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Today's Hot Stories - January 17, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Yeddyurappa rules out alliance with BJP
(2) Heavy snowfall leaves Kashmir Valley inaccessible
(3) 34 hostages killed in air strike by Algerian forces: Reports
(4) RIL, Essar to gain from diesel decontrol
(5) Hero MotoCorp Q3 net down 20%
(6) Wolfensohn to buy 13% in Repco from Carlyle
(7) Sri Lanka win after bowling out Oz for 74
(8) Maria crushes Venus to reach 4th round
(9) Tennis: Djokovic struggles to reach fourth round
(10) Delhi gets the chills after hailstorm

5 Stories for Today

(1) Sonia Gandhi asks partymen to focus on unity
(2) Suu Kyi's party gets funds from cronies of ex-junta
(3) Industry body welcomes move to defer controversial tax avoidance rules
(4) US officials join 787 investigation in Japan
(5) Indian economy to grow 6.1% this year: UN

(1) Sonia Gandhi asks partymen to focus on unity

Gearing up for the 2014 general elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday told partymen that unity should be their watchword as the party had floundered many an opportunity for want of discipline.

Addressing the 'Chintan Shivir' here, Gandhi cautioned partymen of increased competition for Congress' political space among the people and noted that several inroads had been made in the party's traditional support bases.

"Is it not the case that we have floundered many opportunities that people are willing to give us simply because we have been unable to function as a disciplined and united team," she asked at the two-day party conclave held at the Birla Auditorium here.

The conclave will be followed by a session of the AICC on Sunday.

Among the leaders present on the dais included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, defence minister A K Antony, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora and Ambika Soni.

Gandhi asked the party leaders to set aside personal ambitions and egos to work cohesively and ensure that the party puts up a better performance, particularly in states where it is out of power.

"Why do we forget the simple truth that in the party's victory lies the victory of each and every one of us," she asked.

Gandhi said there was a need to strike a fine balance when it comes to dealing with alliance partners while ensuring that the party's rejuvenation was not compromised

(2) Suu Kyi's party gets funds from cronies of ex-junta

Cronies of Myanmar's military junta which kept democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for nearly two decades have reached a milestone in their quest to rehabilitate their image: they're now donors to Suu Kyi's political party.

While the Nobel Peace laureate's willingness to accept military-tainted funds for education projects might jar with her international image, her supporters praised the move as politically shrewd and financially necessary.

Suu Kyi's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, accepted $250,000 at a fundraising concert from companies owned by Western-blacklisted businessmen who made fortunes under the military dictatorship.

The donations have caused barely a stir in Myanmar, a sign of how much Suu Kyi is revered and of how successfully the cronies have repositioned themselves since a reformist government came to power in March 2011.

AGB Bank, owned by self-proclaimed billionaire Tay Za, once described by the US Treasury as "a notorious regime henchman and arms dealer", donated $47,000.

(3) Industry body welcomes move to defer controversial tax avoidance rules

The Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) welcomed the Union government's recent move to defer the controversial tax avoidance rules until 2016 as it feels that this decision will ring in renewed investor confidence among domestic and overseas players.

BCIC had made a vociferous presentation with the Shome Committee on August 18, 2012 in New Delhi to defer GAAR by at least three years, as many of the provisions proposed were not investor-conducive and on the short and long run would hinder fresh infusion of CAPEX coming into the country.

KR Sekar, chairman of Expert Committee on Direct Taxes and Partner, Deloitte Haskins and Sells said, "The acceptance of Shome Committee report on GAAR by government of India is certainly a welcome step. The industry and global investors were waiting for the acceptance of the report as it was fair and had considered the views of cross sections of industry and professionals. The following recommendations by government of India certainly deserves special mention and certainly will boost the confidence of industry and global investors."

The main purpose of the arrangement is to obtain tax benefit, accepting the independence of approving panel and also accepting to induct an independent member as part of the panel.

Though the Union government has accepted the committee report, the government has modified grand fathering date for introduction of GAAR.

In other words, the investments made till August 30, 2010 linking to the introduction of direct tax code bill is not appropriate.

All investments made till introduction of GAAR legislation should be grand fathered.

The Chamber feels that the government is likely to approach Parliament next month to water down the rules that damaged investor confidence which is a welcome move in the overall boosting of economy.

(4) US officials join 787 investigation in Japan

US safety officials and Boeing inspectors joined a Japanese investigation on Friday into the 787 jet at the center of a worldwide grounding of the technologically advanced aircraft.

Japanese TV footage showed the American investigators — one each from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board and two from Boeing Co — inspecting the All Nippon Airways jet on the tarmac at Takamatsu airport in western Japan.

The investigation is being led by the Japan Transport Safety Board.

The pilot of the ANA plane made an emergency landing Wednesday morning after he smelled something burning and received a cockpit warning of battery problems. All passengers evacuated the plane on emergency slides.

The American inspectors were expected to examine the battery later Friday, said Mamoru Takahashi, a JTSB official.

In the wake of the incident, nearly all 50 of the 787s in use around the world have been grounded. Aviation authorities in Japan have directed ANA, which owns 17 of the planes, and Japan Airlines, with seven, not to fly the jets until questions over their safety have been resolved.

The 787, known as the Dreamliner, is Boeing's newest jet, and the company is counting heavily on its success. Since its launch after delays of more than three years, the plane has been plagued by a series of problems including a battery fire and fuel leaks.

An initial inspection by Japanese officials of the 787 in Takamatsu found that a flammable battery fluid known as electrolyte had leaked from the plane's main lithium-ion battery beneath the cockpit. It also found burn marks around the battery.

The 787 relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It's also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for its main electrical system.

GS Yuasa Corp, the maker of the lithium-ion batteries used in the 787s, said it was helping with the investigation but that the cause of the problem was unclear.

The FAA has required US carriers to stop flying 787s until the batteries are demonstrated to be safe. United Airlines has six of the jets and is the only US carrier flying the model.

Aviation authorities in other countries usually follow the lead of the country where the manufacturer is based.

(5) Indian economy to grow 6.1% this year: UN

Indian economy is projected to grow at a slower pace of 6.1% this year even as exports and capital investments are likely to be much better than in 2012, according to the United Nations. The UN has trimmed its growth forecast from 7.2% estimated in June 2012.

However, the forecast of 6.1% growth for this year is much better than 5.5% expansion seen in 2012, as per the UN 'World Economic Situation and Prospects 2013' report.

"GDP growth in India will accelerate to 6.1% in 2013 and 6.5% in 2014 as a result of stronger growth of exports and capital investment... Investment demand is expected to respond to a more accommodative monetary policy stance and slightly improved business confidence," it said. UN ESCAP's (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) Chief Economist Nagesh Kumar on Thursday said that India has huge growth potential in the long term. India and China are playing a major role in the growth of world economy," he said. Slowdown in growth to 5.5% last year "reflected weaker consumption and investment demand as a result of persistent inflation, high nominal interest rates, large fiscal deficits and political gridlock," UN said.

These factors would likely continue to impact economic growth in the next two years even as a moderate recovery is expected, it said.

According to the UN, India's annual growth declined from over 9% clocked in 2010 to about 5.5% last year, the slowest pace in ten years.

Regarding measures to contain inflation in the country, Nagesh Kumar said monetary tightening would not be the "right tool".

He also expressed optimism that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would ease its policy in the coming months.

Wholesale Price Inflation (WPI) touched a three-year low of 7.18% in December but retail inflation continued to remain in double digit at 10.56%.

Further, WPI inflation was much above the central bank's comfort level of 4%-5%. The inflation has not declined to the expected levels despite tight monetary stance pursued by the RBI to check price rise.

Meanwhile, the report said economic growth in South Asia fell to its lowest in 10 years in 2012.

"After growing by 5.8% in 2011... South Asia's gross domestic product expanded by only 4.4% in 2012. Going forward, economic growth in the region is projected to accelerate to 5% in 2013 and 5.7% in 2014, led by a gradual recovery in India," the UN said.

Indian economy accounts for almost three-quarter of South Asia's overall GDP. Other countries in South Asia region include Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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