Politics & the Nation
  • Graphical pictorial warnings on cigarette packets
    • There is an ongoing war between the government and the tobacco industry regarding this.  The government has yet again caved in and gave the companies one more year to introduce pictorial warnings on cigarette packets.  Some snippets in this context are worth our attention:
    • The country records an estimated 2,200 tobacco deaths every day.
    • The Voluntary Health Association of India has reportedly pushed hard for stringent pictorial warnings on tobacco products in 2003.
    • It was in 2003 that India became a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2002.
    • Surely, pictorials make sense in India where literacy and awareness is low. The poor, most of whom are illiterate, largely consume bidi and gutka.
  • Should India attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony?
    • It is very strange that such a question should arise at all.  But it did because of Chinese insistence that all countries should boycott the award ceremony as the award of the prize itself to a jailed Chinese dissident is nothing but an affront to China.
    • Many countries are reportedly boycotting.  But India is reported to be attending; correctly.  In this context take a look at these views from two experts supporting India’s attendance.
  • 2G SCAM: Raja’s diary under lens
    • A diary purportedly containing details of payoffs to politicians of the ruling combine and journalists was found by sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation who searched the official residence of former telecom minister A Raja.
    • The diary confiscated by CBI is being scrutinised for payments made either directly or through his close associates for the 2G spectrum allocation. The diary reportedly contains names of a few hawala dealers who may have routed money to foreign countries.
Finance & Economy
  • Key panel refuses to back FDI in multi-brand retail in a hurry
    • A government panel set up to examine whether to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail has decided against making any suggestion. Instead, it is likely to propose wider consultations on the issue.
    • The panel was set up to examine the responses to a discussion paper on allowing FDI in multibrand retail and suggest a policy framework. India does not allow FDI in multi-brand retail though it allows 51% in the single-brand sector.
    • India has been under international pressure to liberalise its organised retail.  US President Barack Obama had, during a visit here last month, called upon India to remove caps on foreign investment in sectors, including retail. France also sought opening up of the sector in official meetings this week during a visit by president Nicolas Sarkozy.
    • Opening up of multi-brand retail has ramifications for farmers, neighbourhood retail shops and consumers.
    • The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties are strongly opposed to opening up of multi-brand retail, a sector that employs millions in the country. A parliamentary standing committee headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had recommended a complete ban on foreign investment in retail. However, the UPA government, sans the Left, seems more open to the idea of liberalising the sector.
  • Sibal orders probe as Tata joins war of words
    • New telecom minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday said the government will set up a one-man committee under a former Supreme Court judge to examine allocation of all telecom licences and spectrum since 2001, bringing all operators and the previous NDA government under the probe.
    • Sibal’s announcement came hours after Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata drew the BJP into the 2G spectrum scam and suggested that the ongoing probe be extended to 2001 for the nation to “know the real beneficiaries of the ad hoc policy-making and implementation”.
    • The minister said former justice Shivaraj Patil will look into all internal operating procedures of the telecom ministry and the allocation of licences and spectrum between 2001 and 2009. The objective is to examine if there were lapses and violations in policy, if the procedures adopted by the ministry were fair and transparent, and suggest remedial measures. The former judge is expected to complete his inquiry within a month.
    • The widening of the probe would mean that the controversial decision to allow CDMA operators such as Reliance Communications and the Tatas to offer full-fledged mobile services taken in the early 2000s by the BJP government too would be reviewed.
  • More than half of Americans want Fed reined in or abolished
    • A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation's independent central bank, saying the US Federal Reserve should either be brought under tighter political control or abolished outright, a poll shows.
    • The Bloomberg National Poll underlines the extent to which the central bank's standing has suffered as it has come under fire in Congress, first from Democrats for regulatory lapses before the financial crisis and then from Republicans for failing to revive an economy in which the jobless rate hovers near 10%. Voters from both parties have criticised the Fed's $3.3 trillion in aid to the financial system.
    • The Fed was founded in 1913. While Congress sets its mandate, politicians let it determine how to achieve those goals through monetary policy and allow it to resolve differences of opinion among its seven board members and 12 Reserve Bank presidents.
  • More billionaires pledge to give away wealth
    • Another 17 US billionaires, including Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, have pledged to give away at least half their fortunes in a philanthropic campaign led by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
    • A total of 57 billionaires now have joined The Giving Pledge, which was launched by Microsoft founder Gates and investor Buffett in June.
    • Gates, his wife Melinda, and Buffett have asked US billionaires to give away at least half their wealth during their lifetime or after their death, and to publicly state their intention with a letter explaining their decision.
    • The Giving Pledge does not accept money or tell people how to donate their money but asks billionaires to make a moral commitment to give their fortunes to charity. Forbes magazine said the United States is home to more than 400 billionaires, the most of any country. Individual Americans gave more than $227 billion in 2009, according to the Giving USA report.  
    • Buffett pledged in 2006 to give away 99 percent of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and family charities. Bill and Melinda Gates have so far donated more than $28 billion of their fortune to their foundation.
Language Lessons
  • cloying: Adjective
    • Overly sweet
    • eg: Yet, in sticking to the quintessentially French palette of beige, navy blue and the classic Coco Chanelesque pairing of black and white, she cleverly steered clear of appearing either condescending or cloying.