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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

10 Things You Should Know - Episode VI

  • The Wicked Bible’ of 1631 is so called because it dropped a ‘not’ from one of the prohibitions of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt commit adultery (instead of ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’).
  • During the Second World War, Russian strongman Stalin was code-named GLYPTIC, meaning ‘an image carved out of stone’. The name Stalin means ‘man of steel’.
  • The Vatican City has no armed force of its own, the (Pontifical) Swiss Guard being a corps responsible for the security of the Pope. The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 as the personal bodyguard of the Pope and continues to fulfill that function. All recruits must be Catholic, unmarried males with Swiss citizenship who have completed their basic training with the Swiss Army with certificates of good conduct, be between the ages of 19 and 30, and be at least 175 cm (68.90 in) in height. Members are armed with small arms and the traditional halberd (a kind of pole weapon) and trained in bodyguarding tactics.
  • In a speech broadcast by the Azad Hind Radio from Singapore in July 1944, Subhash Chandra Bose addressed Mahatma Gandhi as the ‘Father of the Nation’ and asked for his blessings and good wishes for the war he was fighting. This was the first time that Mahatma Gandhi was referred to by this title.
  • Goldman Sachs was founded by Marcus Goldman in New York in 1869. Thirteen years later, his son-in-law Samuel Sachs joined him. In 1885, the firm adopted the name, Goldman Sachs & Co.
  • The population of Uttar Pradesh is a little over 20 crore (Census 2011). This means that if UP were a separate country, it would have been the fifth most populous nation in the world. To put this in perspective, UP’s population would put it ahead of Brazil, which with its area of over 85 lakh sq km, is 35 times larger than UP in area.
  • The Aztecs used to describe gold as ‘the excrement of the gods’.
  • The word cyberspace is a portmanteau of cybernetics and space. It was coined by William Gibson, the Canadian science fiction writer, in 1982 in his novelette Burning Chrome’ in Omni magazine and was subsequently popularized in his novel Neuromancer. Cyberspace relates to virtual reality.
  • Meatspace is the opposite of ‘cyberspace’. In other words, meatspace relates to anything that is physical in nature.
  • We all know that Rahul Dravid is nicknamed ‘The Wall’. There is another nickname he has got: Jammy. That is what his school teammates called him, because Rahul’s father worked for Kissan jams (a Unilever brand). 

Check out 10 Things - Episode I, Episode IIEpisode IIIEpisode IV, and Episode V.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

India's Spineless Leadership

India's President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh backed out of scheduled appointments to attend the four-day Global Buddhist Conference that began on November 27. The GBC is being held to mark the 2,600th year of Buddha's enlightenment. 

Why did two of India's highest leaders back out of a
religious meet

Ms Patil and Dr Singh backed out because China strongly objected to the Dalai Lama's valedictory address at the GBC.


We are led by a spineless leadership. Our behaviour is being dictated by external powers, like China in this case. 


There are so many things at play here... 


Why should the PM and President skip a religious event just because the Chinese object to it? 


Is China a friend of India that we should care for its political sensitivities? 


Does not China host anti-India elements like the ULFA chief and other North East terror insurgents? 


Would Dr Singh and Pratibha Patil have cancelled their appointments if this were a Muslim / Christian event? I understand that Buddhists dont make for a great vote bank. 


After taking a hard stance on the South China Sea issue, we are back to square one; it seems that we take one step forward and two steps backward. 
So much for our global power aspirations!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Great NDTV Rope Act



In a story titled, 'The Great Fraud Act' (Nov 7), posted on this blog, I wrote about the manipulative practices and corruption involving NDTV news network, led by Prannoy James Roy.  

In that story, I wrote that Roy's NDTV panders to the Sonia Maino-led CONgress party's agenda because of its own needs; the CBI had filed cheating cases against Roy and NDTV. So its
quid pro quo: NDTV becomes the CONgress party's mouthpiece while the CONgress party takes care of the cheating cases.

Now more evidence has emerged in this regard. On November 15, 2011, S. K. Shrivatsava, Commissioner of Income Tax, Delhi, filed an affidavit against NDTV and its management, accusing them of receiving bribe money of Rs2000 crores (Rs Two Thousand Crores) on behalf of some beneficiaries in the 2G scam.


The affidavit also mentions the role of P. Chidambaram in harassing the honest Indian Revenue Service (IRS) by filing false charges of rape.


I think you should read the affidavit; it is 32-page long and, like most legal documents, is repetitive. 


For the complete affidavit, click
here. I suggest that you check out Page 24 onward for a greater understanding of NDTV's corrupt and strong arm tactics.

Spread the word. Share the link to this post with friends; people should know the truth about corupt and biased media network channels like NDTV. 


No news channel in the electronic media or publication in the print media carried this story. There are several reasons for this; the most important is that they are all naked when it comes to peddling lies and furthering their agenda. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

10 Things You Should Know - Episode V

Here’s Episode V of 10 Things You Should Know; I wrote this instalment at Delhi airport, waiting for my flight to Jaipur.

  • What do you call an older man having a much younger girlfriend? Cradle-snatcher.

  • The motto of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is ‘Nation shall speak peace unto nation’.

  • John Lennon, one of the greatest song writers and member of the Beatles, used the pseudonym ‘Kaptain Kundalini’ in his musical works. I suggest you listen to John Lennon’s Imagine; it is divine.

  • The small enclosed area used in the sport of Cock-fighting called Cockpit.

  • ‘In-q-tel’ is the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

  • Jesus Wept is the shortest verse in the Bible. In tennis, Jesus Wept refers to mini tennis skirts.

  • Marilyn Monroe was the first pin-up in Playboy magazine, launched by Hugh Hefner in 1953.
  • When Netaji Subhash Bose reorganised the Indian National Army (INA), he placed his soldiers under three commands: Gandhi, Nehru and Maulana Azad.

  • Barbecue, a type of cooking, is named after a Spanish word meaning ‘framework of sticks’.
  • It is general practice, especially among the religious Christians, to polish or wipe apples before eating. Do you know why? To wipe away the devil’s finger-marks on the skin, to avoid misfortune. This originates from the belief that Satan gave Eve an apple to eat.
  Check out 10 Things You Should Know: Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, and Episode IV.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

10 Things You Should Know - Episode IV


Presenting the Fourth Episode of 10 Things You Should Know.

1.
Nike is the world’s largest supplier of sports gear. It was founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman and Philip Knight. Later in 1978 the company’s name was changed to Nike, being named after the Greek goddess of victory. The logo (tick or right mark) is called Swoosh. It also owns brands like Umbro and Converse. 

2.
Operation Polo was the name of the military operation launched by the Indian Army to liberate Hyderabad in 1948. The name Polo was chosen because of the presence of a large number of polo grounds in Hyderabad.

3.
Greece is called by the Greeks as Hellas or Ellada and its official name is Hellenic Republic. It is only in English that the country is called Greece, a word which is rooted in the Latin Graecia (a name used by the Romans and which literally means 'the land of the Greeks'.)

4.
Ferrari is a brand owned by FIAT. Ferrari’s logo of Prancing Horse was designed by a Turin-based company Cerrato and was engraved by Incerti for Ferrari Scaglietti models.

5.
Kirti Mandir in Porbandar is a memorial temple built in honour of Mahatma Gandhiji

6.
A former song writer and singer, Silvio Berlusconi is the colourful former prime minister of Italy. He is the owner of AC Milan football club. He is also a major shareholder of Fininvest, one of Italy’s biggest private companies, and Mediolanum, a massive banking and insurance group. 

7.
An economy which neither exports nor imports is called ‘closed economy’.

8.
Jonathan Ive is the chief designer of the iPod, iMac and the other major products of Apple. He is currently the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple. 

9.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Bhumibol Adulyadej. He is officially named King Rama IX, who has reigned since 1946, making him the world's longest-serving current head of state. The king is officially titled Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths. 

10.
Idi Amin was the president of Uganda between 1971 and 1979. He captured power in a military coup and was eventually thrown out in a military intervention by neighbouring Tanzania. Toward the end of his reign, many believed that he had gone mad; he declared he had defeated the British and conferred on himself the decoration of CBE (Conqueror of the British Empire)! Wish to know his full self-bestowed title? Here it is: ‘“His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”, in addition to his officially stated claim of being the uncrowned King of Scotland.’ Now you know why Hollywood made an Oscar-winning film on Amin’s life with the title of ‘The Last King of Scotland’.

Check out
Episode I, Episode II, and Episode III of 10 Things You Should Know.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Explainer: The eurozone Debt Crisis


The European Union has 27 members. Of these, 17 member states have adopted the euro as their common currency. This common currency union is called the eurozone (written in lower case). 

As you know, the monetary policy of a country is made by its central bank. For example, the Reserve Bank of India, India's central bank, formulates the monetary policy. Similarly, the eurozone too has a central bank: the European Central Bank, based in Frankfurt, Germany.


Check out the below terrific
Reuters infographic for a lowdown on the debt, GDP, and budget deficit status of some of the most vulnerable eurozone economies.

Decoding graphic jargon:

Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) relates to the total money value of all goods and services produced in one country's domestic territory in one fiscal (financial) year. 

The combined GDP of these 17 eurozone members is a little over 9 trillion euros (2010).  


Budget Deficit
refers to the (negative) difference between income and expenditure. In more simple terms, budget deficit arises when a country's government runs up expenditure which is greater than its revenues. 

To fund this deficit, the country has to borrow, either from internal sources or from external bodies (like foreign banks). This borrowing is called
debt.

As the graphic depicts, Greece’s total debt is a whopping 162% of its GDP, and is further likely to touch 200%! 


The above graphic relates the same picture about Ireland, Italy, and Portugal. These nations, along with Spain, are facing mounting debts, but they do not have enough funds to pay their debts. 


These nations borrowed heavily, raised public sector salaries, built public infrastructure, and upped social welfare spending. In a sense, they made merry with borrowed money. 


However, they forgot to fix the tax system. The tax collection systems in these nations are riddled with loopholes, which helped encourage massive tax evasion. Tax revenues are the biggest source of a government’s revenues. From these collections, the government pays the interest and sometimes (part of) the principal. 


However, an inefficient tax system leads to poor tax collections, which rendered these countries incapable of honouring their debt payments. When you do not pay your debt on time, you are declared a
defaulter

Once a country defaults, it becomes
untrustworthy in the eyes of the lenders (like foreign banks and multilateral institutions like IMF). So the lenders begin to charge a higher rate of interest, which in turn, raises the mountain of the country’s debt. 

This is precisely the anatomy of the problems faced by some of the eurozone nations like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Italy. 



In my next post on this issue, I will dwell on the likely effects of the eurozone Debt Crisis.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Secret History of the Global Fin Crash

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based media company, has been a trailblazer in many ways in the otherwise closed, information-phobic Arab World. Last month, it carried Meltdown, a four-part investigation into a world of greed and recklessness that brought down the financial world. 

The four-part nearly 170 minute series is one of the best pieces of investigative journalism  I have ever seen. I am pretty sure that you will like it as much as I did. Also, it will introduce you to the real greedy men and women who destroyed the livelihoods (and lives) of millions of people around the world.


The show begins with the 2008 crash that pushed 30 million people into unemployment, brought countries to the edge of insolvency and turned the clock back to 1929.


Here is Episode I: The Men Who Crashed The World




Click on the link for Episode 2: A Global Financial Tsunami

Click on the link for 
Episode 3: Paying the Price

Click on the link for 
Episode 4: After the Fall 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

10 Things You Should Know - Episode III



This is the third installment in the 10 Things You Should Know series.

  • 7, Race Course Road, is the official residence of the Prime Minister of India. However, the official name of this 12-acre residential complex is Panchavati.

  • Nusli Wadia is the owner of Bombay Dyeing, Britannia, and Go Air. He is also the grandson of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

  • The name Deccan is an anglicised form of the Prakrit language word, ‘dakkhin’. In fact, ‘dakkhin’ itself is derived from the Sanskrit word dakshina, meaning ‘south’.

  • When he was 13, Don Bradman's father took him to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to watch the fifth Ashes Test match, in 1921. On that day, Bradman formed an ambition. "I shall never be satisfied", he told his father, "until I play on this ground". Bradman left school in 1922 and went to work for a local real estate agent who encouraged his sporting pursuits by giving him time off when necessary. He gave up cricket in favour of tennis for two years, but resumed playing cricket in 1925–26. Tennis’ loss, cricket’s gain!

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States. Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of former United States presidents (in order from left to right) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
  • The word ‘Arctic’ comes from the Greek ‘arktos’, meaning ‘bear’. It refers to either of the two Bear constellations found in the sky over the North Pole – Ursa Major (Great Bear) or Ursa Minor (Little Bear).
  • Douglas Engelbart invented the computer mouse in 1963. At the time, he was a researcher at the Stanford Research Institute. 
  • The term ‘Blue Chip’ comes from the colour of the poker chip with the highest value, blue. In stock market jargon, it refers to a consistently growing company (with a rising share price).
  • YouTube was founded by Steve Chan, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim in 2005. A year later, it was acquired by Google for U.S.$1.65 billion.
  • When he was asked what his last words were, Karl Marx retorted this before breathing his last: Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!”

(Read 10 Things You Should Know Episode I and Episode II)

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Great Fraud Act

The media in India is considered by many commentators as one of the most open and free in the world. I wish it were true. The two main channels of media - electronic and print - are riddled with paid news and are driven by their vested interests. 

Take the case of NDTV. Any serious observer of the Indian media space would swear by the fact that NDTV is shamelessly pro-Congress. Prannoy James Roy (above) and his bouquet of channels lack any ethics and are neck deep in peddling lies about anyone who dares to oppose the Sonia Maino-led Congress. 


If you think I am leveling allegations against these self-appointed media gods, then read the following extract of investigative journalism from
Zoom Indian Media:
During 1997 and 1998, the names of NDTV and its founder Prannoy Roy appear in newspapers and magazines in relation to a major corruption case in Doordarshan. 
In the context of the recent reports of financial malpractice by NDTV and its founder Prannoy Roy, I followed up on this tweet by Kunal Majumdar, a journalist: 
In 1998 CBI had filed a case against Pranoy Roy for creating a loss of Rs 5 cr to DD. http://bit.ly/ij5lC3 #fb
I was surprised to learn of the existence of a CBI case against Prannoy Roy. I wanted to dig up more on this story. I went through all 16 pages returned by Google for “prannoy roy cbi dd” and found many interesting links. I’m putting the links here quoting revelant portions of the articles. One must be cautious before drawing conclusions from these articles as they were written more than a decade ago. But one conclusion that people may safely draw is that during the early 90s, NDTV and its founder and Executive Chairperson Prannoy Roy were allegedly involved in corrupt dealings reportedly causing a loss of atleast Rs. 3.52 crore to Doordarshan, allegedly bribed an official in the Government of India, and in January 1998 cases were filed against Roy and others by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal conspiracy and under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
If you think this was bad, then you should read this article from The Sunday Guardian. Let me cite an excerpt from the article: 
NDTV, through its foreign subsidiaries, is suspected to be indulging in gross violations of Indian tax and corporate laws. NDTV Network Plc, UK was set up in November 2006. Its balance sheets were not filed in India. This company has raised and invested huge sums of money in its subsidiaries, NDTV Imagine (now sold), NDTV Lifestyle, NDTV Labs, NDTV Convergence and NGEN Media Services. The main activity of the company seems to be that of buying shares, as detailed later. Even now, most of the deals being struck by NDTV are being transacted through this UK subsidiary, with no money seemingly coming to India by way of tax.
Here's how NDTV indulges in financial chicanery and is looting the wealth of shareholders. Read this second complete article here.
NDTV Limited and associate companies in which Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy have a majority stake have indulged in financial misdemeanours and malpractices in connivance with ICICI Bank, and raised funds by misdeclaration of the value of shares in NDTV. These shares were held by a company called RRPR Holding Private Limited.
For publishing these articles, NDTV threatened The Sunday Guardian with its usual strong arm tactics. (Read NDTV's reply to the articles here.)

I used to wonder as what could be the possible reasons behind NDTV's staunch support for the INC, to the extent that it has become the voice of the Congress party. 


Today I know why; the Congress party has Prannoy Roy by his balls because of these corruption allegations. Become our voice and pander to our agenda, says the INC to NDTV. 


Roy and NDTV are just being 'His Master's Voice', i.e. Sonia Maino's voice. It is twist of irony that NDTV's tag-line reads: 'Experience Truth. First.' Yes, the lies and prejudices peddled as truth.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Ticking Time Bomb

Last week, global population hit the 7 billion counter! India's share in the world population pie is a whopping 17%! While we grew at a still high 1.76% per annum since 2001, it is lower than the 2.13% per annum growth rate we generated between 1991 and 2001.

At the current rate of population growth, we will overtake China in a matter of few years. In a country like India with huge income disparities and social and economic tensions, a fast-growing population places enormous pressure on resources. 


On the Reuters blog, I found four interesting infographics on global population numbers, including on the attended themes of urbanisation, ageing, and poverty. I do not know if the world is running out of resources to feed our ever growing numbers but I am sure that at the current pace of consumption we are living on borrowed time.


Click on the graphics for larger views.











Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Explainer: Bond


It has been many days since I penned The Explainer. Last week, I was at a college where a student asked me about 'bonds'. She told me that she had come across this term while running through the numerous scary stories on the Greek crisis. While I did explain the term to this student, I thought of sharing with you a few ideas on bonds.

So here is The Explainer on Bonds.

What is a Bond?
A bond is a security, just like a fixed deposit. In the case of an FD, you put money in the form of a deposit with a bank and the bank pays a fixed rate of interest on your deposit. 

Let us say, you wish to invest Rs10,000 (this amount is called 'principal') in a five-year FD, which will pay you an annual interest rate of 8%. This means that every year, your FD will yield 8 per cent in interest and at the end of five years, you will get back your principal amount of Rs10,000. 

In other words, you are lending your money to the bank, for which it pays you interest. 

Just like this, in the case of a bond, you keep your money with the government and the government pays a fixed rate of interest. 
When a government wants to borrow money, it does so by way of issuing bonds. 

Here's a simple example: The Government of India wishes to borrow money to finance its expenditure (or to spend on anything it wishes). To borrow money, it issues bonds.

Let us say, the government prices each bond at Rs1,000, which carries an interest rate of 5% and a tenure of 10 years. This means that if you buy the Rs1,000 bond, you will be paid interest at 5% and at the end of 10 years, the government will return your principal amount of Rs1,000 also. 

What is 'yield' on bond?
The rate of interest generated on your investment when you buy a bond is called yield. Like in the example, the ten-year Rs1000 bond carries an interest rate of 5%. This 5% is called yield. 

Who buys government bonds? Are they safe?
Government bonds carry sovereign guarantee. This means that the government of the country stands 'guarantee' to the repayment of your investment. Such bonds are generally considered very safe for investment and are rated to be risk-free. This attracts a large number of conservative investors (like pension funds and insurance companies), who generally avoid investing in risky securities like shares.

Does a bond market, like a share market, exist? 
Yes. There is a large bond market in our country, and so is the case with most large economies. Generally, in India it is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that sells bonds to generate funds for the government. 

Can you buy / sell bonds?
Yes. If you wish to sell your bond, you can do so. However, it depends on the interest rate scenario. For example, if you (as a bond holder) believe that the government will not be able to honour its repayment, i.e. it may default, then you will try to sell the bond in the market. But such a bond will attract a low price, which means that you will lose money on selling it.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

10 Things You Should Know – Episode II

Friends, here is this week's list of 10 Things You Should Know. 

(Read 
Episode I of Things You Should Know.)

1.
Employees who return to their previous places of work are called boomerang employees.

2.
Operation Vijay was the codename of the military operation launched to liberate Goa, Daman, & Diu from the colonial rule of Portugal, in 1961.  

3.
Walmart is the largest company in the world by revenue, with sales of U.S.$421 billion in 2011. Headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, it was founded by Samuel Moore ‘Sam’ Walton in 1962.  

4.
A Lusophone is someone who speaks the Portuguese language, either as a native, as an additional language, or as a learner. The word comes from Lusitania, an ancient Roman province which covered most of the part of the Iberian Peninsula that is today the Republic of Portugal and part of Spain. Brazil is the largest lusophone country in the world. 

5.
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is a co-founder of Facebook. At school, he loved math and astronomy while excelling in the Classical studies. In fact, on his college application, Zuckerberg listed as non-English languages he could read and write: French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek! 

6.
A Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde invented =, the ‘equals’ sign in 1557. He is the author of ‘The Grounde of Artes’, the first book in English on algebra.

7.
Durex is a portmanteau of ‘Durability, Reliability, and Excellence’.

8.
Mumbai was originally built on seven islands. In 1782, Governor William Hornby launched Hornby Vellard, a project to unite all the seven islands into a single island, a task which was completed by 1838. 

9.
George Bush once locked Colin Powell (Secretary of State) out of a meeting for being late.  

10.
Karl Marx’s mother once quipped this about her famous son: “If only Karl had made capital instead of writing about it!”