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Today's Hot Stories - July 22, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Another accident at Delhi Metro site, 1 dead
(2) Toll from swine flu now over 700: WHO
(3) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Washington is "very seriously" concerned about the transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Burma
(4) Radico Khaitan net profit increases by 56% to Rs 11 crore in Q1
(5) Birla Sun Life MF appoints A Balasubramanian as CEO
(6) Reliance Infra to invest Rs 10,000 crore for cement plants
(7) Mikel Astarloza wins 16th stage of Tour de France, Alberto Contador retains overall lead
(8) The striking Windies players have ended their boycott following an agreement to appoint a mediator to resolve their dispute with the West Indies Board
(9) Lifting the Ashes would be the perfect way to go: Flintoff
(10) Aung San Suu Kyi has been felicitated with the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation

5 Stories for Today

(1) Solar eclipse of the century sweeps across India
(2) Pakistan kills 106 Taliban in fresh operation
(3) Wipro Q1 net profit grows 12% YoY
(4) India to get $ 4.5 billion from IMF to battle slowdown
(5) Government to invest Rs 65 crore to upgrade 500 post offices

(1) Solar eclipse of the century sweeps across India

Thousands of sky watchers burst into an applause as darkness descended soon after sunrise as the moon came in between the earth and the sun during the total solar eclipse on Wednesday morning.

Astronomers and lay persons who had gathered in Dibrugarh in Assam witnessed the total eclipse between 6.31 am and 6.34 am.

However, their counterparts in Taregna in Bihar, touted as the best location to watch the longest eclipse in a century were not so fortunate as clouds played spoilsport blanking out the early morning sun.

The celestial spectacle began at 5.45 am and most parts of the country woke up to see an eclipsed sun as the moon passed between the earth and the sun. It ended at 7.24 am.

In Delhi, clouds played hide-and-seek but still astro-enthusiasts gathered at several places got a glimpse of the sun. The crescent sun smiled upon the capital when the eclipse reached its maximum of 83 per cent at 6:26 a.m.

Several sky watchers watched the celestial spectacle from Nehru Planetarium where special arrangements were made.

Projectors, telescopes and special solar view goggles were made available to the people who gathered to have a glimpse of the cosmic event.

The last partial solar eclipse occurred on January 26, 2009. Many people who had gathered at the planetarium were brimming with excitement as they watched the celestial show.

Teenager Sachi, who came to the planetarium to watch the event, said "It is the first time I am seeing such an event".

Sixty five-year-old Asha Bhatnagar too was very upbeat about the whole cosmic event.

"In 1980 I first saw the solar eclipse. However, things are different now," she said, adding now we have specialised solar goggles to watch it. An amateur astronomer Mushir (14) described the whole event as great. "It is probably the first and last time I am seeing the eclipse. It feels great," he said.

Kolkata witnessed 91 per cent of the total solar eclipse despite a cloudy sky on Wednesday morning.

Incessant rains, however, proved to be a dampener with the people in Sikkim unable to watch the total solar eclipse on Wednesday morning.

But people in Haryana in the north got a chance to view the celestial spectacle. Pilgrims made a beeline to take bath in the holy sarovars in the State since Tuesday night. Tight security arrangements were made in view of the pilgrim rush.

People at several places in the desert State of Rajasthan were left disappointed as the eclipse was not visible from maximum places in the state following cloudy weather.

The eclipse was, however, seen clearly from Bikaner, Kota, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Ganganagar and Hanumangarh.

Residents of the Pink city Jaipur got a glimpse of the eclipse at 6.32 am for a minute and a half.

Visibility of the eclipse, according to experts, was between 75 to 87 per cent. The celestial event began in the State at 5.46 am and ended at 7.23 am.

In the western part of the country, rains and clouds denied the celestial treat to avid sky watchers.

At the Katara hills in Bhopal, rains played spoilsport and the eclipse could not be seen although it was dark during the three-minute period. However, the eclipse was visible in Katni in Madhya Pradesh.

(2) Pakistan kills 106 Taliban in fresh operation

In a major operation in restive northwestern region, Pakistani forces killed 106 Taliban militants and lost six soldiers as they faced renewed resistance from the insurgents despite claims of having flushed them out from Swat, Lower Dir and Buner in the NWFP.

The army had to launch a “massive military operation” on Monday in five villages in Maidan area of Lower Dir district as security forces apprehended that most of the Taliban militants who had fled from the Swat valley were sheltering in the area.

In the fierce fighting which went on for more than 48 hours, army used tanks, heavy artillery and big mortars to smoke out Taliban fighters entrenched in the concrete hideouts at Maidan area in Dir district and lost six soldiers in the heavy exchanges.

While 100 Taliban militiamen were killed in Maidan area in confrontation with para-military Frontier Corps, while six others were killed in fighting in the Swat valley, which the army had claimed was clear of armed Taliban terrorists, a spokesman of the Frontier Corps was quoted by TV channels as saying.

Some 300 Taliban fighters were believed to be hiding in these villages. “The aim of the operation was to eliminate the militants who were hiding in Maidan after fleeing Swat,” the spokesman said. Renewed clashes in Swat came even as thousands of displaced people were returning to their homes after assurances by top army commanders that the district was now free of Taliban.

(3) Wipro Q1 net profit grows 12% YoY

Technology major Wipro’s net profit rose to Rs 1015.50 crore in the April-June quarter as against Rs 1010 crore in the previous quarter.

Consolidated net sales stood at Rs 6289.10 crore for the quarter ended June 30 2009 compared with Rs 6482.10 crore the quarter ended March 31, 2009.

The company’s revenue increased by 5% year-on-year to Rs. 6,274 crore while net profit grew by 12% year-on-year to Rs 1,016 crore.

On a standalone basis, Wipro reported a net profit of Rs 1197.90 crore for the June quarter as against Rs 842.10 crore in the earlier quarter.

IT Services revenue stood at $1033 million, a sequential decline of 1.3% and YoY decline of 3.3%. IT Services Revenue on constant currency was $1,014 million, a sequential decline of 3.0%. On a constant currency basis, YoY growth was 2.1%.

In Rupee terms, Revenue for IT Services stood at Rs. 48.25 billion (Rs. 4,825 Crores), a YoY growth of 10%.

Profit Before Interest & Tax (PBIT) for IT Services segment was Rs. 10.78 billion (Rs. 1,078 Crores), a growth of 17% YoY. IT Services business added 26 new clients during the quarter. IT Products business recorded a 2% YoY growth in Revenues and 27% YoY growth in PBIT.

Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting business Revenue grew 7% YoY and PBIT grew 29% YoY.

Commenting on the results, Chairman of Wipro, Azim Premji said, “We are starting to see the first signs of stability in the business as ramp downs start to taper off and volumes start to stabilize. We are adapting ourselves for the new reality with continued investments in value creation, go-to-market and driving significant operational productivity. Looking ahead, for the quarter ending September 30, 2009, we expect Revenues from our IT Services business to be in the range of $1035 million to $1053 million.”

Suresh Senapaty, Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer of Wipro, said, “It was another quarter of strong performance. We improved on several operating parameters to deliver margin expansion of 0.6% to 22.3% in the IT Services segment.”

(4) India to get $4.5 billion from IMF to battle slowdown

India would receive about USD 4.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to battle economic slowdown.

This is part of the about USD 250 billion allocation of SDR by the IMF to provide liquidity to the global economic system by supplementing IMF's 186 member countries' foreign exchange reserves.

The funds would be available at the end of August, IMF officials said.

The equivalent of nearly USD 100 billion of the new allocation will go to emerging markets and developing countries, of which low-income countries will receive over USD 18 billion, IMF officials announced during a conference call after a decision in this regard was taken by the IMF Executive Board.

"The SDR allocation is a key part of the fund's response to the global crisis, offering significant support to its members in these difficult times," IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said.

The officials added that India's allocation of about USD 4.5 billion is based on its IMF quota. The money could immediately boost its foreign reserve. If India does not need this money, it has the option to trade the money with other countries, which are in need of international fund to boost their economic condition.

The SDR allocation was requested as part of a trillion dollar plan agreed at the G-20 summit in London in April and endorsed by the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) to tackle the global financial and economic crisis by restoring credit, growth and jobs in the world economy.

If approved by the Board of Governors with an 85 percent majority of the total voting power in a vote scheduled to close on August 7, the SDR allocation will be in effect on August 28.

"The allocation is a prime example of a cooperative monetary response to the global financial crisis," the managing director said.

The SDR allocations are being made to IMF members in proportion to their existing quotas in the fund, which are based broadly on their relative size in the global economy.

The operation will increase each country's allocation of SDRs by approximately 74 per cent of its quota, and fund members' total allocation to an amount equivalent to about USD 283 billion, from about USD 33 billion (SDR 21.4 billion).

SDRs allocated to members will count toward their reserve assets, acting as a low cost liquidity buffer for low-income countries and emerging markets and reducing the need for excessive self-insurance, the IMF said in a statement.

(5) Government to invest Rs 65 crore to upgrade 500 post offices

The government plans to upgrade and modernise 500 post offices across the country with an investment of Rs 65 crore, said a senior Official in the ministry.

“Project Arrow is now being extended to 500 more post offices, under phase-III to upgrade and modernise these post offices,” said minister of state for communications and information technology Sachin Pilot.

Project Arrow was launched by the department of post last year, as part of efforts to provide world-class service to customers. In phase-I of the flagship programme, the postal department identified 50 post offices for upgradation on a pilot basis with an investment of Rs 12.85 crore. In the second phase, upgradation of 450 post offices has already been completed and third phase is expected to be completed by end-August this year.

While reviewing the progress of the implementation of the Project Arrow in post offices of Delhi and NCR, the minister said: “The objective of the project is to make a visible, tangible, and a note worthy difference in the services of the post offices that matters to the common man.”

Nearly 89% of the network of India Post is in the rural areas and therefore improving the condition and upgrading infrastructure of the post offices in those areas will be the prime concern for the department of post. The project aims to create post offices a vibrant organisation with all the IT-enabled services, better infrastructure and improve the quality of services provided by the post offices like mail delivery and postal saving schemes.

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