17.02.2010

Politics & the Nation
  • Single national level entrance exam for students in the offing
    • Efforts are underway to hold a single national-level entrance test for students to get admission into engineering, medical and commerce courses from 2013.
    • This will smoothen the admission process into engineering, medical, economics and commerce courses and will reduce the burden on students who are appearing in multiple-tests for admission.
    • The Council of School Board of Education (COBSE) has reportedly prepared a core-curriculum for senior secondary classes in science and mathematics subjects. A similar core curriculum will be prepared in commerce in three months.
  • India to counter Chinese threat by deploying Akash and Agni missiles in North East
    • Take a look at this news report. Makes an interesting reading.
    • India plans to progressively base six surface-to-air Akash missile squadrons, a few Agni III and Agni V ballistic missiles in the North East to counter Chinese threat.
    • China is reportedly upgrading as many as 14 airfields in Tibet, of which at least half are now fully-operational. Its Linzi airbase, for instance, is not even 30 km away from the LAC in Arunachal.
  • Lent
    • It is a period ahead of Easter which Christians traditionally consider a time of penance and reflection. It's beginning today.
    • We have noted about this earlier also in our blog. Take a look at it in the postings on 9th February, 2009 and 22nd January, 2007.
  • How do you tackle irresponsible political parties?
    • It is a thought provoking essay that deals with this issue. Worth a read. Some excerpts:
    • Such unconstitutional acts -- staging bandhs and not allowing movies to be screened for partisan reasons -- are usually perpetrated by parties that cannot win elections but have enough clout to disrupt normal life for the law-abiding majority.
    • Parties that behave in unconstitutional ways should, therefore, be banned from participating in elections at all levels — national, state or local — for a period of time whose length should be determined by the nature of the offence and by past behaviour. If it is a first offence, the ban could be for less than a year. However, if the party is repeatedly indulging in serious offences, the ban could extend to 10 years to ensure that the leaders of these outfits realise that there is a price to be paid for being incorrigible.
    • The law banning political parties should be drafted in a way to ensure that irresponsible leaders cannot contest elections merely by changing the name of the outfit. One way of doing this is by banning not just the party that behaves unconstitutionally but also all those who have been elected from that party at the national, state or local level.
  • A tribute to our democracy
    • January 24, 2010, marked the diamond jubilee of one of the most remarkable institutions in the world, the Election Commission of India.
    • Last year, it conducted a nationwide election with over 700 million voters — more than the combined population of the European Union and the US.
    • Using a million electronic voting machines, Indians voted in 8,00,000 booths — some in very remote locations at altitudes of over 15,000 ft.
    • About five million volunteers supported the commission in this mammoth feat of management.
    • In this election, as in the many others the commission has organised in the past 60 years, people had faith the election process was fair.
Finance & Economy
  • Wine story gone sour in Maharashtra
    • An excerpt from a very good news story that appeared in today's ET:
    • Wineries in Maharashtra no longer sparkle. More than half of the state’s 58 wineries have either closed down or stopped producing wine due to the glut in the market. Nearly 20 lakh litres of wine, which amounts to 25% of India’s total production, are lying unsold.
    • Of the state’s 58 wineries, 32 are in dire straits. From a promised rate of Rs 60 per kg, grapes are now being offered at Rs 25-30 a kg.
    • In the past few years, seduced by the promise of an industry that seemed to be both agricultural and glamorous — and also conveniently benefited Union agriculture minister and state political leader Sharad Pawar’s personal fiefdom of Baramati — it poured out the incentives a little too lavishly.
    • This started with a slew of concessions to the wine sector, including zero excise, no stamp duty and registration and land at concessional rates. The state appointed the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) as the nodal agency to develop winery parks in the two major grape-producing districts, Sangli and Nashik. Wine retailing was made easier through a special wine and beer licence that was available both to individual retailers and supermarkets. And last October, just ahead of the state Assembly elections, the Congress-NCP government topped up its largesse by reducing VAT to 4% from 25% last October.
    • Not surprisingly, grape cultivation in the state has been increasing by 10% every year, with currently over 3,000 acres under grape cultivation. Maharashtra has been the single-largest contributor to the Rs 300-crore winery industry in the country.
    • France and Italy have an average wine consumption of around 60-70 litres per person a year while it’s 25 litres in the USA, 20 litres in Australia and 4 litres in China, whereas in India it's just about 4-5 ml per person per year.
    • Wine producing is as much a craft as it is a business, and this is where many of the winemakers lost their way. The problem starts in the vineyards where most farmers cultivated wine grapes like table grapes, maximising output. Yet, wine requires the opposite approach, with relentless pruning and discarding of grapes so as to focus only on the best. Most of the vineyards ended up producing poor wine, which would have no chance in the export market, and even falls short in the developing domestic market.
  • Indian music trends
Science & Technology
  • World's most precise clock created?
    • Scientists claim to have created the world's most precise clock based on the oscillation of a trapped aluminium-27 atom. Built at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado, it could tick off the 13.7-billion-year age of universe to within 4 seconds.
    • The second is currently defined by caesium atomic clocks, but optical clocks promise higher precision because their atoms oscillate at the frequencies of light rather than in the microwave band, so they can slice time into smaller intervals. Such clocks could reportedly help spot tiny changes in physical constants over time.
Music
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships
    • Pandit Jasraj, Kishori Amonkar, Yamini Krishnamurti and Shreeram Lagoo are among six eminent personalities in the field of performing arts who have been chosen for the rare and prestigious honour of Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships announced on Monday.
    • The General Council of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, also chose Lalgudi Jayaraman and Kamlesh Dutt Tripathi for the fellowships.
    • There are only 32 Fellows of the Sangeet Natak Akademi at present.
  • praxis: Noun
    • Translating an idea into action
    • eg: Yet, this incident could well be momentous, or at least its significance must be grasped, and more pressingly, enshrined as praxis.
  • argot: Noun
    • A characteristic language of a particular group
    • eg: The country is, in the argot of banking, too big to be allowed to fail.
  • bluster
    • Noun: Noisy confusion and turbulence; A swaggering show of courage; A violent gusty wind; Vain and empty boasting
    • Verb: Blow hard; be gusty, as of wind; Show off; Act in an arrogant, overly self-assured, or conceited manner
    • eg: Amid the bluster, Pakistan expressed willingness to go ahead with foreign secretary-level engagement and said that February 25 was “not a bad date” for talks.
  • fawning: Adjective
    • Attempting to win favour from influential people by flattery; Attempting to win favour by flattery
    • eg: Considering security authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport insist that the see-through images taken on their recently-installed scanners are deleted the moment the person exits the area, the prints of Shahrukh Khan’s images, which he graciously autographed for the fawning personnel (wo)manning the area, are therefore quite inexplicable.

4 comments:

Himanshu said...

Link for music trends is not working.Thanks

icamaven said...

Since updated. Working now.

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