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Today's Hot Stories - January 10, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Visa-on-arrival for Pakistani nationals above 65 years from January 15
(2) Khaps to request for lok adalat status
(3) China gets ready for Bo Xilai trial
(4) Diesel, LPG price hike on anvil
(5) KFA employees to move court
(6) Morgan Stanley to cut 1,600 jobs in investment bank: Source
(7) Johnson wins PGA Tour opener|
(8) SFL: Shyam wins welter weight title in style
(9) Djokovic eyes Australian Open hat-trick
(10) World’s first subway marks 150 years in operation

5 Stories for Today

(1) Some sort of goondaism going on in West Bengal, says governor
(2) Anti-Muslim ads go up in New York City subways
(3) Has India lost attraction in global car market?
(4) A flexible ‘paper tablet’ that can be twisted and dropped
(5) Fiscal strain shows in run-up to Budget

(1) Some sort of goondaism going on in West Bengal, says governor

West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan on Wednesday virtually rapped the Mamata Banerjee-led government over the clashes between CPM and Trinamool Congress workers, saying it was akin to “some sort of goondaism” which was “not acceptable”.

He asked the police and the administration to function impartially in arresting the guilty.

“This is not a good political culture. I think some sort of goondaism is going on here,” Narayanan told mediapersons on the sidelines of a programme here.

“The last two-three days have been very disturbing and distressing. This violence should not have taken place. We should not tolerate the violence that is taking place. This is not acceptable,” Narayanan said.

“It is the duty of the administration and the police to take action against those who are responsible. There is clear evidence against the guilty. The police and the administration have to be impartial,” the governor said when reporters sought his reaction on the issue.

Trouble flared up in Bhangar in South 24 Parganas district late last week after one party office each of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and Trinamool Congress were damaged and set afire respectively.

When CPM legislator Abdur Rezzak Mollah went to the area, he was attacked by allegedly Trinamool workers, led by former lawmaker Arabul Islam.

Mollah has been admitted to a hospital.

Then Tuesday, many people were injured in firing and stone pelting in clashes between Trinamool Congress and CPM workers in Bamanghata in Bhangar.

(2) Anti-Muslim ads go up in New York City subways

The group that equated Muslim radicals with savages in advertisements last year has put up another set of provocative ads in dozens of New York City subway stations.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative purchased space next to 228 clocks in 39 stations for ads with an image of the burning World Trade Center and a quote attributed to the Quran saying: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the ads went up on Monday and will run for a month.

The same group paid for ads to be displayed in 10 stations in September. Those ads implied enemies of Israel are “savages.”

The MTA also sold space last year to competing advertisements that urged tolerance.

(3) Has India lost attraction in global car market?

Has the Indian car market lost steam? Against expectations of a boom in India which was being projected as the next big frontier for global carmakers battling financial crisis and stagnation in Europe and the US, the market has slowed down considerably, with growth rate projected to fall to a 10-year low.

Not only that, lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam) has said that the industry will not be able to meet the government’s target of achieving $145 billion turnover by 2016, and this needs to be extended by as much as a decade.

The pessimistic outlook goes against the accolades the Indian market had been receiving just two years ago before high interest rates and slowing economy depressed sentiments and started to pull the market down. While many carmakers say privately that they will be going slow on new investments, some like the Volkswagen group have come out in the open, expressing reservations over the way the market has been behaving.

The Volkswagen group, Europe’s number one carmaker that runs three key brands here (VW, Skoda and Audi), made its intentions clear when it said recently that it will not make any fresh investments in India till 2015, blaming the government for the change in its otherwise-bullish stance. “The policy framework here is not stable. Which company will like to invest?” John Chacko, MD of Volkswagen India, said. The official blamed “uncertainties on fuel prices and diesel policy”, apart from the poor economic climate, among reasons prompting the group to go slow in the market.

Siam has itself not been able to gauge the market mood correctly as it has been deteriorating fast. The auto body made its third downgrade to its original car sales forecast for this fiscal and said the growth will be only 0-1% against the healthy 10-12% projection it had given at the beginning of the year.

The actual performance in the first nine months brings this out evidently. Car sales in the April-November-12-13 period have fallen by 0.33% at 13.81 lakh units against 13.86 lakh units in the same period last year. As many as 10 of the 19 carmakers who report their numbers to Siam have seen volumes go down year-on-year and these big ones like include Tata Motors, Ford, General Motors, Toyota and VW. Even market leaders Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai have managed a low single-digit growth and complain of the difficult times.

Mayank Pareek, COO (sales & marketing) at Maruti Suzuki, said that the going will remain tough in 2013 too. “People buy cars when they feel good. The overall factors are not that positive now,” Pareek said. Hyundai’s sales & marketing VP Rakesh Srivastava is equally worried. “If the current macro-economic conditions continue to prevail, then the challenges will become more and more stronger.”

Most of the companies are now pinning their hopes on the Budget to get a relief from the troubled times. Also, they expect central bank RBI to take some action on interest rates and bring them down gradually. “It will continue to remain very challenging unless the government improves market sentiments. We are looking for some positive energy in the market through government’s efforts in terms of economic reforms and RBI’s moves on interest rates,” Toyota’s deputy MD Sandeep Singh said.

(4) A flexible ‘paper tablet’ that can be twisted and dropped

Researchers have developed a revolutionary tablet screen as thin as a sheet of paper that can be twisted and dropped without damage -and it could replace your laptop within five years. Developed by Queen’s University in Canada in collaboration with Plastic Logic and Intel Labs, it could lead to revolutionary new gadgets that are virtually unbreakable - and as thin as a piece of paper.

The PaperTab is fully interactive with a flexible, high-resolution 10.7-inch plastic display developed by Plastic Logic, a flexible touchscreen, and powered by the second generation Intel CoreTM i5 Processor , the ‘Daily Mail’ reported. “Plastic Logic’s flexible plastic displays allow a natural human interaction with electronic paper, being lighter, thinner and more robust compared with today’s standard glassbased displays,” said Indro Mukerjee , CEO of Plastic Logic. Researchers plan to launch the screen at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. They have shown off the concept for a new desktop - using sheets of paper for each app rather than a traditional screen with windows. Instead of using several apps or windows on a single display, users have ten or more interactive displays or ‘PaperTabs’ , with each being a different app.

They can also be used as ebooks , with users simply bending the screen to turn pages. “Using several PaperTabs makes it much easier to work with multiple documents,” said Roel Vertegaal, Director of Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab.

(5) Fiscal strain shows in run-up to Budget

For the finance ministry, budget-making is usually an annual exercise with a focus on the new year. But this year is different. As finance minister P Chidambaram gets into a final huddle with his officers for the 2013-14 budget, he is worried about the targets set for the current financial year.

After all, government finances have never looked as bad in recent memory, with the Centre staring at the prospect of ending the year with lower-than-budgeted revenues from taxes, disinvestment and spectrum sale, besides overshooting its spending target.

The disinvestment and revenue departments are going to be on an overdrive to mop up every possible paisa over the next 12 weeks. The success of the spectrum auction, the second in a span of three months, will only be known in March but before that, a message has gone to every government department that they should try and cut expenditure, and if possible defer some to the first quarter of the next financial year. Already, the finance ministry is talking of a saving of Rs 65,000-70,000 crore in plan expenditure, which is around 5% of budgeted spending, as ministries that have not spent in line with the allocation will have to surrender a part of the resources at their disposal. There are others, which have for years not bothered to collect utilization certificates of funds released earlier. They will now have to adjust their “past dues” with this year’s allocation. For some, the reduction is as much as 25%, conceded a minister.

“It’s normal budget practice but this year the enforcement is tougher,” said the financial advisor in a ministry with a large allocation. Finance ministry officials admitted that the budget division is keeping tabs on every single paisa that flows out of the treasury.

A request from agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to clear Rs 30,000 crore of unpaid fertilizer subsidy has been turned down. Similarly, oil companies may have to deal with a new subsidy-sharing mechanism that will translate into a higher burden for them. From defence to rural development, no one is surviving the axe as Chidambaram is keen to ensure that at least the revised fiscal deficit target of 5.3% of GDP is met. He has so far scoffed at the possibility of the government missing the revenue targets but that’s something that experts are worried about. After all, the run rate, as far as tax collections are concerned, is lower than the asking rate and his ministry’s own document in Parliament has talked about corporation tax, customs and central excise duty targets being tough to achieve given the trend in the first half, although it said that “slippage” may be minimal by the time the year ends. Even on Tuesday, Fitch reiterated its fears and joined Moody’s and Standard and Poor that have warned India of a possible downgrade in sovereign rating to junk status.

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