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Today's Hot Stories - April 23, 2010

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Indians paying for social security with no benefits: Kharge
(2) Three villagers shot dead by Maoists in Jharkhand
(3) Attacks in Bangkok kill at least one amid standoff
(4) Duty sop for cotton yarn exporters may go
(5) Steel prices may witness minor variations
(6) Piramal healthcare to buy Bharat Serums' products business
(7) IPL – 3: Chennai beat Deccan, meet MI in final
(8) Forlan scores as Atletico beat Liverpool 1-0 in Europa League semifinal
(9) Tsonga fights back to make Barcelona quarters
(10) Indian American Vinod Khosla tops Forbes' '10 greenest billionaires'

5 Stories for Today

(1) Non-UPA, non-NDA parties gear up for cut motion
(2) Burning U.S. oil rig sinks, setting stage for big spill
(3) Wipro Q4 net up 21 per cent
(4) Join us, don't fight us: Obama to Wall Street
(5) Food inflation rises to 17.65 per cent

(1) Non-UPA, non-NDA parties gear up for cut motion

The combined non-UPA, non-NDA Opposition in Parliament on Thursday said the parties would press for a cut motion and amendment in the Finance Bill when it comes up for voting on April 27, the day of their nation-wide strike protesting price rise.

Describing the cut motion as an expression of the Opposition's collective disapproval of the policies of the Manmohan Singh government, CPI parliamentary party leader Gurudas Dasgupta said that it was part of an effort for a comprehensive people's movement against price rise.

The leaders reiterated that the move was aimed not at removing the government or creating instability in the country but against the policy and performance of the government. Through these parliamentary tools, the Opposition was seeking to force the government to withdraw the increase in duties on oil and fertilizers.

Separately, BJP Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde said as of now there was no coordination between his party and the non-UPA, non-NDA parties on the issue of cut motion.

The CPI leader said the Opposition would seek to move the cut motion when the government sought passage of the Demands for Grants for the Ministry of Finance, even as the guillotine rule was applied, and then move to amend the Finance Bill.

While during the last so many years, no cut motion was moved when the guillotine came into play, he had written to the Speaker seeking her direction. The Constitution provides that the House has the power to assent, or to refuse to assent, any demand, or to assent any demand subject to a reduction of the amount specified.

“All of us are together and will move the cut motion and join the strike. Even after the issue of price rise was discussed twice in Parliament, the government has done nothing to control it. We have no other option,'' TDP leader Nama Nageswara Rao said.

AIADMK leader M. Thambi Durai said his party chief Jayalalithaa had decided to take part in the national hartal since the rise in prices was affecting the common people, while Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of the RJD said the Opposition had begun a movement from the streets to Parliament on this issue.

Ajit Singh said while the RLD was on board, in Uttar Pradesh it was also protesting the decision of the Mayawati government not to open wheat trading centres in large numbers, resulting in farmers getting less than the minimum support price.

It was also protesting the land acquisition spree of the State government for construction of expressways.

CPI(M) parliamentary party leader Sitaram Yechury said that besides the 13 parties in Parliament, several regional parties like the Asom Gana Parishad would join the strike.

(2) Burning U.S. oil rig sinks, setting stage for big spill

A deepwater oil platform that burned for more than a day after a massive explosion sank into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, creating the potential for a major spill as it underscored the slim chances that the 11 workers still missing survived.

The sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, which burned violently until the gulf itself extinguished the fire, could unleash more than 1,135,600 litres of crude a day into the water. The environmental hazards would be greatest if the spill were to reach the Louisiana coast, some 80 km away.

Crews searched by air and water for the missing workers, hoping they had managed to reach a lifeboat, but one relative said family members have been told it’s unlikely any of the missing survived Tuesday night’s blast. The Coast Guard found two lifeboats but no one was inside. More than 100 workers escaped the explosion and fire; four were critically injured.

As the rig burned, supply vessels shot water into it to try to keep it afloat and avoid an oil spill, but there were additional explosions on Thursday. Officials had previously said the environmental damage appeared minimal, but new challenges have arisen now that the platform has sunk.

The rig carried 2,649,700 litres of diesel fuel, but that would likely evaporate if the fire didn’t consume it.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said crews saw a 1.5 km-by-8 km rainbow sheen with a dark centre of what appeared to be a crude oil mix on the surface of the water. She said there wasn’t any evidence crude oil was coming out after the rig sank, but officials also aren’t sure what’s going on underwater. They have dispatched a vessel to check.

The oil will do much less damage at sea than it would if it hits the shore, said Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network.

“If it gets landward, it could be a disaster in the making,” Ms. Sarthou said.

Doug Helton, incident operations coordinator for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s office of response and restoration, said the spill is not expected to come onshore in the next three to four days. “But if the winds were to change, it could come ashore more rapidly,” he said.

At the worst-case figure of 1,135,600 litres a day, it would take more than a month for the amount of crude oil spilled to equal the 40 million litres spilled from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

The well will need to be capped off underwater. Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashley Butler said crews were prepared for the platform to sink and had the equipment at the site to limit the environmental damage.

Oil giant BP, which contracted the rig, said it has mobilised four aircraft that can spread chemicals to break up the oil and 32 vessels, including a big storage barge, that can suck more than 171,000 barrels of oil a day from the surface.

Crews searching for the missing workers, meanwhile, have covered the 3,120-km search area by air 12 times and by boat five times. The boats searched all night.

Adrian Rose, vice-president of rig owner Transocean, said on Thursday some surviving workers said in company interviews that their missing colleagues may not have been able to evacuate in time. He said he was unable to confirm whether that was the case.

Those who escaped did so mainly by getting on lifeboats that were lowered into the gulf, Mr. Rose said. Weekly emergency drills seemed to help, he said, adding that workers apparently stuck together as they fled the devastating blast.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Kevin Fernandez was the flight mechanic on a helicopter that was the first to respond, about 15 minutes after the explosion. Fernandez said he could see the fire from 130 km away, with flames rising about 500 feet.

The U.S. Minerals Management Service, which regulates oil rigs, conducted three routine inspections of the Deepwater Horizon this year — in February, March and on April 1 — and found no violations, MMS spokeswoman Eileen Angelico said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard said a crew member from an oil platform that sank off Louisiana had reported an initial explosion three hours before the rig went up in flames in a second, larger explosion.

Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O’Berry said the first blast was reported at 7 pm CDT on Tuesday. Later, the rig sent an emergency signal. Mr. O’Berry said a nearby rig at the same time reported the Deepwater Horizon was in flames.

(3) Wipro Q4 net up 21 per cent

IT major Wipro on Friday reported 20.77 per cent growth in consolidated net profit at Rs. 1,209 crore for the fourth quarter ended March, compared to the same period last year.

Net income from sales rose to Rs. 6,982 crore for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, from Rs. 6,451.4 crore in the same quarter previous fiscal, Wipro said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The company announced a bonus issue in 2:3 ratio, or two equity shares of face value of Rs. 2 each for every three held. The proposal is subject to shareholders’ approval.

In addition, a dividend of Rs. 6 per share on the face value of Rs. 2 each to shareholdeRs. has also been announced.

“We have seen another strong quarter of broad based, volume led growth. We saw good recovery in our challenged verticals of technology and telecom. The business environment is returning to normal,” Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said.

For the year ended March 31, 2010, the company posted a consolidated net profit of Rs. 4,593 crore, up 18.49 from a year ago. On the outlook front, Mr. Premji added that for the quarter ending June 30, 2010, the company expects revenues from IT services business to be in the range of $1,190 million to $1,215 million.

“We had a satisfying quarter. We delivered close to the upper end of our guidance with revenues of $1,180 million in constant currency. We have driven up margins by 60 basis points despite headwinds of wage increases, rupee appreciation and the impact of cross currency,” Wipro Executive Director & CFO Suresh Senapaty said.

On a standalone basis, the company reported a growth of 46.85 per cent in net profit at Rs. 1,236 crore for the fourth quarter.

Revenues from IT services in constant currency was $1,180 million, with a sequential increase of 4.7 per cent. On a year-on-year basis, the constant currency revenue increase was 7.8 per cent.

The company’s IT services during the quarter added 27 new clients and for the whole year, the company added 121 new clients.

The company during the quarter made a net addition of 5,325 employees, taking its headcount to 1,08,071.

Shares of Wipro were trading at Rs. 724 on BSE, up 2.99 per cent from previous close.

(4) Join us, don't fight us: Obama to Wall Street

President Barack Obama travelled to New York on Thursday where he reached out to Wall Street to win its cooperation on his major financial regulation overhaul package awaiting a Senate vote.

Speaking at the Cooper Union educational institution in Lower Manhattan he said,I am here today because I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort. I am here because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of our financial sector. And I am here to explain what reform will look like, and why it matters.?

The House of Representatives already passed a bill last December with sweeping reforms and now Mr. Obama hopes the Senate will follow suit in four key areas of regulation in the coming weeks after which he could sign the reforms into law.

First, Mr. Obama said, the bill being considered in the Senate would create new protections for the financial system and the broader economy, in particular ensuring that taxpayers are never again on the hook because a firm is deemed too big to fail.

Arguing that the recent financial crisis had occurred because there was no process designed to contain the failure of a Lehman Brothers, he said that it was for this reason that we need a system to shut these firms down with the least amount of collateral damage to innocent people and businesses. He said that he had insisted that the financial industry and not taxpayers shoulder the costs in the event that a large financial company should falter, with the goal being to make certain that taxpayers are never again on the hook because a firm is deemed too big to fail.

Second, Mr. Obama argued that regulatory reform ought to bring new transparency to financial markets, for example by preventing firms such as AIG from making huge and risky bets using derivatives and other complicated financial instruments in ways that defied accountability, or even common sense. In this regard he said that there was a legitimate role for these financial instruments in our economy, to allay risk and spur investment.

Third, he explained that his administration would enact the strongest consumer financial protections ever, to protect people taking on mortgages and credit cards and auto loans from being misled by bandit companies and losing their homes and fortunes.

Finally, he said that the Wall Street reforms he was proposing would give shareholders new power in the financial system, including having a say on the salaries and bonuses awarded to top executives and a stronger role in determining who manages the companies in which they have placed their savings. Americans don’t begrudge anybody for success when that success is earned. But when we read in the past about enormous executive bonuses at firms even as they were relying on assistance from taxpayers, it offended our fundamental values, Mr. Obama said, adding that this compensation structure had also created perverse incentives to take reckless risks.

(5) Food inflation rises to 17.65 per cent

Food inflation rose to 17.65 per cent for the week ended April 10 from 17.22 per cent in the previous week due to higher prices of fruits and vegetables.

In the corresponding week last year, food inflation was at 8.16 per cent.

Prices of fruits and vegetables rose by 3 per cent, sea fish became costlier by 2 per cent and pulses such as arhar and moong became dearer by 1 per cent each over the week.

The overall inflation, led by rise in food prices, had gone up to 9.9 per cent in March, much higher than the central bank’s projection of 8.5 per cent for March-end.

On an annual basis, pulses became dearer by 28.77 per cent, milk by 22.21 per cent, fruits by 18.81 per cent and wheat by 11.18 per cent.

On a weekly basis, the index for food articles rose by 0.7 per cent. Index for non-food articles rose by 0.5 per cent led by higher prices of groundnut and castor seeds.

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