GN Staff | January 13, 2016
US President Barack Obama today said both Al Qaeda and ISIS pose a direct threat to the US and "even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world - in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks.” "Both Al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today's world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage," Obama said in his last and eighth State of the Union Address. Obama said terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL (also known as ISIS Islamic State militant group) use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside the country; they undermine American allies.
"But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence," Obama said. "The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn't pass muster on the world stage," he said.
Steep fall in industrial output and food prices take inflation up
Dashing hopes of a recovery, industrial production contracted by 3.2 percent in November -- the lowest level in over four years -- due to poor performance of manufacturing sector and a sharp decline in capital goods output. This is the worst performance since October 2011, when IIP had contracted by 4.7 percent. On the other hand there was an upward movement in the retail inflation at 5.61% in December compared with 5.41% a month before. This has put the government and policymakers in a tight spot. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in December further hardened with food prices remaining high due to the near-drought situation in the country, which has resulted in scarcity of food and food products. The IIP figures on Tuesday showed there was weakness across all segments with the biggest dip coming in manufacturing and electricity. Manufacturing in November shrank 4.4% from a growth of 4.7% in the previous month, which indicated more than nine percentage points drop even as electricity barely grew at 0.7% compared with the 10% growth in the same month last year. Mining was also weak at 2.3% in November against 4% a year back.
Capital goods contracted 24.4% in November compared with 7% expansion last year. Consumer goods production climbed marginal by 1.3% during the same period. This is obviously a worry for the economy. India Inc has urged the government to implement structural reforms to revitalise investments and stimulate demand. However, industry body Assocham said that given the trend of data for the past few months, it sees initial signs of normalisation, adding that a slow and steady recovery is likely. "The steep fall in the manufacturing sector growth is because both the export and domestic demand, especially rural demand, have slowed down. It also underlines the need for more measures to stimulate investments and deeper structural reforms," Ficci President Harshavardhan Neotia said. "The negative growth further worsens the prevailing levels of demand-supply imbalances in the country. The significant shrinkage in the production of capital goods and consumer non-durables shows that industrial revival is going to be one of the major challenges in days to come," Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said.
SC query on altering spectrum user charge
In a PIL related to grant of 4G spectrum to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL), the supreme court on Tuesday asked the government if it had powers to alter percentage of spectrum user charge payable by the telcos, whether it had so far made any such change and if it is considering to increase it from the present 1%. A bench headed by chief justice T S Thakur, while reserving its judgment on a PIL challenging grant of 4G spectrum (2300 Mhz) in 2010 to RJIL, asked the government to file its response within a week. Asking Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to file its response as to how the government was fixing spectrum usage charges, the judges wanted to know — “whether the government or state authorities have power to alter the percentage of annual charge from 1% to higher amount; if you (government) have a source of power then what is the status with regard to exercise of that power; are you eyeing with the idea of increasing it; within how much time you will increase it and how 1% annual charge has been arrived at in the NIA.” It also asked counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), and Reliance Jio to file a note in this regard.
Kamal Haasan likely to be inducted into Shyam Benegal’s panel
The government may soon add more members, including actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan, to the Shyam Bengal committee that has been set up to look holistically into the functioning of the censor board, which has been mired in controversies in the recent past. The information and broadcasting ministry had set up the panel on January 1 to take a re-look at the functioning of the board. It has been felt that more regions of the country should be given representation on the panel and so it has been suggested that filmmaker-actor Kamal Haasan and eminent directors Shaji Karun and Gautam Ghosh should be included on it, Mr Benegal told PTI. The acclaimed film-maker said that as a large number of films are made in South India and other regions, it was felt that more members could be added to the committee. The members of the committee that includes filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, ad-man Piyush Pandey and film journalist Bhawana Somayaa had last week met I&B minister Arun Jaitley along with minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore.
Finance ministry rejects railways' request for Rs. 32,000 crore
Finance ministry has rejected the request of Railways for Rs. 32,000 crore as revenue grant, sought to tide over the impending impact of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations on the public transporter. Finance ministry has categorically rejected the Rs. 32,000 crore demand expressing its inability to provide the grant, and has been asked to raise its own resources to manage the finance. According to the 7th Pay Commission report, the annual financial impact on railways will be approximately Rs. 28,450 crore in addition to the normal growth which will require to be built into the railway budget 2016-17.
Italian Marine will not return to India for trial
One of two Italian marines accused of murdering Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala almost four years ago will not be returning to India to face trial after being allowed home temporarily for medical treatment. India had granted Massimiliano Latorre, who suffered a stroke while in New Delhi in 2014, a period of leave in Italy for medical treatment, but he was supposed to return by Friday. It was not clear when or if Latorre would return to India. The second sailor on trial, Salvatore Girone, is being held in the Italian embassy in New Delhi. "Massimiliano Latorre will not return to India, and furthermore, the possibility of asking for Salvatore Girone's return is being explored," said Nicola Latorre, president of the Senate Defence Committee, according to Italian media. Latorre did not provide details and did not immediately respond to calls. When contacted, the prime minister's office and the foreign ministry did not confirm or deny Latorre's comments. The two men say they accidentally killed two fishermen when they mistook a fishing boat for a pirate ship and fired warning shots while protecting an Italian oil tanker in 2012.
Green panel tells centre to hold funds for Ganga cleanup plan
National Green Tribunal has directed the Centre not to release funds for cleaning the river Ganga from Gomukh to Kanpur without its nod. Irked at the lackadaisical approach of officials of the two states for failing to enumerate the causes for pollution and the locations affected, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the Ministry of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation, through National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), not to release funds to the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments without its approval. It passed the direction after the officials of UP and Uttarakhand failed to satisfy the bench about the different points of pollution in the river in the two states. Noting that industrial effluents and sewage discharged by industries were the primary cause of pollution in Ganga, the tribunal had directed the Centre to take a clear stand on creating a mechanism to clean the river. The green panel had divided the cleaning work of Ganga into different segments -- Gomukh to Haridwar, Haridwar to Kanpur, Kanpur to Uttar Pradesh border, UP border to Jharkhand border and from there to the Bay of Bengal.
India to seek UN ban for 12 terrorists
India will soon approach the UN with a list of 12 names, including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) commander Abdul Rauf Ashgar, urging the global body to ban him and other fugitives belonging to Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) for their involvement in past terror attacks. A ban by the UN Security Council resolution will restrict the movement of suspects as it imposes a travel ban, assets freeze and financial penalties. Home minister Rajnath Singh will give his final approval to the 12-name list that will then be communicated to the UN through the external affairs ministry. Those who will be named include Ashgar, 42, is the younger brother of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, who is suspected to be the mastermind behind the recent attack at a Pathankot air base, IM commander Riyaz Bhatkal, Ansar-ut-Tawahid chief AS Armar, his brother Mohammad Shafi Armar, and Azamgarh resident Mohammad Sajid.
US formally notifies increase in H1B and L1 visa fee
The US today notified massive increase in fees in certain categories of the popular H-1B and L-1 visas which would mainly hit Indian IT companies. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) said applicants for certain categories of H-1B visas post December 18, 2015 must submit an additional fee of USD 4,000. In addition, for those applying for certain L-1A and L-1B must submit an additional USD 4,500. This fee is in addition to the base processing fee, Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee (when required), as well as the premium processing fee, if applicable. This will remain effective through September 30, 2025, USCIS said.
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