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Today's Hot Stories - January 12, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Kapil Sibal warns against foreigners who come to India to do business
(2) JMM seeks more time to form govt
(3) Sri Lankan parliament impeaches chief justice
(4) Exports fall for eighth month in a row
(5) Chidambaram keen to discuss tax case of Vodafone
(6) Boston consulting group names Rich Lesser new president and CEO
(7) Golf: Jeev stays in tied fourth in South AfricaJeev stays in tied fourth in South Africa
(8) NBA: Deng shines as Bulls beat NY Knicks
(9) SFL: Shyam wins welter weight title in style
(10) Run! There is nothing like running

5 Stories for Today

(1) High alert, reports of troop build-up on both sides of Indo-Pak border
(2) North Korea tells China planning nuclear test: Report
(3) Decision on raising LPG cap, fuel price hike soon: Veerappa Moily
(4) Boeing 787 Dreamliner faces review after mishaps: US agency
(5) India 119th on economic freedom index: Report

(1) High alert, reports of troop build-up on both sides of Indo-Pak border

Tension continued to prevail along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan on Saturday, a day after cross-LoC firing was reported on at least eight border posts.

There are also reports of a troop build-up on both sides of the border.

Pakistan has so far not responded to requests from India and its army for a flag meeting at the brigade level to de-escalate tension along the LoC.

Indian intelligence intercepts reveal that the Pakistan Army has cancelled all leaves and ordered its troops to report for duty.

According to sources, defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and the three service chiefs are likely to brief defence minister AK Antony on Saturday on the latest situation prevailing along the LoC.

The Indian side has been bolstered with the presence of additional Border Action Task Force personnel. Surveillance has been heightened with both the Army and Air Force deploying unmanned aerial vehicles in areas over Poonch and Rajouri sectors.

Sources said Pakistani troops fired intermittently at eight Indian border posts on the LoC in Krishna Ghati and Sonagali around Mendhar sector and Poonch on Friday.

The firing lasted for 20 minutes.

On Friday, India confirmed that Pakistan has suspended cross-border trade.

"As per our understanding, because of some circumstances in one sector, neither trucks nor buses could go," said Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, according to ANI.

Also, Pakistan's foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani summoned India's high commissioner Sharat Sabharwal to protest against "repeated", "unacceptable" and "unprovoked" attacks by the Indian Army which led to the death of a Pakistani soldier on Thursday.

Jilani asked India to "investigate violations of ceasefire by Indian troops" and "emphasised that such unprovoked attacks were against the spirit of the ongoing peace process".

Sabharwal said India's troops undertook "controlled retaliation" in the face of "unprovoked firing".

Pakistan also reiterated its demand for a United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) probe, but India maintains that that following the Shimla agreement in 1972 and the establishment of the LoC, the UNMOGIP has no relevance or role to play whatsoever.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also been briefed on the tense border situation by National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon.

(2) North Korea tells China planning nuclear test: Report

: A North Korean official has apparently told Chinese authorities that the communist state is planning to conduct a third nuclear test in the coming week, a news report said Saturday.

"We've heard a North Korean official in Beijing told the Chinese side that the North planned to carry out a nuclear test between January 13-20," the Joongang Ilbo daily quoted an unidentified Seoul official as saying. South Korean officials have a policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.

"We're now stepping up surveillance over the Punggye-ri nuclear test site," the official said in reference to the North's only nuclear test site, where tests were carried out in 2006 and 2009.

With the UN Security Council still debating possible sanctions against the North following the launch of a long-range rocket last month, there has been widespread speculation that Pyongyang may carry out a third nuclear test.

However, Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said there were "no signs of a nuclear test being imminent".

"Chances are slim that the North might push ahead with a nuclear test in this winter season, especially when China is insisting on a moderated response to the rocket launch to prevent a third nuclear test taking place," Yang told AFP.

Last month a US think-tank citing satellite photos said the North had repaired extensive rain damage at the nuclear test site in the northeast of the country and could conduct a detonation on two weeks' notice.

The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said satellite photos as recent as December 13 showed Pyongyang was determined to maintain a state of readiness at Punggye-ri.

South Korea's unification minister Yu Woo-Ik told a parliamentary committee last month it was "highly probable" the North would likely follow up the successful rocket launch with another nuclear test.

"Judging from analysis of intelligence, significant preparations have been made," he said.

North Korea had a track record of conducting nuclear tests following missile launches, which were aimed at developing a delivery system for nuclear warheads, Yu said.

The North's previous nuclear tests were both carried out within months of long-range rocket launches.

Pyongyang insists the launch was a purely scientific mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite in space, but most of the world saw it as a disguised ballistic missile test.

(3) Decision on raising LPG cap, fuel price hike soon: Veerappa Moily

The government will soon take a decision on raising the cap on subsidised cooking gas cylinders and increasing prices of diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily said.

Moily said the government was seriously considering the recommendations of the Kelkar Committee, which proposed raising diesel, kerosene and cooking gas rates in a staggered manner and linking diesel prices with international rates by next fiscal year.

"Expect a decision (on raising cap on subsidised LPG supply and fuel price hike) as quickly as possible," he told reporters after announcing the ministry's move to allow consumers to switch cooking gas distributors like cellphone users change their service provider. ET first reported about it on November 15.

Government officials have said in the past that the oil ministry has proposed to raise the cap on supply of subsidised cooking gas cylinders from six to nine, with about Rs 50 per unit price hike and to increase diesel prices by less than Re 1 a litre per month to bring it on par with market prices in the next 10-15 months. Moily did not share details of his ministry's proposal.

The finance ministry is keen to reduce the subsidy burden. Oil companies have estimated that if they had sold fuel at international rates they would have gained additional revenue of Rs 1.63 lakh crore in the current fiscal year.

Moily said the government was committed to ensure smooth supply of cooking gas to consumers. To ensure this, the government will launch a system of rating gas dealers on the basis of time taken to deliver cylinders, and allowing customers to switch dealers.

"The portability will give choice to consumers through an online system. It is dedicated to better halves of the family (women) who can now manage cooking gas supply sitting at home," Moily said.

The petroleum ministry felt the need to bring transparency in LPG distribution and empower consumers to dump their distributors for poor service since September when the government capped the supply of subsidised LPG cylinders at six per household per year, which saw large-scale diversion of cheap domestic fuel for commercial use.

(4) Boeing 787 Dreamliner faces review after mishaps: US agency

Boeing Co's sophisticated new aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, will undergo a review of its critical systems by regulators, the US Department of Transportation said on Friday after a series of problems in recent weeks.

The review of the jet will involve design, manufacture and assembly, including a battery that caught fire on an empty 787 parked in Boston on Monday.

Adding to the tally of incidents that have tested confidence in the Dreamliner, on Friday the passenger jet suffered a cracked cockpit window and an oil leak on separate flights in Japan.

The US Department of Transportation said it plans to announce more details of the review at a press conference Friday at 9:30 am ET (1430 GMT).

The 787 is Boeing's newest jet and its boldest effort to revolutionize commercial aviation by using new technology to cut the fuel cost for operating the plane by 20 percent. Airlines are pleased with the savings, and have so far given the plane their approval, both by ordering more than 800 jets and sticking by it through the current spate of troubles.

But Boeing already is far over its budget and more than three years behind schedule in delivering Dreamliner planes, and any further expenses or problems have the potential to affect the company's finances significantly.

The wide-ranging review by US officials, including the Federal Aviation Administration, has the potential to deal a serious setback to Boeing's newest jet, especially if it led to a costly design change.

Analysts have said that a problem in manufacturing or assembly of the plane would probably be fixed with minimal cost and disruption. Most have said that the issues with the plane so far appear to fall into those categories.

On Friday in Japan, All Nippon Airways Co said a domestic flight from Tokyo landed safely at Matsuyama airport in western Japan after a crack developed on the cockpit windscreen, and the plane's return to Tokyo was canceled.

The same airline later said oil was found leaking from an engine of a 787 Dreamliner after the plane landed at Miyazaki airport in southern Japan. An airline spokeswoman said it later returned to Tokyo after some delay. No one was injured in either incident.

As Boeing's 787 comes under review, the company is involved in difficult labor contract negotiations with its engineering union, which represents the workers who would be called upon to solve any problems with the Dreamliner.

The two sides resumed talks on Wednesday that broke off in December after federal mediators joined the sessions. There was no breakthrough in the two days of meetings this week. The talks were scheduled to resume on Friday.

Scott Hamilton, an analyst with the aerospace industry consultant Leeham, said "the prospects of a total breakdown in talks appears more and more likely, perhaps as soon as today. If this happens, look for a strike voted early next week. A walk-out could occur in early February."

(5) India 119th on economic freedom index: Report

India has been ranked as the 119th freest country in the world out of 177 in the 2013 index of economic freedom, according to a report.

Among the BRIC economies China, Russia were ranked below India in the index, while Brazil was above India.

India's economic freedom score stood at 55.2, as its institutional shortcomings continue to undermine the foundations for long-term economic development, the report complied by Heritage Foundation said.

The rankings were made under various sub-heads -- free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree, repressed and unranked which included countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, Liechtenstein, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

India was ranked in the mostly unfree category and was ranked below countries like the Philippines, Tanzania, Fiji, Oman, Peru among others.

The top ten countries in the list include Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzarland, canada, Chili, Mauritius, Denmark and US.

The overall score of India at 55.2 was below the world average of 59.6, the regional average of 57.4 and well behind the average quoted by free economies which stood at 84.5.

The score represents a slight uptick than the last year (up 0.6 per cent) as the improvements in the management of public finance and monetary freedom was offset by a continuing decline in freedom from corruption.

"In the absence of a well-functioning legal and regulatory framework, corruption throughout the economy is becoming a more serious drag on the emergence of a more dynamic private sector," the report said.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India is ranked 23rd out of 41 countries.

The report further noted that "the state's presence in the economy remains extensive through state-owned enterprises and wasteful subsidy programs that result in chronically high budget deficits."

Progress in structural reform has been uneven and often stalled. Plans to open up key service sectors have been reversed, and no significant reforms have been implemented effectively in recent years, it said adding that efforts are being taken by the government as reform measures aiming at reducing government subsidies and encouraging foreign direct investment were announced in 2012.

The report noted that, economic freedom is not advancing strongly across the world.

Only 31 countries have increased their economic freedom scores by 1 point or more over the past year, and 35 registered declines of that magnitude. The average world economic freedom score increased only 0.1 point, reflecting policy stagnation that in turn is reflected in lower world growth rates, the report said.




           
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