Politics & the Nation
  • Afzal Guru case
    • Afzal Guru was awarded death sentence by a Delhi court on December 18, 2002, after being convicted on counts of conspiracy to attack Parliament on December 13, 2001, waging war against the country and murder.
    • The death sentence was upheld by the Delhi High Court on October 29, 2003 and his appeal rejected by the Supreme Court two years later on August 4, 2005.
    • A sessions court also fixed the date of his hanging on October 20, 2006 in Tihar jail. Following this, Afzal filed a mercy petition with the President.
Finance & Economy
  • FDI in multi-brand retail set to get 100% backing
    • The commerce and industry ministry is likely to propose 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, opening the doors to the likes of Wal-Mart and Tesco, but will suggest stiff local sourcing requirements and mandatory investments in backward linkages.
    • Though the earlier view within the department was to keep the FDI limit at 51%, same as in single-brand retail, it has veered around to keeping it much higher and even pegging it at 100% to have an intense debate on the subject.
    • The idea is that big multi-brand retail outlets should enable growth of small retailers and not threaten their existence.
    • Mandatory domestic procurement will ensure improved returns for farmers while strong backend linkages will contribute to the development of food processing and cold chains in the country.
    • The lack of cold chains in the country leads to wastage of about 40% of the farm produce, causing a loss of about Rs 50,000 crore annually, according to industry estimates.
    • To further prevent any danger to small shopkeepers, particularly in small cities, MNC retailers will be allowed to set up stores only in cities with population upwards of one million, as per the discussion paper being given finishing touches by Dipp. They will also have to have stores with a minimum built-up area as the government wants to ensure that these lead to employment generation.
  • Sebi wants rules tweaked to ensure promoters extend full voting rights to depository receipt holders
    • The Securities & Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has recommended a change in current rules to allow holders of American Depository Receipts or Global Depository Receipts issued by Indian corporates to exercise their voting rights, raising the possibility of increased shareholder activism in future.
    • Depository receipts, or DRs, are securities issued to overseas investors by Indian companies.
    • In September 2009, the capital market regulator had brought holders of such securities under the takeover code. Investors or holders of ADRs/GDRs are entitled to vote on the shares underlying or representing the receipts, but their rights are restricted by the clauses in the ‘terms of issue’ or agreements between the holders of these instruments and the issuers. In reality, their voting rights are as good as having none.
    • The regulator now wants to prevent Indian firms issuing ADRs/GDRs from incorporating provisions which curtail the voting rights of depository receipt holders and which empower the management to exercise voting rights on their behalf.
    • ADRs form a significant minority and if the custodian votes on behalf of the ADR holders and for the management, then the incumbent obtains additional support in its favour and would easily be able to control the company. Once the new rule is implemented, each ADR holder can exercise his vote either in favour or against the management, allowing each to have a unilateral say in the company proposals.
  • Look at how much the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico is costing BP (British Petroleum)
    • The total cost to BP of the disaster to date has reached about $760 million, or $22 million a day, compared with an initial estimate of $6 million a day last month.
    • The longer it takes, more costs are going to be incurred. The final bill, which may not be known for more than six months and depends on litigation, could be as much as $10 billion.
    • About £29 billion ($42 billion) has been wiped off the company’s market value.
    • Hope all of you have by now been acquainted with the disaster in Gulf of Mexico.
  • FIFA World Cup related stuff
    • The official mascot: a stuffed leopard with spiked green hair.
    • The official World Cup anthem: “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” was written by the Colombian pop star Shakira.
    • The official restaurant: McDonald’s.
  • Trivia about Indian cinema
    • The past few months have seen many ‘firsts’ for Indian films.
    • Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live became the first Indian film to compete in the World Dramatic section of the Sundance Film Festival; Udaan became the first Hindi film in 16 years to compete in the Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival; and, for the first time an Indian film, 3 Idiots, grossed close to $7 million at the US box office.
  • Results from Cannes film festival
    • A surreal movie from Thailand about the reveries of a dying man was the surprise victor of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival.
    • As Oscar winners Javier Bardem and Juliette Binoche took the main acting honours on Sunday, little-known arthouse director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” won the best film award.
    • The director has been an outspoken critic of government censorship rules but his film steered cleared of politics, telling the tale of a man suffering from acute kidney failure who decides to spend his last days in the jungle where he is met by the spirits of the dead. Among the surprises, his son appears as a giant monkey and an old-world princess has watery sex with a talking catfish.
    • “Uncle Boonmee” is only the sixth Asian offering to win the top prize at Cannes in seven decades of the festival, and the first for more than 10 years.
    • While the best movie award went to Asia, the acting awards went to some of Europe’s biggest stars. Bardem, who plays a good-hearted terminally-ill hustler in “Biutiful” by Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, shared the best actor award with Italy’s Elio Germano, star of gritty social drama “Our Life”. Binoche was named best actress for her role as an unhappy art dealer in “Certified Copy” by Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami.
    • South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong’s “Poetry” was named best screenplay while Frenchman Mathieu Amalric won the best director prize for “On Tour”, about a troupe of buxom American stripteasers touring French seaside towns.
Language Lessons
  • farthing: Noun
    • A former British bronze coin worth a quarter of a penny
  • hoary: Adjective
    • Showing characteristics of age, especially having grey or white hair; Ancient
  • reverie: Noun
    • An abstracted state of absorption; Absentminded dreaming while awake
    • synonym: oneirism