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Today's Hot Stories - January 15, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Nitin Gadkari to stay BJP boss
(2) Rising suicides in Himachal alarm authorities
(3) UN backs French intervention in Mali
(4) Sensex breaches 20,000-mark after two years, turns flat
(5) Maruti launches new Wagon R at Rs 3.58L
(6) Qatar Airways may buy stake in SpiceJet
(7) Ruthless South Africa show Test cricket supremacy
(8) Federer cruises into Australian Open second round
(9) Tennis: Ice-cool Murray crushes Dutch Haase
(10) Mahakumbh begins, lakhs take holy dip

5 Stories for Today

(1) LoC tension: Govt cautions against jingoism
(2) Barack Obama backs gun limits, concedes tough fight ahead
(3) SC asks govt reserve price for 2G auction
(4) Toyota retakes global auto sales crown from GM
(5) Remarkable economic transformation in India, China: Federal Reserve chairman

(1) LoC tension: Govt cautions against jingoism

Government on Tuesday cautioned against "jingoism" after the BJP upped the ante on the issue of beheading of an Indian soldier by Pakistani army along the Line of Control.

"Professional armies respect rules of engagement. Transgressions are surmounted through tactical responses and not driven by jingoism," information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said on micro-blogging site Twitter.

His comments came a day after BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said that if Pakistan does not return the head of martyred soldier Hemraj, India should get at least ten heads from the other side.

After visiting Hemraj's family along with party president Nitin Gadkari and leader Rajnath Singh yesterday, Swaraj had said, "The question is: will we sit without any reaction and engage in a dialogue?... That is why we have said that government should take some tough measures".

NSA meets Sushma, Jaitley

National security advisor Shivshankar Menon on Tuesday met BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley to brief them on developments along the Line of Control (LoC).

The meeting took place at Sushma Swaraj's residence.

Amid tension with Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday spoke to BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj and assured them that the opposition would be kept in loop over the situation.

(2) Barack Obama backs gun limits, concedes tough fight ahead

President Barack Obama endorsed controversial bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as stricter background checks for gun buyers but conceded he may not win approval of all in a Congress reluctant to tighten restrictions.

Obama said lawmakers would have to "examine their own conscience'' as they tackle gun control legislation after the horrifying Connecticut school shootings last month. The influential National Rifle Association and other pro-gun rights groups are fiercely opposed tighter gun laws.

Obama spoke Monday at a White House news conference one month after the Dec. 14 elementary school rampage, which ignited a national discussion on preventing mass shootings. The 20-year-old shooter killed 20 children and six adults at the school before committing suicide.

The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days, based on recommendations from VP Joe Biden, who spent weeks holding talks with gun victim's groups, the entertainment and video game industries and gun owner advocacy groups.

Obama's plan is expected to include both legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement by himself using his presidential powers.

But the most sweeping and contentious elements, including an assault weapons ban, will require approval from a Congress that has been loath to tackle gun control legislation for more than a decade. The politically powerful NRA has vowed to fight any measure that would limit access to guns and ammunition, a hardline position that could sway some Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Despite the opposition, Obama said he would "vigorously pursue'' measures to tighten gun laws.

The president's new resolve follows a lack of movement in tackling gun violence throughout much of his first term, despite several high-profile shootings. He called the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown the worst day of his presidency and vowed to take action.

Parents of the slain Connecticut children added their voices to the national dialogue Monday. Members of the newly formed group Sandy Hook Promise called for an open-minded discussion about a range of issues, including guns, mental health and safety in schools and other public places.

And lawmakers in New York state were poised to vote Monday night to enact tougher anti-violence legislation in what would be the nation's first gun control measure approved since the school shootings.

People familiar with closed-door negotiations told The Associated Press a tentative deal was struck over the weekend following a push last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposal had not been discussed among rank and file legislators.

The package hits on several fronts including a much tighter assault weapon ban and restrictions on ammunition and the sale and storage of guns, according to final provisions obtained by The Associated Press. The package would also create a mandatory police registry of assault weapons under a more restrictive definition.

White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Obama the best chance to get his proposals through Congress.

Officials said Obama and Biden met Monday afternoon to discuss the vice president's recommendations. Ahead of that meeting, Biden huddled with a dozen House Democrats who have formed their own gun violence task force and whose political muscle will be needed to push legislation through Congress.

The president, without mentioning the NRA, said some gun rights groups have "a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government's about to take all your guns away.''

Seeking to ease those fears, Obama insisted that responsible gun owners who have weapons for protection or hunting "don't have anything to worry about'' under the proposals he will push.

The NRA and other pro-gun groups insist that gun control conflicts with the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizen to bear arms. Others say the country's founders more than two centuries ago could not have imagined the kind of high-powered guns available now.

The assault weapons ban, which Obama has long supported, is expected to face the toughest road. Congress passed a 10-year ban on the high-grade military-style weapons in 1994, but supporters didn't have the votes to renew it once it expired in 2004.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, on Friday predicted that a ban might win Senate approval but he doubted it could pass in the Republican-led House.

Obama will also need congressional help to limit high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones used by the Newtown shooter, and to require background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a gun. Some gun control advocates, including The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, are urging Obama to make the broader background checks his top priority, believing it has the best chance of winning congressional approval.

The Brady Campaign said some 40% of gun sales happen with no background checks, such as at gun shows and by private sellers over the Internet or through classified ads.

Among the executive actions Biden is believed to have recommended to Obama are tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks, elevating gun trafficking to a felony charge and ending limits that make it harder for the federal government to research gun violence.

The president's proposals are also expected to include steps for improving school safety and mental health care, as well as recommendations for addressing violence in entertainment and video games. Pro-gun rights groups, including the NRA, have long insisted that insufficient mental health care and violent images are more to blame for mass shootings than the availability of guns.

(3) SC asks govt reserve price for 2G auction

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to provide in a sealed cover the reserve price it has decided for the second round of auction of 2G spectrum scheduled for March 11.

The government had decided to lower the reserve price going by the poor response to the first round of auction of spectrum licences, which was available after cancellation of licences on February 2 last year by an apex court judgment. The government had decided to slash the reserve price for 1800 MHz band by 30% from what was stipulated for the auction in November last year. However, it has not yet made public the reserve prices for 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands. While 800 MHz was part of the earlier auction, the 900 MHz band has been added to the auction process for the first time.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan told the government that slashing the reserve price for the second round of auction was bound to generate more litigation. "Those who participated in the first round of auction could seek inter se parity with the others who are going to benefit from the second round of auction," it said. The bench asked senior advocate P P Rao, who appeared for the Centre, to furnish details of the reserve price in a sealed cover and posted the matter for hearing on February 4.

(4) Toyota retakes global auto sales crown from GM

The Japanese company sold 9.7 million cars and trucks worldwide in 2012, although it's still counting. GM sold 9.29 million. Both companies saw higher sales.

GM was the top-selling carmaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008. But GM retook the sales crown in 2011 when Toyota's factories were slowed by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The disaster left Toyota dealers with few cars to sell. The company has since recovered.

Toyota's comeback is only part of the story, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry forecasting firm. The company also has rolled out new vehicles, such as the revamped midsize Camry, the most popular vehicle in the United States.

GM's global sales were up 2.9 percent last year. Toyota sales rose 22 per cent.

Schuster expects Toyota to keep the lead over GM this year as it launches a new Corolla.

"I think that's going to be enough to keep them in their position," he said.

GM is also contending with a stronger Volkswagen. It narrowly edged out the fast-growing German company for second place in 2012, when VW sold a record 9.1 million vehicles.

Volkswagen, with fast-selling vehicles like the Passat midsize sedan and Jetta compact, closed in on GM with an 11 percent sales increase across the globe. The United States, where VW Group sales rose 34 percent, led the way.

Schuster expects GM to hold off Volkswagen in 2013 because VW has more of a presence in Europe, where sales are falling as the region heads struggles with high unemployment and weak economies.

GM has said in the past that it's more concerned with profitable growth than the global sales race.

(5) Remarkable economic transformation in India, China: Federal Reserve chairman

Emerging markets like India and China are witnessing a remarkable transformation, despite a slowdown in economic growth, lifting millions of people out of poverty, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said.

"In the emerging markets, you have a variety of different stories, but I think the fundamentals there, in the emerging markets, are pretty good, and even if there's some moderation of growth in some countries, we are seeing overall a rather remarkable transformation of places like China and India, which has been the biggest anti-poverty programme in history," he said yesterday.

"The growth in those countries has lifted many millions of people out of poverty. So, I think growth will proceed in those areas as well, with each country, each region -- Latin America, Asia -- dealing with different sets of issues," he said in his remarks on 'Monetary Policy, Recovery from the Global Financial Crisis and Long-Term Challenges Facing the US Economy' at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Globally, he said, the different parts of the world that are facing slowdowns, each has to address its own set of issues.

"In Europe, some progress has been made in addressing their sovereign debt and banking issues that they have. The European Central Bank has taken some important steps to try to stabilise the financial markets there have been helpful," he said.

"They're working on improving their fiscal arrangements, both to create longer-term sustainability in individual countries, but also to put up a set of agreements under which countries will be willing to work with each other on fiscal matters," Bernanke said.

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