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Today's Hot Stories - March 31, 2011

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Agnivesh fallout: Dantewada DM shunted
(2) Outrage over reviews of new Gandhi book
(3) Syria prez warns of foreign plot, won’t end emergency rule
(4) Citi set to seal Rs 1,000cr office deal
(5) IndiGo to add 14 new aircraft in 2011-12
(6) Paper firms’ stocks zoom 20% after US co’s buy of AP Mills
(7) India beats Pakistan to reach WC Final
(8) Anti-climatic end to Shoaib's career
(9) Fish becomes top-ranked US player
(10) Google takes on Facebook with +1 button

5 Stories for Today

(1) India's population rises to 1.2 billion, says Census report
(2) Radioactive iodine peaks in Japan
(3) Now, alerts for all credit card payments
(4) Amazon faces backlash over ‘music locker’ service
(5) Food inflation at 9.50% on March 19

(1) India's population rises to 1.2 billion, says Census report

India's population rose to 1.21 billion people over the last 10 years — an increase by 181 million, according to the new census released today, but significantly, the growth is slower for the first time in nine decades.

The population, which accounts for world's 17.5 per cent population, comprises 623.7 million males and 586.5 million females, said a provisional 2011 Census report. China is the most populous nation, acounting for 19.4 per cent of the global population.

The country's headcount is almost equal to the combined population of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan put together, it said.

The population has increased by more than 181 million during the decade 2001-2011, the report said. The growth rate in 2011 is 17.64 per cent in comparison to 21.15 per cent in 2001.

The 2001-2011 period is the first decade — with exception of 1911-1921 — which has actually added lesser population compared to the previous decade, Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner of India C Chandramauli said in presence of Home Secretary Gopal K Pillai.

Among the states and Union territories, Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state, with 199 million people and Lakshadweep the least populated at 64,429.

The combined population of UP and Maharashtra is bigger than that of the US.

The highest population density is in Delhi's north-east district (37,346 per sq km) while the lowest is in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh (just one per sq km).

The Census indicated a continuing preference for male children over female children. The latest child sex ratio in is 914 female against 1,000 male—the lowest since Independence.

"This is a matter of grave concern," Chandramauli said.

According to the data, literates constitute 74 per cent of the total population aged seven and above and illiterates form 26 per cent.

The literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 per cent in 2001 to 74.04 per cent in 2011, showing an increase of 9.21 per cent.

(2) Radioactive iodine peaks in Japan

The level of radioactive iodine in the sea off Japan's disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reached its highest reading yet at 3,355 times the legal limit, Jiji press said Wednesday.

On Sunday, iodine-131 measuring 1,850 times the legal maximum were reported a few hundred metres (yards) offshore, up from 1,250 times the limit Saturday, but officials ruled out an immediate threat to marine life or to seafood safety.

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out the cooling systems of the Fukushima plant's six reactors -- triggering explosions and fires, releasing radiation and sparking global fears of a widening disaster.

Radiation from the plant northeast of Tokyo has wafted into the air, contaminating farm produce and drinking water, and seeped into the Pacific Ocean.

(3) Now, alerts for all credit card payments

The Reserve Bank of India has asked banks to put in place a system for providing online alerts for all card transactions irrespective of amount. Until now banks had to send online alerts to the cardholders for only 'Card Not present' (CNP) transactions, which were for the value of Rs 5,000 and above. Taking note of unauthorized or fraudulent withdrawals from ATMs, RBI has said that banks must implement by June 30 a system of instant alerts for all types of transactions irrespective of the amount, involving usage of cards at various channels.

"This measure is expected to encourage further usage of cards at various delivery channels" an RBI circular said.

In a circular to all banks, RBI said that it has been informed of unauthorized or fraudulent withdrawals from ATMs.

"It is important to arrest the incidents of such frauds in order to further encourage card based transactions in the country, where the use of credit/debit cards plays an important role" the central banks said.

RBI has said that banks must implement by June 30, 2011 a system of instant alerts for all types of transactions irrespective of the amount, involving usage of cards at various channels. "This measure is expected to encourage further usage of cards at various delivery channels" it said.

On February `09, RBI had asked banks to send online alerts to cardholders either through SMS or email where the card was used for transaction above Rs 5000. At that time, these alerts were required for only those transactions where the card was not present at such online purchases or over the telephone. "This measure has been generally welcomed by customers, as it enabled them to take prompt action if the card is misused. This measure goes a long way in arresting further perpetration of such fraudulent transactions" RBI said in its circular.

Earlier this year, RBI sought to make `card not present' transactions more secure by insisting that banks ask for an additional password in addition to the credit card number and the CVV number printed on the back of the card. The additional security feature came into effect from last month.

(4) Amazon faces backlash over ‘music locker’ service

A new service that lets customers store songs and play them on a variety of phones and computers is facing a backlash from the music industry that could ignite a legal battle.

Amazon's Cloud Drive, announced on Tuesday, allows customers to store about 1,000 songs on the company's web servers for free instead of their own hard drives and play them over an internet connection directly from web browsers and on phones running Google's Android software.

Sony Music, home to artists such as Shakira and Kings of Leon, was upset by Amazon's decision to launch the service without new licenses for music streaming, said spokeswoman Liz Young.

"We hope that they'll reach a new license deal," Young said, "but we're keeping all of our legal options open."

Amazon beat rivals Google and Apple into the market for such "music locker" services, which are meant to appeal to consumers frustrated by the complexities of storing their favourite songs at work, home and on their smartphones. Apple and Google were expected to launch their services at the end of last year.

Music labels were informed of the plans last week. Only later did Amazon address the issue of negotiating licenses, one source close to the discussions said.

That executive called the move "somewhat stunning" and noted that some within the media industry said that the service might be illegal.

(5) Food inflation at 9.50% on March 19

Food inflation fell to a single digit at 9.5 per cent for the week ended March 19 amid easing pulses prices, even as fruits and protein-based items remained costly.

Food inflation based on the wholesale price index (WPI) had risen to 10.05 per cent for the preceding week leading up to March 12 after remaining in a single digit for two weeks.

During the week ended March 19, prices of pulses declined by 4.40 per cent.

However, as per data released today, vegetables became costlier by 5.52 per cent year-on-year, with potato prices rising by 8.39 per cent and onions by 6.23 per cent during the week under review.

What is more, prices of fruits soared by 24.67 per cent year-on-year and eggs, meat and fish became dearer by 15.34 per cent.

Food inflation stood at 20.18 per cent in the comparable period last year.

During the week under review, milk became 5.79 per cent costlier on an annual basis.

The latest WPI data also shows that prices of cereals were up 3.96 per cent and rice became dearer by 2.94 per cent during the week. However, wheat prices remained unchanged year-on-year.

Meanwhile, non-food inflation was up by 26.18 per cent year-on-year.

Mineral prices were up by 12.35 per cent during the week under review, while petrol became dearer by 23.14 per cent.

Headline inflation in the country has remained above 8 per cent since February, 2010. Overall inflation in February this year stood at 8.31 per cent.

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