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Today's Hot Stories - July 13, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Bomb blast in Assam; 2 people killed
(2) The 450 MW Baglihar power project in Jammu and Kashmir is facing a terror threat, two arrested Lashkar-e-Taiba militants told journalists
(3) Almost 250 children under the age of five have died in a wave of intensely cold weather in Peru
(4) ICAI may push Price Waterhouse Coopers into blacklist zone
(5) Century Ply to raise Rs 150 crore through QIP
(6) The price of crude oil falls below $60 a barrel
(7) Australian Mark Webber wins German Grand Prix
(8) Croatia into Davis Cup semi-final
(9) Tamim Iqbal scored his maiden Test century to help Bangladesh build a 252-run lead over West Indies at the close of the fourth day
(10) Storm could halt launch of Endeavour: NASA

5 Stories for Today

(1) Delhi Metro's darkest day: Pillar collapse kills 6
(2) Nigeria rebels claim Lagos attack
(3) Boeing eyes $10 billion Indian contract with Super Hornet
(4) FIIs invest Rs 3500 crore in equities since Budget
(5) CAG finds under-charge of tax totalling Rs 1572 crore

(1) Delhi Metro's darkest day: Pillar collapse kills 6

In a virtual repeat of the Vikas Marg incident nine months ago, six people, including an engineer from Gammon India, were killed when apre-fabricated concrete segment of an under-construction Metro viaduct collapsed along with a portion of the girder launcher on Sunday morning.

on the Central Secretariat-Badarpur line that occurred on the intersection of Lala Lajpat Rai Path and Kalka Devi Marg, at a stone’s throw from LSR College and Bluebells School.

It was sheer providence that the accident occurred at 4:40 am. This road is one of the main spines of the city and leads to Nehru Place, a commercial and official hub of the city. It’s also the gateway to many south Delhi colonies and an alternative to BRT and the GK-II route. Any time of the day during the week, the collapse would have meant huge casualties.

The impact of the 200-tonne mass was such that the road caved in. Local residents and workers at the site said the pillar (P-67) which collapsed had earlier developed cracks and work had been stopped for two months to get it checked. DMRC Chief E Sreedharan admitted this but said a committee had inspected the pillar and ruled out anything serious. Work had resumed about two weeks back.

As for the possible reasons behind the incident, he said it could have been caused due to a design fault or the fault of the contractor. The material, too, could have been inferior, he said.

Observers say in the rush to meet the June 2010 deadline for Commonwealth Games, staff strength may be getting diluted, leading to lax supervision. The incident happened within 24 hours of a minor accident at Vikas Marg when a jack fitted on a pillar, which had collapsed last year, burst.

(2) Nigeria rebels claim Lagos attack

Nigeria's most prominent rebel group says it has carried out an "unprecedented attack" on an oil tanker facility close to the capital, Lagos.

"The depot and loading tankers moored at the facility are currently on fire," said the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend).

Residents of the capital heard a loud blast, said the news agency, but there was no official confirmation.

Previous attacks by Mend have mostly hit the Niger Delta in the south. Such attacks have severely cut Nigeria's oil output. Production has been cut by a fifth in the last three years partly as a result of violence.

In a statement, Mend said that "heavily armed" men had "carried out an unprecedented attack on the Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos" at 2230 hours (2130GMT) on Sunday.

The jetty is the main entry point for ships entering Nigerian waters from the west and for oil tanker loading.

The alleged attack follows claims by Mend in recent days that it had blown up several oil pipelines and captured six foreign crew from onboard an oil tanker.

The government recently offered an amnesty to members of any militant group which laid down its weapons. Henry Okah, Mend's leader, is facing treason and gun-running charges since his arrest in Angola in 2007. His release has been a key demand of his Mend militant group. On Friday, lawyers for Mr Okah said he had accepted the amnesty offer and he is expected to release early this week.

He said it was "most likely" that the attorney general would decide not to pursue the case against Mr Okah. The Mend rebels have been fighting the rights of local people in the Niger Delta and for an increased share of Nigeria's vast oil wealth.

In Sunday's statement, the group said the problems facing Nigeria were "nothing to do with militant freedom fighters but with the corrupt political leadership and certain arrogant tribes still living on past glory".

But the government has in the past dismissed Mend as criminals.

(3) Boeing eyes $10 billion Indian contract with Super Hornet

As the race to supply the Indian Air Force with 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) hots up, Boeing, a leading contender, is showcasing the Super Hornet, promising a new generation of air power.

Eyeing the over $10 billion contract with India and other high value deals, Boeing last week ceremonially rolled out the first of 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornets for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), its first international Super Hornet customer.

"The Super Hornet is on its way to delivering advanced combat capabilities to the Royal Australian Air Force," said Bob Gower, Boeing Vice President of F/A-18 and EA-18 programmes, at a ceremony at Boeing Integrated Defence Systems' production facilities here, watched by international media.

The remaining 23 Super Hornets, each equipped with the Raytheon-built APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, will be delivered to the RAAF in 2010 and 2011.

"The RAAF Super Hornet will bring a new generation of air power to Australia," said Air Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of RAAF. "Its advanced, networked weapons system will deliver enhanced air combat capability across the spectrum of air-to-air, strategic land attack and maritime strike."

The Block II F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is the only 21st century, true multi-role aircraft that is available now and meets the tactical mission requirements of today's complex battle-space, Boeing officials said.

It can perform virtually every mission including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defences, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions.

Built by the industry team of Boeing, Northrop Grumman, GE Aircraft Engines, Raytheon and 1900 other suppliers across the US, the Super Hornet provides the war-fighter with today's newest advances in multi-mission capability and growth for decades to come in missions, roles and technology, officials said.

With a total of 11 weapons stations, the Super Hornet provides war-fighters with extraordinary payload flexibility by carrying a mixed load of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance.

Two General Electric F414-GE-400 engines power the Super Hornet, producing a combined thrust of 44,000 pounds. The F414's light yet robust design yields a 9:1 thrust-to-weight ratio, one of the highest of any modern fighter engine, the officials said.

The Super Hornet entered combat on its maiden voyage in 2002. Boeing has delivered more than 395 F/A-18E/Fs to the US Navy. Every Super Hornet produced has been delivered on or ahead of schedule, according to the officials.

Contending for what has been touted as India's single largest defence deal ever are five other competing MRCA aircraft-Lockheed Martin's F-16 Falcon, Euro-fighter Typhoon, Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Russian MiG-35 and the French Dassault Rafale.

Boeing officials would not say anything about the rivals, but Ted Herman, Manager F18 Integrated Business Development Programme, proudly pointed to his unit's enviable record of timely delivery and well-within-budget production with high reliability and high mission capable rates.

Using civil aircraft techniques and features designed in the Advance Strike Technology programme of the 90s, the St. Louis facility rolls out four new planes every month.

But after a contract is signed, it takes about 38 months before the first plane is delivered, with the aircraft taking shape over a period of 18 months in the sprawling "Home of the Super Hornet" here.

It takes nine months to just forge the fuselage, 50 days to assemble the wings, and another 55 days for forward fuselage assembly, 30 of them used to "stuff" it with wiring, hydraulics and pneumatics, said Herman as he took the media round what he called the "most advanced full rate production line in the world".

Super Hornet's design incorporates all aspects of the aircraft, systems, performance and capabilities, fabrication and manufacture and life cycle support with computer design of structures and components, computer check for fit and assembly and digital shipping, handling and tracking and management on the floor.

Once the aircraft takes full form in final assembly, it is sealed and subjected to a 20-minute heavy rainstorm before it's prepared for flight with all the dynamic structures put in place-engine, CADs (cartridge actuated devices), ejection seats, radar and avionics boxes - and all are run through functional checks.

The first flight is performed by the company test pilot and "gripes" that show up are fixed before the next flight and verified by the customer.

If India chooses to opt for Super Hornets, it will get the same assurance of real time operational capability with a proven solid design, under budget and on time delivery, said Herman, "from a team that delivers on promises".

(4) FIIs invest Rs 3,500 crore in equities since Budget

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have made a net investment of Rs 3,500 crore in the Indian stock markets since the presentation of the Budget in Parliament on July 6, even as the benchmark index Sensex lost over nine per cent in the same period.

An analysis of FIIs activity in the domestic markets shows that overseas investors were the net purchaser of Indian stocks worth Rs 3,499.5 crore during the last week.

FIIs were the gross buyer of shares worth Rs 17,092.1 crore during the week, while they sold equities valued at Rs 13,592.6 crore, resulting in a net inflow of Rs 3,499.5 crore, as per the data available with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Significantly, during the past week, the Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark index Sensex -- composed of 30 bluechip stocks -- dropped 9.44 per cent to end at 13,584.22 points.

On the Budget day, FIIs booked profit and sold shares worth Rs 351.3 crore, dragging the benchmark indices in the negative zone. The SEBI compiles the trade data one day late.

On July 6, the day Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented general Budget in the lower house of Parliament, Sensex suffered the biggest fall on any Budget day and in the year too by plunging over 870 points on concerns of high fiscal deficit.

Mukherjee said the fiscal deficit may rise to 6.8 per cent of gross domestic product in the year 2009-10, the highest since 1994. In five trading sessions from July 6 to July 10, FIIs were the net seller for three sessions, while, for other days they remained net purchaser.

During the week, the foreign investors also put in money worth Rs 2,984.9 crore in the debt market segment, while so far this year, FIIs are the net seller of Rs 1,356.10 crore in debt instruments.

(5) CAG finds under-charge of tax totalling Rs 1572 crore

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has in its latest audit report on direct taxes revealed irregularities involving under-charge of tax totalling Rs 1,572 crore in at least 860 cases.

The irregularities pertained to computation of business income, capital expenditure and while making provision for depreciation. The report, submitted before Parliament on Friday, said during 2007-08, Rs 216 crore was recovered at the instance of audit in as many as 1,474 cases.

The report expresses concern at number of pendency in cases under scrutiny and summary assessments. Cases of scrutiny increased from 1.91 lakh in 2003-04 to 5.91 lakh in 2007-08. Those under summary assessments rose from 56 lakh to 185 lakh during the same period.

The uncollected revenue was over Rs 1.24 lakh crore in respect of corporate and income taxes at the end of 2007-08, the report said. "Uncollected amount of Rs 1,24,274 crore in respect of corporation and income tax comprised demand of Rs 86,859 crore of earlier years and current demand of Rs 37,415 crore for 2007-08," said the report.

It said in terms of corporation tax the arrears increased to Rs 68,662 crore in 2007-08 from Rs 55,098 crore in 2005-06, while income tax arrears increased to Rs 55,612 crore in 2007-08 from Rs 40,289 crore.

During 2007-08, against Rs 36,057 crore certified by recovery officers for recovery, only Rs 8,612 crore (24%) could be recovered. There was an improvement in recovery from 14% in 2005-06 to 24% in 2006-07 and a marginal decline to 24% in 2007-08.

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