Politics & the Nation
  • Should India change its plans to go for nuclear power in the light of Fukushima experience?
    • Take a look at this well reasoned editorial, which argues that India should not get unduly worked up.  All the same it calls for a thorough review and stress tests for all our existing reactors.  More talking heads on our national TV from our nuclear establishment are the need of the hour.  Will they please come out and explain to the nation the difference between what is being experienced in Japan and how/what our nuclear reactors are made of?
  • Raja associate Batcha found dead in Chennai
    • A close associate of disgraced former telecom minister A Raja was found dead just as the investigation into the telecom scandal reaches a crucial juncture, but the CBI said the event will not hamper its work. Sadhick Batcha was found hanging at his home in Chennai, his family said, as opposition parties in New Delhi and Tamil Nadu clamoured for a probe into the circumstances of the 37-year-old’s death.
    • Batcha’s company Green House Promoters, investigators say, is one of the vehicles used to launder alleged kickbacks from the sale of 2G airwaves in 2008 by Raja when he was the telecom minister. Green House was set up by Batcha shortly after his mentor took charge as environment minister in 2004. Raja’s nephew RP Paramesh Kumar and his brother A Kaliaperumal are on the board of the company. The former minister’s wife Parameshwari resigned as a director in 2008.
    • Batcha was considered a crucial link in the money trail of the alleged kickbacks that were paid by some telecom players for securing 2G spectrum licences. Besides being suspected by the CBI to have been involved in laundering the bribe money on behalf of Raja and parking the funds abroad, Batcha’s firm was found to be in possession of large tracts of land across Tamil Nadu.
    • Late on Wednesday, police said they found a 'suicide note' written on Tuesday by Batcha. In it, he is said to have absolved Raja and Parameshwari and blamed the media for blowing up his role in the scam "out of proportion". His 'suicide note' says he could not "bear the embarrassment" of the raids and the intense media attention.
    • The death, which came just hours before Batcha was supposed to board a flight to meet CBI officials in Delhi, further complicates matters for the DMK, which will be fighting assembly elections next month with its back to the wall.
Finance & Economy
  • Government mulls parallel import of copyrighted books; publishers cry foul
    • The government is considering a proposal to legalise the ‘parallel import’ of copyright works through Copyright Amendment Bill, 2010.
    • If enacted, a proviso to section 2(m) of the Indian Copyright Act would permit the import of legitimate copies of copyright works that have been sold once anywhere in the world.
    • This amendment aims to foster enhanced competition amongst distributors and thereby enable Indian consumers and students to access a wider range of books at lower prices in a timely manner.
    • However, publishers vehemently oppose this provision, claiming that there is no ‘access’ issue in the country since most foreign titles boast equivalent low-priced Indian editions.
    • BTW do you know that the notion of copyright owes its existence to the publishing industry, which first advocated and procured these exclusive rights through the Statute of Anne, an 18th Century British enactment?
  • What are the risks that the Japanese earthquake poses to world markets?
    • The first is the rise of the yen.  In a situation like the present one, we tend to assume that the yen depreciates, right?  But what is happening is that the yen is rising.  Bloomberg says that the yen is rising because it is seen as a safe haven!  But new reports argue that it’s all about insurance companies repatriating funds to pay for quake demand. The yen has been irrationally strong since the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings. Even with the nuclear risks, the yen is considered a less risky currency than the dollar and euro. It’s not that the yen is attractive. It’s that if the currency markets held a beauty contest, the yen would be the least ugly contestant.
    • The other is that Japan will dump its vast holdings of treasuries to raise cash.  It could trigger the nightmare chain reaction officials in Washington have dreaded since 2008. China, which holds $1.2 trillion of US debt, might act to avoid even bigger losses. The UK ($278 billion), oil exporters ($216 billion), Brazil ($198 billion), Caribbean banking centres ($167 billion) might follow suit. So might Asia’s other dollars hoarders including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. If history is any guide, it might not happen.  Yet the Japan of 2011 isn’t the Japan of 1995. Its debt is now twice the size of the economy, leaving far less room to borrow to boost growth than there was 16 years ago. Also, the Bank of Japan’s interest-rate policies are already at zero. The next step would be massive BOJ purchases of Japanese stocks after the Nikkei-225 Stock Average fell 16% in the first two trading days after the earthquake. That would be a slippery financial slope, but desperate times do tend to lead to desperate measures. That would certainly be the case if Japan decided to start dropping big blocks of treasuries on the market.
Language lessons
  • shoehorn: Verb
    • Fit for a specific purpose even when not well suited
    • eg: Shoehorning the export concern into the ‘parallel imports’ framework will engender more confusion than clarity and derail the introduction of a socially-progressive parallel imports clause.