2013 – June

 
Current Affairs for June, 2013

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01 Jun – Narayana Murthy returns as Infosys executive chairman

The Infosys board has announced that it is bringing back N R Narayana Murthy as the executive chairman with effect from June 1. The decision comes at a time when Infosys has a revenue growth far below that of peers TCS, Cognizant and HCL. Murthy had founded the company and retired in 2011. Murthy’s team will include his son Rohan Murthy as executive assistant. K V Kamath, who was appointed non-executive chairman on Murthy’s retirement in 2011, will step down from his position and take up the position of lead independent director. The Board said that the decision was taken keeping in mind the requests from shareholders to strengthen the executive leadership and Murthy’s vast experience and entrepreneurial abilities would enable him to lead the company and provide strategic direction.

02 Jun – FDI inflows dip by 38% to $22.4 billion in 2012-13

Government initiatives to promote India as an investment destination seem to have failed as FDI inflows registered 38 per cent decline to $22.42 billion in 2012-13 compared to the previous year. FDI inflows were worth $35.12 billion in 2011-12. The government had taken several policy decisions such as allowing FDI in multi-brand retail and civil aviation sectors and seeking legislative approval for increasing FDI cap in insurance and pension sectors to attract foreign investment. Decline in foreign investments could put pressure on the country’s balance of payments and may also impact the value of the rupee.

03 Jun – Government likely to curb gold imports to check widening of Current Account Deficit

The government is likely to take more steps to curb rising imports of Gold, which may include a ban on sale of gold coins by banks, after various other steps taken by the RBI and the government to bring down the CAD failed to yield results. Remarkable rise in Gold imports, which stood at 162 tonnes in May alone, have caused the CAD to widen to alarming proportions. Last month, the RBI had imposed curbs on gold import by banks and also imposed restrictions on them and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) to check loans against gold coins as well as units of gold ETFs (exchange traded funds).

03 Jun – Violent anti-government protests break out in Turkey

Major protests broke out all over Turkey and thousands of protestors took to the streets against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who after 10 years in office, is seen as an uncompromising figure with undue influence in every sphere of Turkish life and labeled a dictator. Around 10,000 people protested in Taksim Square in Istanbul, calling on Mr. Erdogan’s government to resign and around7000 people protested in capital Ankara, where the protests turned violent with protestors throwing fire bombs and police firing tear gas. More than 1750 protestors have been detained. Mr. Erdogan called the protests ideological, an extremist ‘fringe’ and manipulated by an opposition that was unable to secure victory at the elections.

06 Jun – RIL to invest Rs 1.5 lakh crore over three years

Reliance Industries on Thursday announced an investment of Rs 1.5 lakh crore in core business of petrochemicals and oil and gas as well as in retail and telecom sectors in the next 3 years. The investments span oil and gas exploration and production, refining and marketing, petrochemicals, retail and broadband and digital services. RIL’s retail business has crossed Rs. 10,000 crore and has achieved break-even.

07 Jun – Foreign Retailers not allowed franchisee route in multi-brand retailing

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has said that foreign retailers will not be allowed to franchise their stores, and will have to put 50 per cent of their investments in back-end infrastructure specifically for the chain they are setting up. Investments in multiple infrastructure companies would not be counted as investing 50 per cent in the back-end infrastructure. The front-end retail stores must also be set up as an additionality, and not through acquisition of existing stores and investment in the equity of the existing infrastructure company will not be treated towards the fulfillment of the conditionality of 50 percent investment in back-end infrastructure. The mandatory 30 per cent sourcing from small industries will be counted only for sales through the front-end stores and the sourcing condition pertains only to manufactured
and processed products.

10 Jun – Rupee hits all-time low of 58.98

The rupee fell to an all-time low of 58.98 per dollar intra-day on Tuesday, 11th June, at the foreign exchange market. However, dollar selling by public sector banks and exporters prevented the Indian currency from dipping below the 59 per dollar mark. Concerns related to widening trade and Current Account Deficit have led to a sharp fall in the rupee. India’s heavy dependence on fickle Foreign Institutional Investments (FIIs), to bridge the wide Current Account Deficit (CAD) has made it vulnerable to such potential developments.

11 Jun – BJP appoints Narendra Modi chairman of National Election Campaign Committee, Advani quits but later takes back resignation

The BJP has appointed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as chairman of the National Election Campaign Committee, enforcing the belief that the party leadership and workers consider Modi as the best person to take on the UPA in the 2014 elections. In the evening following Modi’s appointment, senior BJP leader L K Advani, quit from all party posts which hinted at his displeasure over Modi’s elevation as the campaign leader for the 2014 Parliamentary elections. Following a two-day crisis, Advani agreed to take back his resignation after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat spoke to him and assured him that all his concerns regarding functioning of the party, would be properly addressed.
However, the BJP top brass unanimously agreed that there was no question of revoking Modi’s appointment.

12 Jun – USA’s secret surveillance programme revealed, global phone and internet records of millions compromised

Secret documents about an US government secret surveillance programme called ‘Prism’ has been leaked, which reveal that the US National Security Agency and the FBI had been secretly obtaining the call records of millions around the world and tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading US Internet companies, including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft Corp and Google Inc., to extract massive amounts of data including audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs. The US government has defended ‘Prism’ as an “internal government computer system” designed to sort through court-supervised collection of data, and that Congress has been briefed 13 times on the programs since 2009. The hearings of the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) are closed to the public, and, while records of the proceedings are kept, those records are also not available to the public. However, it is interesting to note that a poll showed a majority of Americans (56%) saying they can live with the National Security Agency (NSA) phone-tracking program to investigate terrorism. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook have denied the allegations that the government has direct access to their servers or data, saying that they only comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. Google, Facebook and Microsoft have asked the government for permission to reveal details about the classified requests they receive for the personal information of foreign users. Edward Snowden, an US national security contractor, was the whistle blower behind the secret surveillance programme. The US administration has registered a case against Snowden and he’ll potentially face a criminal sentence. Snowden had been hiding in Hong Kong, when he leaked the secrets. Russia has stepped up to offer asylum to Snowden although Snowden has till now not made any such requests. The entire surveillance programme might put the US in the face of a debate, since the US itself opposes similar programmes and had accused the Chinese military of cyber attacks on American corporations and citizens, a few months back.

16 Jun – Leaked documents show Britain and US tracked diplomats at world conferences
Barely a week after the US secret surveillance programme was leaked by Snowden, the Guardian newspaper has disclosed a new set of classified documents that reveal that American and British intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on world leaders at conferences in London in 2009,including that of Dmitri A. Medvedev, then the Russian president and now the prime minister. The agencies monitored the e-mail and phones of other countries’ representatives at two London conferences, in part by setting up a monitored Internet cafe for the participants. The revelations came before a meeting of the G8 Summit was to open in Northern Ireland, where some of the leaders who were intelligence targets four years ago will be in attendance.

16 Jun – Unemployment rate increases in China as economic growth falters

China’s faltering economic growth has resulted in a weak job market as a record seven million students are set to graduate from universities and colleges across China in the coming weeks, but their job prospects appear bleak. Companies are flooded with job applications but there are very few posts to offer. The Chinese government has ordered schools, government agencies and state-owned enterprises to hire more jobless but educated youths temporarily to help relieve joblessness. There is a huge demand for blue-collar jobs as compared to white-collar jobs and while the wages for blue-collar jobs have increased manifold, for the white-
collar workers, it has barely stayed steady or even declined. Although the Chinese economy has grown at a much faster pace than in the West, China’s main problem lies in the sheer growth in graduates every year. All these graduates are reluctant to join small private companies or set up new companies which have further contributed to unemployment.

16 Jun – Hassan Rowhani wins Iran’s Presidential elections

Moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani has achieved a landslide victory in Iran’s Presidential elections, winning more than 50 percent of the vote beating five hard-liners. His victory has come as a surprise to the outside world and people all over Iran have erupted in celebrations. Though Rowhani cannot be categorized as a reformer, he can certainly be called a moderate conservative. Rowhani’s first priority would be to resolve the differences between the leadership and Iran’s citizens, strengthen Iran’s failing economy and ease international sanctions. Rowhani’s pragmatic approach is seen in the way he handled student protests, the aftermath of devastating earthquakes, or in his stint as nuclear negotiator, working to ease international pressure as Iran moved
forward with its nuclear programme. Rowhani wants to renew talks with the West over the nuclear program, which had failed under President Ahmadinejad. Another challenge for Rowhani would be to resolve issues such as relations with the neighbouring Gulf countries and Iran’s involvement in the Syria crisis. Rowhani’s election would likely mark important changes in Iran and could soften its stand on regional issues. But it all depends on how much the president-elect will be able to disengage himself from the powerful control of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini and follow his own policy.

16 Jun – JD (U) ends ties with BJP; post split regional parties moot for third front idea

The 17-year old alliance between the JD (U) and the BJP under the banner of the National Democratic Alliance ended on June 16th, with JD (U) announcing to break ties. The split happened after Narendra Modi’s appointment as BJP’s election campaign chief and his probable selection as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate angered the JD (U). Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called on Governor DY Patil and recommended removal of 11 BJP ministers including deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, while JD (U) president Sharad Yadav announced his resignation as convener of the NDA. Post split, regional parties are looking at the possibility of establishing a third front. Trinamool leader and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had broached the idea to Nitish Kumar and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik, and the effort has met with the approval of Telugu Desam Party president Chandrababu Naidu and even UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, a Samajwadi Party leader. However, the major obstacle to a third front lies in the divergent political views of the parties involved on every national issue as well as the the egos of the
personalities mooting for the front.

18 Jun – Ratan Tata to be chief advisor to Air Asia India, former TCS chief Ramadorai named Chairman

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, will be the chief advisor to AirAsia India, a new venture that Malaysian airline is setting up with the Tatas as investors. Tony Fernandes, founder and chief executive officer of AirAsia, has said that it has been tough to persuade Tata to take up the post of chief advisor and his massive experience would help Air Asia India plan a successful run. Former TCS chief S. Ramadorai has been named the Chairman of the airline. Previously, AirAsia India had
announced the name of its new CEO Mittu Chandilya.

19 Jun – China builds world’s fastest supercomputer

China has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, which is almost twice the speed of the previous record-holder from the US. The Tianhe-2, which means Milky Way – 2, has been developed by the National University of Defence Technology in central China’s Changsha city and is capable of 33,860 trillion calculations per second. The news was revealed in the semi-annual TOP500 listing of the world’s fastest supercomputers and it underlines China’s rise as a science and technology powerhouse.

24 Jun – Devastating floods break out in Uttarakhand, more than 1000 dead

A massive cloudburst and heavy rainfall from 14th -17th June near the revered Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand triggered large flash floods and massive landslides that ravaged the hills of Uttarakhand and caused heavy destruction to life and property. The number of casualties was more than 1000 as thousands of devotees visited Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the hallowed Hindu Chardham (four sites) pilgrimage centers. Entire villages and settlements such as Gaurikund and the market town of Ram Bada, a transition point to Kedarnath, have been obliterated, while the market town of Sonprayag suffered heavy
damage and loss of lives. With vast stretches of mountain roads and bridges cut off, around 70000 pilgrims and tourists and thousands of locals were stranded in the hills. Flooding of the Dhauliganga and the Mahakali rivers in Nepal also caused extensive damage to life and property. Locals in Nepal blamed the floods on the rapid release of water from the Dhauliganga Dam, located
on the Indian side. India refuted the claim and attributed the flooding to heavy rainfall on the river catchment area.
Rescue operations:
The IAF has airlifted a total of 10,731 persons till now and around 6500 people are still left stranded in relief camps and waiting to be rescued. . The Army, Air Force, Navy, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Border Security Force, National Disaster Response Force, Public Works Department, local administrations and several NGOs worked together for quick rescue operations. Food, water and medical supplies have been made available through air drops to meet basic needs.
Financial aid:
Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has announced a Rs. 1000 crore aid package for disaster relief efforts in the state. Several state governments have announced financial assistance and United States government has announced financial aid of USD 1, 50,000 to the NGOs working in the area.
Present situation:
Heavy rains continued to trouble rescue missions. Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said that the floods had set back the state by at least three years in terms of development and there is an initial estimated loss of Rs. 3000 crore. Rs. 5 crore in proceedings from the Kedarnath temple deposited with the State Bank of India, Kedarnath branch, was washed away in the floods. The police have recovered Rs. 83 lakh from a man, which they believe is part of the 5 crore. There were reports of rings being stolen after cutting the fingers of the victims. Government agencies and priests of Kedarnath temple are planning mass cremation of the hundreds of victims, who are identified or unclaimed till now as the decomposed bodies might spark off an
epidemic.

25 Jun – Snowden charged with theft of government property, Russia refuses to arrest or extradite whistleblower

Edward J. Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor who had leaked classified documents about an US secret surveillance programme, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act and stealing government property for disclosing classified information. The charges against Snowden carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, for a total of 30 years.
Snowden was believed to be hiding in Hong Kong when he leaked the documents. The American authorities had asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden till the time an indictment and an extradition request are prepared. However, China refused to arrest Snowden and allowed him to fly to Russia. Snowden has been at the transit lounge of a Moscow airport for the past two days. Russian authorities have lashed back at US criticism for sheltering Snowden saying that Snowden had not crossed the Russian border. Russia also said that Snowden is a free man and Russia had no reason to apprehend or extradite him.

25 Jun – Protests break out in Brazil, with 8, 00,000 in streets

Protests:
Anger over a hike in public transport fares sparked off protests in Brazil which gradually gathered steam as a protest movement over the quality of public services and the high cost of staging the World Cup at the expense of basic needs. It became the biggest street protests in Brazil since the last 20 years, as 8, 00,000 people rallied across the country. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, to break the protestors. Although the controversial transit fare hikes were cancelled, it failed to placate the demonstrators. Protesters rallied against the rampant corruption within the political class and demanded
higher funding for education and health and a cut in salaries of public officials.

Reforms proposed:
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff proposed a referendum of political reforms focusing on five broad areas: Fiscal responsibility, investing 100% of Brazil’s oil royalties in education, improvement in the health sector, establishing an assembly to eventually amend Brazil’s constitution and improving the state of public transport and lowering costs.
Hatred against soccer:
Brazil, a five time world-cup winner, where soccer reflects unparalled pride and common bond, has become an object of hate. A growing number of protesters are telling fans around the globe to boycott the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Some of the nation’s most revered heroes have become targets of rage. Protesters criticized former soccer greats Pele and Ronaldo after Pele called on Brazilians to “forget the protests” and a video showed Ronaldo commenting that World Cups are accomplished “with stadiums, not hospitals.” The protestors have asserted that the protests have no political connection and are entirely a social movement of the common Brazilians. As in all recent protests throughout the world, social media has played a key role in
spreading word about the protests and calling people to join.

26 Jun – Government bans analgin and two popular diabetes and anti-depressant drugs

The government has banned three popular medicines, the widely prescribed anti-diabetes drug pioglitazone, painkiller analgin and anti-depressant deanxit in the wake of health risks associated with them. Pioglitazone can cause heart failure and increase the risk of bladder cancer, analgin has been discarded the world over on grounds of patient safety. Deanxit, on the other hand is a harmful combination, which has been long banned even in Denmark, its country of origin. The decision follows a strong stand by the government to suspend marketing of all drugs prohibited for sale in other countries like the US, the UK, EU and Australia.

26 Jun – Rupee hits all-time low of 60, Gold, silver prices fall

The rupee fell to an all-time low of 60.73 on 26th June in the foreign exchange market as the RBI failed to defend the rupee at the 55.98 level through intermittent dollar sales. The fall was triggered by month-end demand for dollars. Besides making all imports expensive, a weak rupee will severely hurt those planning to travel or study abroad.
Gold prices slumped to a one-month low of Rs. 26, 145 per 10 kg on 26th June, on the back of a steep fall in global prices while silver dropped to a three-year low, at $18.63 an ounce after reports that the US was withdrawing its stimulus programme.

26 Jun – New solar system found with 3 habitable planets

Astronomers from the University of Gottingen have identified a new solar system having five to seven planets revolving the star Gliese 667C. A record-breaking three of these planets are super-Earths found in the so-called habitable zone around the star, the zone where liquid water could exist. This makes them good candidates for the search for life. Gliese 667C is a very well-studied star. It is just over one third of the mass of our Sun, and is part of a triple star system known as Gliese 667. Gliese 667 is remarkably similar to our solar system, compared to other stars studied in the search for habitable planets.

29 Jun – Mahindra Satyam suspends trading following merger with Tech Mahindra

Mahindra-Satyam Merger will be suspended from trading with effect from July 4, 2013, following its merger with Tech Mahindra. On 25th June,Tech Mahindra had formally announced the completion of Mahindra Satyam’s merger with itself. The merged entity is called Tech Mahindra now with Anand Mahindra as its chairman. Post-merger, the new entity has become the fifth largest IT company in the country with revenues of $2.7 billion.

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03 Jun – Windows phone captures third place in the US market after Android and Apple

Windows seemed to have gained from the rivalry between Android and Apple smartphones that has cut into the overall market share, as Windows powered smartphones captured the third spot in the US market in early 2013, after Android and Apple. Microsoft’s Windows, boosted by the Windows Phone 8 introduced last year, boosted its share to 5.6 per cent from 3.8 per cent. Android, the free operating system from Google, remained the top platform with 51.7 per cent of US sales in the three months to April, up from 50.3 per cent a year earlier; whereas Apple’s iOS was second with 41.4 per cent, up from 39.1 per cent a year earlier. BlackBerry, had a minuscule 0.7 per cent of US sales compared with 5.3 per cent a year ago.

20 Jun – Ranbaxy, 8 other companies fined Rs. 1,000 crore

EU antitrust regulators have imposed fines totalling 146 million euros (Rs 1,150crore) on nine global drugmakers, includingRanbaxy, for blocking the supply of cheaper versions of Danish company Lundbeck’s antidepressant drug citalopram. Ranbaxy needs to pay a penalty of 10.3 million euros (aroundRs 80 crore). In 2002, Lundbeck had entered into agreements with each of these companies to delay the entry of cheaper generic versions of its famous drug Citalopram. Lundbeck has to pay
damages of 94 million euros while the others fined include Alpharma, Merck KGaA/Generics UK and Arrow. Punishments follow a European Commission report which says that “pay-for-delay” deals lead to consumers paying as much as 20% more for their medicines.

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06 Jun – Trading agencies to reduce Gold imports, restrictions in imports may increase gold smuggling

India’s gold imports could drop by up to 10% to around 880 tonnes this fiscal, following restrictions on gold purchases imposed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The RBI restrictions came after the Current Account Deficit (CAD) widened to alarming proportions following 162 tonnes of gold imports in May. The government has raised the import duty on gold and the RBI has asked banks, nominated agencies and star trading houses not to import gold on a consignment basis for domestic sales. RBI has also insisted that imports will be on ‘documents against payments’ as against the earlier norm of ‘documents against acceptance’.
Jewellers and bullion traders said that nearly 200 -250 tonnes of gold may be smuggled into India this year following the Reserve Bank of India’s moves to check Gold’s shipments. The import duty, the value-added tax and premiums for spot delivery were very likely to lead to a rise in smuggling.

11 Jun – Greece shuts state-run television and radio broadcaster to cut public employment

The Greece government has closed down its state-run television and radio broadcaster, idling 2,900 people, less than 1 percent of the public work force. The move came just days after one of Greece’s lenders, the International Monetary Fund ,while acknowledging “serious errors” in the austerity policies it has imposed on the country, chastised the government as having failed to take “politically difficult measures” to shrink the public sector since it received its first bailout in 2010. Greece has promised its creditors this week to dismiss 4,000 civil servants this year, including 2,000 by the end of the summer and 15,000 by the end of 2014. Greece, along with Spain, Portugal and other bankrupt countries, are under increased pressure to revitalize the
government by cutting older, low-skilled workers and bringing in younger workers with advanced degrees and computer skills, who would improve efficiency from policy making to tax collection and set Greece on the path to recovery.

21 Jun – Putin proposes loans upto $ 43.5 billion from pension reserves to accelerate economic growth Programme

Faced with meager growth and decline of Russia’s oil and gas reserves, President Vladimir Putin has announced a risky economic stimulus programme and an amnesty plan for imprisoned white collar criminals to boost investor confidence. Russia would distribute at least $14 billion from the pension reserves as loans to modernize the storied Trans-Siberian Railway, to construct a 500-mile high-speed rail line between Moscow and Kazan, and to build a superhighway ringing Moscow. The amnesty plan intends to release about 13,000 businessmen caught for economic crimes and is intended to signal easing police pressure on private entrepreneurs. But experts say that with nearly full employment, new government spending is more likely to cause wage inflation than to create new jobs. Instead, the government should reduce its dependence on oil and gas and create new industries, review manufacturing and attract foreign capital.

21 Jun – US Federal Reserve to reduce post 2008 financial stimulus to economy

The US Federal Reserve clearly laid out the steps it would take to reduce the extraordinary stimulus it has injected into the US financial system and economy since the financial crisis of 2008. It assured that it would withdraw support only when the economy becomes strong enough. However, the assurance failed to pacify investors and the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropped 2.5 percent, its steepest one-day decline since November 2011, and ended the week down 2.1 percent. The challenge for Wall Street, as of now, would be to stand on its own without Federal intervention, at a time when the world economy is facing uncertainty about tightening credit in China and continuing debt woes in Europe. If stocks prices recover now
and keep increasing without Federal support, it would increase investor confidence in the market.

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07 Jun – NHAI makes 24×7 ambulance service on national highways mandatory

National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has mandated that developers and government agencies managing and maintaining National Highways (NHs) will have to ensure that ambulances and patrolling vehicles are available 24×7.The NHAI has decided to install vehicle tracking system (VTS) in all such vehicles with global positioning system (GPS) within a month to monitor their uninterrupted movement. As per rules, every developer needs to deploy one ambulance and one patrolling vehicle for every 50 km stretch. At present, the deployment is inadequate and only a small portion of the 80,000 km NH stretch has such a facility.

18 Jun – Defence ministry rejects fresh proposal for a permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has expressed major reservations against the fresh proposal for a permanent Chairman of the chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC).The government had rejected such a proposal after the 1999 Kargil conflict. A permanent CoSC chairman would exercise “administrative control” over the nuclear arsenal, head a separate joint special forces command, prioritize modernization of the armed forces and prepare annual defence operational status reports. The MOD said that the current system of the three Service chiefs and the collegiate CoSC briefing the defence minister was functioning well and the creation of a permanent CoSC was not possible because of a lack of political consensus, as also lack of complete agreement among the three Services, the Army, the Navy and the Airforce.

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04 Jun – Actress Jiah Khan commits suicide

Jiah Khan, of ‘Nishabd’ fame, has committed suicide. She was found hanging at her flat in Sagar Sangeet Building in the posh Juhu area of northwest Mumbai around midnight on June 7th. Jiah, who was dating bollywood actor Aditya Pancholi’s son Sooraj Pancholi, was under depression after coming to know of Suraj’s new love interest, who supplied jewellery to the Pancholis. Sooraj has been arrested for abetment of suicide on the basis of Jiah’s mother’s statement and a six-page letter found in her flat three days after her death. Even in the fresh letters recovered, Jiah had accused Sooraj of physical abuse, rape, threats, cheating and abortion of a baby. Sooraj has accepted that he had beaten up Jiah, and they were in a live-in relationship.

12 Jun – World’s oldest person dies in Japan at age 116

Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura, who had been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living person and the oldest man ever, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 116. Kimura of Kyotango, Japan, was born April 19, 1897.Hhe had been undergoing treatment for pneumonia. The title of oldest living person is now held by another Japanese, 115-year-old Misao Okawa, of Osaka. Okawa was born March 5, 1898.

17 Jun – RAW founder B Raman dies

One of India’s foremost security experts and one of the founders of India’s external intelligence wing, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Bahukutumbi Raman passed away in Chennai at the age of 77. He was suffering from cancer. Raman was a former additional secretary with the Cabinet secretariat. He was also the director of the Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. An author of several books, Raman used to write on security, counter-terrorism and military issues of India and South Asia.

20 Jun – Dolce and Gabbana sentenced to jail for tax evasion

Celebrated fashion house duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have been sentenced to one year and eight months in prison for avoiding taxes totalling 200 million euros ($268 million). The pair were also ordered by the court in Milan to pay a fine of 500,000 euros ($670,000) to Italy’s national tax agency.

[tabby title=”Politics”]

05 Jun – Fear of economic breakdown looms large as continued political unrest shakes Turkey

The Turkish stock market has fallen 9 percent in the past week, interest rates have risen and the currency, Lira has fallen 8 percent in the recent months and just 1 percent just since the protests began. Turkey which has achieved enviable economic success, because of the huge amounts of short term loans from foreign investors, could fall into a currency crisis and, eventually, a collapse in the property markets that could threaten the nation’s banks, if investors leave the country in search of a safe haven because of the recent political turmoil. Turkey’s two previous financial implosions, in 1993 and 2001, were largely currency disasters, set off by fleeing investors and lenders. This year Turkey’s private sector will require $221 billion, about 25 percent of Turkey’s G.D.P, in outside financing alone, with most of it coming in short-term loans. Moreover, in preparation for the
100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923, Mr. Erdogan’s government has unveiled a $400 billion public works program, which is more than half the size of the $770 billion Turkish economy. On top of a slew of equally large projects in high-speed rail, subways, ports and other amenities, Turkey is also a leading contender to secure the 2020 Olympic Games and if Turkey wins, the lending and borrowing will only speed up.

06 Jun – Hunger strike continues at the US military prison in Guantanamo bay

A hunger strike started by a handful of prisoners at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, has now become a mass protest with 103 out of the 166 detainees still held there taking part. The protest began in February and has been growing for almost four months. Lawyers representing detainees say it was sparked by tougher prison searches, which according to the US military, uncovered various contraband items, including homemade weapons that have been used to attack prison guards. The detainees’ lawyers claim that during those searches the Koran was mishandled which the US military strongly deny. The US military’s cultural adviser, who liaises with the prisoners, says it is a familiar tactic to attract the attention of the outside world. Journalists who visit Guantanamo are still not allowed to identify or talk to the detainees. Though the US army now applies the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo, shackles used to restrain detainees are still there. They are however referred to as “humane restraints” whereas force-feeding is called “enteral feeding”. President Obama’s renewed pledge to close down the prison facility might have raised hopes of the prisoners, but how he’ll achieve it or how the hunger strike will end is still a matter of question. The hunger strike has been called an asymmetric war and prison officials say that many detainees are dangerous and still in the fight for their cause.

16 Jun – Turkey cracks down violently on street protestors

The Turkish government cracked down violently on the anti-government protestors, targeting not just the demonstrators but also the medics who treat the injured protestors, the hotel owners who shelter them and the foreign media coming to Turkey to cover the protests. At places, protests took a more dangerous turn as anti-government protestors clashed with Erdogan’s civilian supporters. Erdogan also rallied thousands of his supporters from all over Turkey andsaid that the protests were the results of a foreign plot, along with financial speculators and terrorists, to overthrow his government.
The escalating protests could lead to a continued period of civil unrest that could undermine Turkey’s image as rising global power and a model of Islamic democracy.

17 Jun – Obama defends authorization of surveillance programme; technologycompanies publish data of customer information requests from the government

President Barack Obama defended his authorization of the recently revealed domestic and international surveillance programme and said he had made important changes from the policies of George W. Bush; including making sure that surveillance was approved by Congress and a secret foreign intelligence court. He said these programmes have disrupted terrorist plots in the United States and overseas.
Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo have released reports about the overall number of data requests they had received from United States law enforcement agencies in a bid to reassure their users that the government gets information on just a tiny number of people. However, it is not known that out of all the requests received, how many of them were from investigators seeking out a terrorist link. The companies said they were not allowed to say, although they noted that the requests were commonly related to things like local police investigations and searches for missing children. Google and Twitter said they would not publish similar data until they could separate national security requests from the rest.

18 Jun – Congress announces reshuffle of its working committee, UPA reshuffles Cabinet with eye on 2014 Assembly elections

The Congress has announced a new working committee with 12 general secretaries and 42 secretaries. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will look after frontal organisations while senior party leader Digvijaya Singh has been made general secretary of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. Ajay Maken, CP Joshi, Ambika Soni, Shakeel Ahmed and Gurudas Kamat have been made new AICC general secretaries. Making largescale changes in the organisation, Congress President Sonia Gandhi retained Ahmed Patel as her political secretary but significantly made Ambika Soni as general secretary incharge of the Congress President’s Office (CPO). Oscar Fernandes, Vilas Muttamwar, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Birender Singh were dropped as general secretaries
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inducted 8 new ministers taking the size of the cabinet to 77, as part of a cabinet reshuffle to focus on the 2014 general elections. Rajasthan leader Girija Vyas replaced C P Joshi after the latter got a party assignment. Vyas filled the Brahmin slot, while 85-year-old Jat leader Sisram Ola was recalled to the Cabinet and given charge of the labour ministry, almost four years after he was last minister. Gandhi loyalist Oscar Fernandes’ appointment as highways minister and Mallikarjun Kharge’s shift to railways from labour is viewed as a reward to the Karnataka contingent in the wake of Congress’s return to power in the state. Unlike the changes in the Congress organization, the Cabinet inductions did not reflect a younger
profile.

19 Jun – Afghan government to shun US peace talks with Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government would not join U.S. peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, the capital of Qatar, and would halt negotiations with Washington on a post-2014 troop pact. The Afghanistan government was angered and accused the US government of violating assurances that it would not grant official status to the Taliban insurgents, after the Taliban opened a political office in Doha. The Taliban office was decorated with a banner referring to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name the Taliban used during their 1996-2001 rule of the country. Afghanistan also said that negotiations with the US would remain suspended, until the US government clarifies its stand on the peace process.

26 Jun – Labour Party brings back former diplomat Kevin Rudd as Australia PM replacing Julia Gillard

Australia’s ruling Labour Party has elected former leader Kevin Rudd as PM replacing Julia Gillard in a move to try and avoid a major defeat at elections due within three months. Rudd, a former diplomat, won a Labour Party ballot with 57 votes to Gillard’s 45. The leadership change followed a series of opinion polls showing Gillard’s minority government could lose upto 35 seats at the coming elections, giving the conservative opposition a massive majority in the 150-member parliament. The polls also showed that Rudd is more popular with voters and his return to the prime ministership, which he lost to Gillard in June 2010, could reduce the Labour Party’s election loss.

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13 Jun – New cornea layer named after Indian Human Body

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK have found a previously undetected layer in the cornea at the front of the human eye that could help surgeons to greatly improve outcomes for patients undergoing corneal grafts and transplants. The new layer has been dubbed the Dua’s Layer after the academic Professor Harminder Dua who discovered it. Scientists previously believed the cornea to be composed of five layers, from front to back, The new layer that has been discovered is located at the back of the cornea, and is just 15 microns thick.

13 Jun – Google launches world’s first tablet café

Google has launched the world’s first tablet cafe, replacing traditional PCs with tablet computers. Google had offered funding last year and picked up one cyber cafe, Equinoxe cyber cafe, in Senegal, Africa into a pilot tablet cafe. In Africa, frequent power cuts and exorbitant electricity bills are a major headache for cyber café owners and their customers. While tablets have reduced dependence on cyber cafes in the developed world, tablet cafes could succeed in Africa because most people cannot afford to buy the devices, and tablets use batteries and mobile data connections which make them immune to power cuts. The Equinoxe now sports 15 tablets and has installed cabins for private video chats. The tablet café charges the same price as its predecessor and café owners can save on electricity bills and invest more into improving their connection
speeds.

16 Jun – Japanese Scientist develops body-double robot

Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University, Japan, has developed a body-double robot which resembles him closely, with tiny human-like movements and blinking eyes. The new ‘Geminoid’, an android resembling a real person was tele-operated i.e. controlled remotely by a person offstage. Ishiguro has also developed another Geminoid, a fashionably dressed female android, which he has shown off in the windows of clothing stores. Ishiguro has also taken his robots on the road as part of a travelling “android theatre,” where they act out scenes with human-like expressions. The roboticist also made the “Telenoid,” a pillow-like bot deliberately designed to appear ageless and genderless so that people can project an imagined face onto its neutral appearance. Another of Ishiguro’s inventions is the “Elfoid” — a smaller version of the Telenoid that functions as a mobile phone.

16 Jun – Google launches balloon internet to connect remote areas without laying fibre cables

In an unusual technological breakthrough, Google has launched helium-filled balloons to beam internet down to earth. Google calls Project Loon, in recognition of how wacky the idea may sound. If successful, the technology might allow countries to avoid the expense of laying fibre cable, dramatically increasing Internet usage in places such as Africa and South-east Asia. Google made its first experiment in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island. Google eventually hopes to launch 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the stratosphere in order to connect the world’s 4.8 billion unwired people and their 2.2 billion plugged-in counterparts.
How it works:
Google’s balloons fly free and out of eyesight, scavenging power from card table-sized solar panels that dangle below and gather enough charge in four hours to power them for a day as the balloons sail around the globe on the prevailing winds. Far below, ground stations with Internet capabilities about 100 kilometers (60 miles) apart, bounce signals up to the balloons. The signals would hop forward, from one balloon to the next, along a backbone of up to five balloons. Each balloon would provide Internet service for an area twice the size of New York City, about 1,250 square kilometers (780 square miles), and terrain is not a challenge.
Costs involved:
Google has not mentioned the costs involved, although they’re striving to make both the balloons and receivers as inexpensive as possible, drastically less than laying cables. The signals travel in the unlicensed spectrum, which means Google doesn’t have to go through the onerous regulatory processes required for Internet providers using wireless communications networks or satellites.

20 Jun – Scientists develop battery made of wood

Scientists at the University of Maryland have found that a sliver of wood coated with tin could make a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery. The components used in the battery are thousand times thinner than a piece of paper and sodium used in the batteries, instead of lithium, makes it environment friendly. Its low cost and common materials would make it ideal to store huge amounts of energy at once, such as solar energy at a power plant.

27 Jun – Google to float helium balloons over rural India for internet connectivity

Google will float helium balloons over rural India for Internet connectivity if its pilot project Project Loon yields  promising results. The project has several balloons floating around the earth at an altitude of 20 km, or twice the height at which commercial aircraft fly, and beaming internet connectivity to remote and rural areas, that are not served by traditional copper or fibre optic networks. However, Google has not mentioned any time frame to launch the project in India.

30 Jun – Researchers develop camera that captures smells

Amy, a student at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design has developed a camera that can capture the scent of memories, recording smells instead of images. A person needs to place the funnel over the object or environment they wish to capture, and then a pump sucks the air across an odour trap made of Tenax – a porous polymer resin which adsorbs the volatile particles that make up the smell. Users can take their exposed odour traps to the local lab to be processed into delicate vials of the scent.

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04 Jun – Floods surge in Europe, cause widespread disaster

Disaster warnings have been issued in large parts of Central Europe and Southern and Eastern Germany after flood waters continued to swell rivers following days of heavy rain. Thousands have been evacuated from cities and governments have deployed defence forces to help build flood defences. Several people have died and dams have broken open. Many roads and train lines as well as schools have been closed, while shipping has been stopped on many major rivers. In some states, there are warnings of higher water levels than the record floods of 2002. Hungary and the Czech Republic have issued a nationwide state of emergency and around 3000 people have been forced to leave their homes across the west of the Czech Republic. The governments of Germany, Czech Republic and Austria have pledged full support to the affected people and German Chancellor
Angela Merkel has promised 100m euros ($130 million) in emergency aid for flood-hit areas.

10 Jun – China jails brother-in-law of Chinese Nobel laureate

Chinese authorities have arrested Liu Hui, the brother-in-law of 2010 Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo, on charges of committing fraud and sentenced him to 11 years in jail. Liu Hui was convicted of cheating a person, Zhang Bing, of $490,000 working along with a colleague. Meanwhile, Liu Xiaobo has been undergoing a 11-year jail sentence on charges of subversion and organizing a petition to overthrow the government since 2009. His wife Liu Xia is not allowed to visit her husband in jail and has complained that the government has placed restrictions on her movement around her own house, although there are no charges against her. These grand projects will have a visible aesthetic effect on Istanbul that infuriates the protestors. Although it
might be too early to predict an economic crisis, financial jitters including the fall of the Lira has been noticeable since the protests began.

26 Jun – Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela on life support

One of the biggest personalities behind the end of Apartheid rule in South Africa, former president, Nelson Mandela’s health has become critical. He has been placed on life support and is no longer able to breathe unassisted. Mandela had been undergoing treatment, including renal dialysis, at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria since June 8.

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