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Today's Hot Stories - March 03, 2011

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Supreme Court quashes Thomas's appointment
(2) 54 seats in north Bengal to go to the polls on April 18
(3) Two U.S. ships move closer to Libya, enter Suez Canal
(4) IndiGo to hire 1500 people in 2011
(5) Jha takes over as CIL Chairman
(6) Clean energy initiatives save millions for News Corp: Murdoch
(7) Kevin O'Brien's blitzkrieg blows away England
(8) Punjab, Haryana win hockey titles
(9) Ecclestone wants Bahrain GP decision before start of season
(10) Synthetic vaccine may help combat malaria, HIV-AIDS

5 Stories for Today

(1) Raja's expressions objectionable: Supreme Court
(2) Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus forced out of his bank
(3) India, ASEAN set $70 b trade target
(4) Intel completes $7.7-b buyout of McAfee
(5) High food prices can harm fragile economies

(1) Raja's expressions objectionable: Supreme Court

Former Telecom Minister A.Raja, prime accused in the 2G case, was on Wednesday criticised by the Supreme Court for using “intemperate” and “objectionable” language in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of spectrum allocation policy.

The apex court was anguished over the tone and tenor of Raja’s letter to the Prime Minister wherein words like “unfair, discriminatory, capricious and arbitrary” were used.

“The decorum required that the language must be polite and temperate,” a bench comprising Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly said, adding that “it amounted to showing disrespect to the highest political authority of the country.”

The court was hearing petitions seeking cancellation of spectrum allocated during the tenure of Raja as telecom minister.The bench was referring to the letter written by Mr. Raja on December 26, 2007 in which he “bypassed” and “overruled” the Prime Minister’s advice to defer the allocation of 2G spectrum by a few days.

“The expressions in the letter are very objectionable,” the bench said, noting, “Even when you are writing to someone senior in age you have to be respectful.unless you have learned a different language.”

The bench asked, “Is the minister (Raja) saying that the Prime Minister’s suggestions are arbitrary, unfair and capricious”.The bench said, “It is expected that the language used in the letter should be a little more dignified while addressing the Prime Minister. The use of adjectives like this should be avoided.

“The language in the letter (by Raja) is a matter of concern. It is not addressed to any ordinary person but a person senior who is a Prime Minister,” the bench said, adding that he was responding to a “decision of the Prime Minister.”

During a previous hearing, the same bench had said that Mr. Raja had not paid heed to the Prime Minister’s letter asking him to wait for some days before taking any action on the allocation of spectrum.

The court had raised questions on Mr. Raja ignoring the law ministry’s advice seeking opinion of the AG as “out of context”.The court had made the remarks after noting that the law minister had given an opinion that the matter be referred to the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) for seeking the opinion of the law officers like the Attorney General and the Solicitor General.

“Raja first received opinion of the law ministry which he overruled by saying that it was out of context, then he received a letter of the Prime Minister on the same day asking him to wait. The Prime Minister had sought to know further action taken by him (Raja). That was also ignored,” the court had said.

(2) Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus forced out of his bank

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has been forced from his position as head of the microfinance lender he founded, Grameen Bank, television stations reported on Wednesday.

Bangladesh’s central bank ordered his removal after accusations that he violated the country’s retirement laws, according to Private Desh TV and Bangla Vision Television. The government owns a 25 percent stake in Grameen, which lends small amounts of money to the poor and spurred similar lending practices worldwide. The innovation won Mr. Yunus the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with the bank itself.

The central bank has claimed that Mr. Yunus - a longtime critic of the government - violated the country’s retirement laws by staying on as Grameen’s head well past the mandatory retirement age of 60. Mr. Yunus is 70.

Grameen Bank says that the normal retirement rule does not apply to it as the bank is run under a special 1983 law. Mr. Yunus was appointed managing director of the bank for an indefinite period in 2000 when he reached 60, the bank says.

Mr. Yunus could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

Mr. Yunus has been mired in controversy after revelations of an unauthorized bank transfer and as the microfinance industry comes under attack for placing onerous conditions on borrowers that led to suicides in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh last year.

Controversy swirled around Mr. Yunus after a Norwegian television documentary that screened in December accused him of transferring Norwegian development funds from Grameen Bank to another venture without prior approval in 1996. Behind the scenes, pressure by the Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka resulted in the funds being transferred back to Grameen Bank in 1998.

The Bangladesh government set up a committee in January to look into the allegations and submit a report in three months. A Norwegian investigation that was sparked by the documentary said that the matter was resolved when the funds were returned in May 1998.

Mr. Yunus is also facing a defamation trial in Bangladesh, where many believe he was a supporter of the former military—backed interim government. A local politician in northern Bangladesh accused Mr. Yunus in 2007 of defaming him in an interview in which Mr. Yunus said that politicians were only motivated by money.

At the time of the remarks, Bangladesh was under a state of emergency and many politicians, including current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were behind bars on charges of corruption. An interim government backed by the country’s influential military eventually handed over power to the elected government of Ms. Hasina in January 2009.

(3) India, ASEAN set $70 b trade target

India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are committed to achieving a trade target of $70 billion by 2012, up 40 per cent from $50 billion in 2010, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said at the first India-ASEAN business fair and conclave being held here by the Commerce Ministry and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

India and the 10-nation bloc also broadly agreed that the free trade agreement (FTA) to cover services and investment sectors would be in place by 2011-end. Interestingly, there has been a rough ride for India and the bloc in this issue as negotiations have been going slow due to differences over various issues. The FTA in goods is already operational since January last year. “We are in an advanced stage of concluding negotiations on FTA in services and investments,'' Mr. Sharma said.

ASEAN trade ministers are here to attend the conclave.

Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Dato Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that further progress was expected when negotiators would meet later this month in Brunei, Darussalam.

Regarding concerns on including services, Mr. Mohamed said: “On the movement of natural persons, there are some concerns within the ASEAN countries that whether this might have an impact on our own people and professionals in the ASEAN region.'' Movement of natural persons means professionals would be able to move more easily between India and ASEAN, once the pact comes into operation. However, he added that the relationship was not complete without conclusion of the agreement in services and investments.

The Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary, Gregoryl Domingo said that they had some constitutional constraints regarding services agreement, but hoped that the negotiators would find a way out for this.

“We hope that it can be concluded by the end of this year. This was also the subject we raised with Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, when we met,'' The Malaysian Trade Minister said.

More than 500 exhibitors are participating in the fair. ASEAN (made up of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) has forged free trade pacts with a number of key regional economies, including China and India.

(4) Intel completes $7.7-b buyout of McAfee

The world’s largest chip-maker, Intel Corp, has announced the completion of its $7.68-billion acquisition of security software company McAfee.

“The acquisition of McAfee Inc is complete,” the company said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, McAfee would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intel and would continue to develop and sell security products and services under its own brand.

Both the companies have a good presence in India. In August last year, Intel said that it will acquire McAfee in an all-cash deal worth $7.68 billion that will bolster the chip-maker’s computing portfolio, especially in terms of wireless mobility offerings.

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intel, McAfee will be under Intel’s Software and Services Group. The group is managed by Intel Senior Vice-President and General Manager Mr Renee James.

“McAfee plans to bring the first fruits of their strategic partnership to market later this year, with the intent of tackling security and the pervasive nature of computing threats in an entirely new way,” Intel said.

McAfee, which employs about 6,100 employees, offers a suite of software-related security solutions, including McAfee Antivirus and McAfee Firewall, with many products targeted at mobile devices such as smart phones.

(5) High food prices can harm fragile economies

The ASEAN trade ministers on Wednesday expressed their serious concern over the rising food and oil prices across the world, stating that it could hurt growth and trade.

The trade ministers also called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday and conveyed their sentiment to him on the issue.

Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that the trade ministers also discussed the India-ASEAN FTA on services and investment. “We hope it can be concluded by end of this year.

This was also the subject we raised with the Prime Minister when we met him this morning," Mr. Mohamed said.

The Trade Ministers were accompanied by Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma. The Commerce Minister apprised Dr. Singh of the progress in India-ASEAN relations. Mr. Sharma informed that the Prime Minister had invited all the heads of ASEAN countries to India for the first summit to be held in Delhi soon.

“We are concerned over the issue of rising commodities prices and oil price. It will affect economic growth and the trade volume will decrease. We hope that we can manage it at national, regional and global level,'' Mr. Mohamed said at the India-ASEAN International Trade Fair.

In the last 11 months, food prices have skyrocketed nearly 29 per cent in the international markets, where prices of wheat, corn, sugar and edible oils shot up. Food inflation in India has nearly touched 17 per cent in recent months.

"The impact on India is a major concern but it is under control. If India can manage food security, it can create stability in the region," Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister said.

Mr. Sharma also acknowledged that the spurt in global food prices could harm fragile economies. ``Food inflation is a challenge in Asia and around the global today. The issue was discussed today,'' he remarked.

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