Friday, November 8, 2013

Estonia, Russia, Finland to forge golden tourism triangle

 Estonia, Russia and Finland are planning to forge a golden tourism triangle as representatives from the three countries met at the first conference on tourism cooperation in Estonia’s northeastern city of Narva on Wednesday.
The conference, running from Nov. 6 to 8, was attended by representatives of St Petersburg (Russia), South Karelia (Finland) and Ida-Viru county (Estonia), according to the report of Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR).
The conference was jointly organized by the three countries with the aim to develop tourism in Northeast Estonia and to promote cooperation.


Nirupama Rao bids farewell to her diplomatic career

Nirupama Rao bids farewell to her diplomatic career
Nirupama Rao, Indian envoy to the US, bid farewell to her career of diplomacy, as members of the American diplomatic corps and her counterparts from countries like China and Brazil gathered at a reception hosted in her honour by the State Department. 
“It is difficult to imagine that so much time has passed,” Rao told a select audience gathered at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the US State Department, which hosted a rare farewell reception for the Indian diplomat on the last day of her assignment last night.
Rao, 62, served as India’s Foreign Secretary, External Affairs Ministry’s spokesperson and envoy to important countries like China and Sri Lanka in four decades as a diplomat.
“I leave with a great sense of optimism and hope and satisfaction that I have been able not only to learn so much but also to help build partnerships and forge relationship between India and a number of countries around the world,” said Rao.
US Secretary of State John Kerry sent a special message to Rao which was read on the occasion. He appreciated Rao’s role in strengthening the important partnership between India and the US.
“I wish you all the best in the day, months and years to come,” Kerry said in the message. “An honour to be hosted to farewell @StateDept today. Touched by Secretary Kerry’s message and presence of so many friends and colleagues,” Rao tweeted after the reception. 
Rao is one of the few diplomats who has over 190,000 followers on the microblogging site. At the reception, she was described as “tireless champion” of Indo-US Strategic Partnership and that during her two-year tenure, the bilateral relationship has reached new heights.
She was accompanied by her husband and former Chief Secretary of Karnataka Sudhakar Rao. Last week, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns hosted a luncheon for her at the State Department. The Indian-American community and the US India Business Council also hosted receptions for her last week.
Rao also hosted a farewell reception at her residence last week, which was attended by top American diplomats and members of the Indian-American community. Among those attended the reception were US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal and her predecessor Robert Blake; and US Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy. 
Rao will be succeeded by S Jaishankar, currently India’s Ambassador to China.


Swiss confirm abnormal presence of polonium in Arafat’s body

Swiss scientists who analyzed samples from the corpse of Yasser Arafat Thursday confirmed the abnormal presence of radioactive polonium, but poisoning remains a hypothesis, not a certainty.
At the press conference which was held Thursday afternoon and after their test report was hand over on Tuesday to representatives of the late Palestinian leader’s widow Suha Arafat and the Palestinian National Authority, Patrice Mangin, director of the University Centre of Legal Medicine Lausanne-Geneva (CURML), told reporters that the investigations can not exclude that the polonium is the cause of the death of Arafat, but the results can not conclude that Arafat was poisoned.
Mangin noted that several factors such as the long delay between Arafat’s death and the start of investigations made analysis difficult, having said that they had to work on samples partially destroyed.
Arafat died at a French military hospital in 2004 from an undisclosed or unknown condition. No autopsy was performed at the death of Yasser Arafat, and no clear medical information on the cause of death has been released.


The possibility of having more FTAs

Govt discusses possibility of having more FTAs
With the economy facing bad times, government on Monday explored the possibility of having more free trade agreements with various countries at a meeting chaired by PM Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.
The meeting of the Trade and Economic Relations Committee, attended among others by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, held discussions with the aim of giving a boost to the economy, sources said. 
The meeting also reviewed progress of various free trade agreements (FTAs) under negotiations, they added. 
The discussions included the possibility of having more commerce-opening FTAs with various countries in Europe and Pacific, sources said. 
India is negotiating several FTAs with various countries, including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand besides the European Union. 
The economy in the first three months of 2013-14 grew at rate of 4.4 percent, the lowest rate in four years. 
Recently, various external agencies had lowered their India growth projections for this financial year. 
The World Bank had slashed its India growth projection to 4.7 percent, while IMF lowered its India growth estimate to 3.75 percent for 2013-14. 
Last year (2012-13), India economy grew at decade’s low of 5 percent. 


Today is International Day of Radiology


Today is the International Day of Radiology. Every year it is observed on November 8 as Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen discovered the existence of x-rays on this day in 1895. The initiative was established last year with the aim of building greater awareness of the value that radiology contributes to safe patient care, and improving understanding of the vital role radiologists play in the healthcare continuum.
This year, the day is dedicated to lung imaging and highlighting the important role that radiology plays in the detection, diagnosis and management of a wide variety of lung diseases. Last year, the first International Day of Radiology focused on oncologic imaging.


‘Privacy essential to democracy’ anti-spying UN resolution

Brazil and Germany introduced to the UN General Assembly their draft resolution calling for internationally recognized rights to privacy in the wake of the ongoing NSA scandal in which the leaders of the two states were spied on.
The document urging an end to the global electronic espionage and the extension of Internet freedom was read out in the Third Committee of the UN for social, humanitarian and cultural affairs.
“The General Assembly … affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular the right to privacy,” the draft resolution said.
Further expressed concern “at human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of any surveillance of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance of communications.”
Draft which is likely to be carried by over 20 nations will probably undergo changes before it is adopted. It calls for “measures to put an end to violations of these rights and to create the conditions to prevent such violations, including by ensuring that relevant national legislation complies with their obligations under international human rights law.” In addition the resolution calls for the creation of independent oversight mechanisms in every country to curb spying.
This draft ask UN human rights chief Navi Pillay to produce a report “on the protection of the right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial, including massive, surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data.”
The document recommends expanding the protection defined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to privacy and electronic communications. It “affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular the right to privacy.” However the draft leaves room for the suspension of such guarantees “for the protection of national security or of public order.”
“Where do we draw the line between legitimate security concerns and the individual right to privacy? And how do we ensure that human rights are effectively protected both offline and online?” German Ambassador Peter Witting asked when presenting the jointly sponsored German-Brazilian draft.
His counterpart Brazil’s Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota said: “In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of opinion and expression, and no effective democracy.”
“Privacy is of the essence in safeguarding individuals against abuse from power,” Patriota told the Third Committee.

“Brazil believes it is crucial for the international community to engage in a serious in-depth debate on how to uphold certain fundamental rights of human beings in the digital age, including in light of concerns with national security and criminal activity,”
 he said.NSA spying revealed by the former employee Edward Snowden showed that Washington has spied on at least 35 world leaders besides the exposed the mass surveillance against private citizens and business. According to Snowden’s leak intelligence agencies from all signatories of the ‘Five Eyes’ agreement – also including the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – collaborated with the NSA.
Since Snowden’s leaks surfaced in June, protests demanding more privacy protection have engulfed countries around the globe with thousands of people worldwide having joined the recent Million Mask March rallies organized by the amorphous Anonymous movement.
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do voice global opinion. The UNGA vote on the document is expected in three weeks at the earliest.
“The United States has made no contention that it faces a public emergency threatening the territorial integrity or sovereignty of the country, nor told anyone it is derogating from its treaty obligations, so this isn’t really in play,” Dina Pokempner, the general counsel of Human Rights Watch told media. Agencies


Agni-1 missile test fired

The indigenous Agni-1 missile was test fired from the Wheeler islands, off the Odisha coast today. The user trial of the 12 ton missile was conducted at around 9.30 am from the ITR, Chandipur in Balasore district of Odisha. Launched from a mobile launcher, Agni-1 surface to surface missile can travel a distance of 700 kilometres. The 15 metre long missile can carry a payload of 1000 kilogram.
Senior scientists and officials from DRDO and Army were present during the trial today.


Typhoon Haiyan makes landfall in Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan, the world’s strongest storm of the year, has made landfall in the Philippines with winds of up to 235 kilometers per hour. The national weather service said the category-five storm was centred 62 kilometers south-east of Guiuan, in the country’s Eastern Samar province. Rescue services have reportedly lost contact with Guiuan, a town of 47,000. 
Schools and offices have been closed in the region and thousands of people were evacuated amid fears of serious damage. The storm is not expected to directly hit the capital Manila, further north. 
It is the 25th typhoon to enter Philippine territory this year.


I&B Ministry Institutes New Centenary Award to honour personalities for contribution to Indian Cinema

44th IFFI to screen two films on Nobel Prize Winners for the first time Life Time Achievement Award to be conferred on legendary Czech director Mr. Jiri Menzel 
Susan Sarandon to be Chief Guest for 44th IFFI at Goa from 20th – 30th November, 2013 Children’s Film Festival at Hyderabad from 14th-20th November to focus competitive animation section 
Retrospective on Best Children’s Films in commemoration of 100 years to be screened 
The Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Shri Manish Tewari today announced the institution of a special award in the series of initiatives undertaken to commemorate the 100 years of Indian Cinema. The Centenary award would be given every year to an outstanding Indian film personality “A Film Icon” for his/her contribution to Indian Cinema at IFFI. Speaking on the occasion, Shri Tewari said that the award reiterated the rich legacy of Indian Cinema where eminent personalities had contributed to its growth through different stages of its evolution. The award is the second in the series instituted by the Government to commemorate the centenary celebrations. 
Speaking on the occasion, the Minister mentioned that the Ministry had taken initiatives to promote the growth of the film industry. It had tried to review the statutory architecture under the films paradigm by instituting the Mudgal Committee to review the provisions of the Cinematograph Act. The recommendations of the Committee were under consideration and the opinions have been invited as the report had been placed on the website of the Ministry. As part of the initiatives, the Ministry had also proactively pursued the establishment of the Single Window Clearance Mechanism to ensure that the film makers had no difficulty in seeking permissions within the country. The objective was to ensure the smooth implementation of the Standard Operating Procedure. As part of the initiative to promote cinema, the National Film Heritage Mission had been mooted to ensure that the rich cultural heritage of the industry could be preserved. 
Elaborating further, the Minister said that the 44th edition of IFFI was unique on several accounts. For the first time two International Film personalities, Ms. Susan Sarandon and acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Mr. Majid Majidi were to share the stage at the opening ceremony. This aspect reiterated the growing importance of India as a Soft Power. The 44th edition also provided the platform to screen for the first time films on Nobel Prize winners, namely , Mandela, A long Walk to Freedom and Lech Walesa. The Life Time Achievement Award was being conferred to the legendary Czech Film Director, Mr. Jiri Menzel whose films have been acknowledged as the Czech New Wave Cinema. For the first time, a film on India’s great freedom struggle leader Basha Khan would be screened at the Festival. For the first time, a film produced and directed by an Afghan Director would be screened. Acclaimed Hollywood Actress Ms Michelle Yeoh would be the Chief Guest for the closing ceremony of the Festival. The festival would highlight for the first time Cinema from the North Eastern states of India. 
Regarding the Children’s Film Festival, Shri Tewari said that the Festival was unique in several ways. It combined the traditional and modern aspects of film making on issues concerning children. For the first time a retrospective on the Best of Indian children’s Films, a specially curated package in commemoration of 100 years of Indian Cinema was being screened. The package would showcase 15 National Award winning and Classic Indian Children’s films. Special attention had been given to the animation section where 285 films had been received. For the first time, a separate category of Competitive Section for animation films had been introduced. For the Festival, a record number of entries, 123 in number, had been received for the “Little Director” Section, films made by children from India and around the world. For the first time, films had been sourced from prestigious International Children’s Film Festivals. The children’s film festival would have a country focus retrospective of Czech Films. 


India’s outlook remains negative (BBB-/A-3) : Standard & Poor



The rating agency Standard & Poor’s has affirmed India ’s sovereign credit ratingat BBB-/A-3 and warned of a likely downgrade in 2014 if the new government fails to reverse India ‘s low growth. The outlook remains negative, indicating that they may lower the rating to speculative grade next year if the government that takes office after the general election does not appear capable of reversing India ‘s low economic growth, going forward. The agency highlighted that there is a marked slowdown in India ’s real growth and this complicates the government’s debt dynamics and ability to implement reforms.

The current investment-grade ratings are supported by institutional strengths andforeign exchange reserves. These strengths are counterbalanced by significant weaknesses, which include an onerous burden from its public finance, lack of progress on structural reforms, and shortfalls in basic services.

Warm regards,

Dr. S P Sharma
Chief Economist


North East Festival – a complete kaleidoscope of North East Region


-        First ever festival showcasing the vibrant future, present & past of North East India

-        The only complete festival to share current security, cultural, social, economic, tourism-related, food, handicrafts, fashion and mindset issues of North East India

New Delhi, 6th November, 2013: During an autumn of focus on North East India, where New Delhi has witnessed several specific small windows to the region, North East Festival 2013, promises to open the complete North East India to people of the Capital.

In a two day carnival which is going to be held in New Delhi on 8th& 9th November, 2013 at the IGNCA it will celebrate and showcase not only the cultural & traditional past, present and future of the region but also wishes to create awareness about the region and showcase its prospects and potentials.
The two day festival which would see the participation of the Dy Chairman of Planning Commission, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers from the region,  Chief Secretaries, intellectuals etc. The event is a combined effort of various prominent personalities of North East and organised by Trend MMS, the reputed Trust of the region and is supported by All Eight States of NER, supported by Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of DoNER will be the biggest such event outside of the North East. It will have dances, musical performance, photography exhibition, ethnic food stalls, ethnic handicrafts and handloom stalls, exhibition of all NER States, fashion show, photography exhibition as well as serious discussion on the issues of security, tourism opportunities, employment options, and such issues near to the hearts of North East Indians.
North East Festival will be inaugurated by Montek Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Paban Singh Ghatowar, Union Minister of DoNER and Smt. Krishna Tirath, Minister of State, Ministry of Women and Child Development four Chief Ministers, all the Chief Secretaries of NER States. The first day of the North East Festival will witness discussion on “North East India as a central focus of India’s Look East Policy and Internal Security of North East” where keynote speakers will be Mr Ranjan Mathai, former Indian Foreign Secretary, Mr Anil Goswami, Union Home Secretary of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr GK Pillai, former Home Secretary of India & Mr PC Halder, former Intelligence Bureau (IB) director. In this session these opinion makers would discuss critical issues faced by the region including internal security, peace process with insurgents, North East as central focus of India’s Look East Policy and progress made so far.

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