its numero uno position in world milk production this year as well and is estimated to have produced 110 million tonnes of milk in 2008-09. India’s milk production was 104.8 million tonnes in 2007-08.
    • Milk procurement of the world is estimated to be around 688 million tonnes in 2008, which was up by 1.7% compared to the previous year.
  • Why is that American economists go gaga over consumer spending?
    • Because it accounts for over two-thirds of economic activity. Consumer spending has reportedly risen by about 0.5% in the month of November. This is the second consecutive month in which consumer spending has been seen rising. In the month of October it rose by 0.6%.
    • The data was the latest evidence that households were starting to feel a bit more comfortable spending after a long period of restraint following the most painful US recession in 70 years.
    • The US economy reportedly grew at an annual rate of 2.2% in the third quarter as government programs such as the popular “cash for clunkers” bolstered spending.
  • Why is that the US$ not likely to depreciate as much as it is feared?
    • This is an excellent article that one should read. We suggest that you read it in entirety. However, one excerpt that is well worth our noting is...
    • In the evolving global paradigm, the US has been importing goods and outsourcing services from emerging countries while simultaneously investing capital in fast-growing economies. Thus, even as the US trade deficit remains within 3-6% of the GDP, returns on US equity investments in emerging economies are steadily rising, and dividend outflow diminishing due to reduced foreign equity investments in the country. These factors will increasingly offset deficits, indicating a stable long-term BoP situation for the US. The US trade deficit was about $700 billion before the Lehman Brothers crisis, while it earned $500 billion on equity investments and $350 billion through debt investment abroad — sums that certainly matched its trade deficit. This investment income will continue to grow and should balance the net deficit in the US current account, eventually even matching US interest payments made to other countries on foreign exchange reserves.
  • Pinto in Vogue's top 10 list of stylish women
    • Indian beauty Freida Pinto beat off competition from celebrities like supermodel Kate Moss and Lady Gaga to be in the top ten list of fashion bible Vogue’s annual list of the most stylish women. Read more...
    • Remember this girl? She shot into prominence with Danny Boyle's Oscar winning film "Slumdog Millionaire."
  • Microsoft Word to have a facelift?
    • This move reportedly is a consequence of Microsoft losing a court case over a patent suit. The company was given time till January 11 to make the change or stop sales.
    • The dispute is over an invention related to customising extensible markup language, or XML, a way of encoding data to exchange information among programmes.
    • BTW do you know that Microsoft Word is used by more than 500 million people worldwide?
  • Lionel Messi of Argentina voted FIFA Footballer of the Year; Malappuram in Kerala erupts in joy!!
    • Why is that a distant country's football hero's achievement celebrated back here in India? That too in a country that is cricket crazy?
    • The answer lies in the cable television. Passion for European football in this part of the world has been fuelled by multi-channel television cable operations and sustained coverage by the local media. The influence of European football in Malappuram is such that players in the local Sevens tournaments, featuring seven-a-side teams playing for under an hour, wear jerseys of popular European clubs. Fan following is such that even the latenight telecasts haven’t deterred supporters from watching the matches.
  • An interesting/absorbing story in Indian cricket
    • About how are number one Test cricket side now; though our team's fortunes in T20 and ODIs dipped. Read on...
  • until the cows come home: Idiom
    • for a very long time
    • eg: We could talk about this problem until the cows come home, but it wouldn't solve anything.
  • go bananas
    • go crazy, go nuts (slang), go insane, go bonkers (slang, chiefly Brit.), go mental (slang), go barmy (slang), go loopy (informal), go round the bend (Brit. slang), go frantic, go batty (slang), go doolally (slang), go round the twist (Brit. slang), go nutty (slang)
    • eg: People went bananas with boredom.
  • gibe
    • Verb: Be compatible, similar or consistent; coincide in their characteristics; Laugh at with contempt and derision
    • Noun: An aggressive remark directed at a person like a missile and intended to have a telling effect
  • knickknack: Noun
    • A small inexpensive mass-produced article; Miscellaneous curios
    • eg: Then we have Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi’s trail of nubile interests, a pastime that may be hit by his loss of two teeth and a mangled nose courtesy a well-aimed metal knick-knack by a bystander.