Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Donald Trump's Homes Have Boosted His Wealth

Donald Trump has been making a lot of headlines lately. However, that’s nothing new.

His career began in the 1960s, when he took a foreclosed Cincinnati apartment complex and turned it around for a tidy profit. Then he turned his attention to revitalizing pieces of Manhattan real estate that had been forsaken during its 1970s financial crisis. After restoring Central Park’s Wollman Rink in the 1980s, he gained the high profile that he enjoys today, and it shows no signs of abating.

Trump is mostly known for the properties that his company owns, but he is almost as well known for the real estate that he owns privately. As befits a larger-than-life personality such his, he resides in sprawling estates all over the world, all of which have gained notice when he’s bought or sold them, or even just renovated the pool.

Here are the real estate properties that Donald Trump has called home in the last few years, and a few that represent his company’s future:

Trump Tower, New York City

Donald Trump’s primary personal residence is in the Manhattan skyscraper that bears his name, Trump Tower. There are several other Trump Towers in the world, but the one on Fifth Avenue is where he hangs his hat. According to Forbes magazine, the building is worth more than $300 million, and houses the New York office of Qatar Airways, as well as Gucci’s flagship retail location.

The building has stood for almost 30 years, and it’s where the winners of the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants live for a year. Saudi Prince Mutaib bin Abdul-Aziz lives there as well, and he owns an entire floor. However, that’s downright modest compared to the apartment owned by Trump. The building’s most famous resident lives in an apartment that occupies the top three floors of the tower and takes up 30,000 square feet. It’s estimated to be worth $50 million, and it’s considered one of the most valuable apartments in all of New York City.

Maison de L'Amitie, Palm Beach, Florida

Maison de L'Amitie is a 60,000 square - foot piece of real estate that Trump bought for $41 million in 2004. One year later, on season three of The Apprentice, winner Kendra Todd was given the $25 million task of renovating it, and she went all-out, lining it with gold and diamond fixtures.

In 2010, Trump sold the property to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million. That was actually $25 million lower than Trump’s original asking price, but it’s still a 130 percent return on his investment, which led him to characterize the flip as a sign of an improving housing market.

When he sold the mansion, Trump gave up almost 500 feet of ocean, as well as a garage that can fit almost 50 cars and enough bathrooms for 22 people to powder their noses simultaneously. However, he’s also giving up sky-high taxes --- he paid close to $1 million in real estate taxes in 2007 alone.

Seven Springs Estate, Bedford, NY

In 1995, Donald Trump bought a Georgian-style mansion in Bedford, New York for $7.5 million. It was built in 1919 and was once home to former Washington Post owner Eugene I. Meyer Jr. The residence on the 200-acre estate has 13 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, a two-story playroom and a marble, indoor swimming pool.

Trump had originally planned to build a golf course in the area, but he faced opposition from the towns of Bedford, New Castle and North Castle, in part because residents feared that pollution from the chemically treated greens would find its way into the Byram Lake reservoir and contaminate their drinking water.

After scrapping plans for the golf course, Trump decided instead to build 15 luxury homes on the property and renovate the existing ones, including his own. The new properties were expected to occupy approximately 15,000 square feet on 10-acre lots, have their own pools and tennis courts and sell for $25 million each. However, in 2008, Trump halted the project, and he plans to leave it on hold until the housing market recovers.

Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida

Donald Trump bought Mar-a-Lago, the former estate of General Foods founder Marjorie Merriweather Post, in 1985 for $10 million. Built in the 1920s and declared a national landmark in 1980, the 17-acre estate is a popular event site which has hosted both the International Red Cross Ball and the wedding of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. It has 12 fireplaces, more than 30 bathrooms and almost 60 bedrooms, as well as three bomb shelters.

In 2006, Trump irritated some local residents when he raised a flag on an 80-foot pole, a height almost twice that allowed by town ordinances. He refused to take it down, and the Palm Beach city council charged him $1,250 a day for every day that it remained aloft. Trump countersued for $25 million, and the matter dragged on for six months. It was finally settled when he agreed to lower the flag 10 feet, move it away from the ocean and donate $100,000 to Iraqi War Veterans’ charities.

Trump National Golf Course, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Recently, Donald Trump spent time in the Southern California city of Rancho Palos Verdes overseeing the construction of the Trump National Golf Course. While he was there, he stayed in the estate that he is currently selling for $12 million. It overlooks both the Pacific Ocean and the new golf course. Today, the golf club is the third largest employer in Rancho Palos Verdes, with 300 people on its payroll.

The 11,000 square - foot mansion is actually somewhat restrained and modest by Trump standards. It has two stories, nine bathrooms and five bedrooms, as well as a four-car garage and a pool. The home is meant to take its place among 50 other estates that will comprise an exclusive community.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Apple files suit against Samsung

Apple Inc. has sued Samsung Electronics Co., saying the South Korean company's Galaxy line of smartphones and tablet computers copy Apple's popular iPad and iPhone.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple alleges the product design, user interface and packaging of the Galaxy products "slavishly copy" Apple.

"When a Samsung Galaxy phone is used in public, there can be little doubt that it would be viewed as an Apple product based upon the design alone," Apple says in its lawsuit, which was filed on Friday.

Cupertino-based Apple is seeking an order barring Samsung from infringing on a variety of its patents and trademarks, as well as unspecified damages.

A Samsung spokesman said the company's products are the result of its own research and development. He says Samsung plans to defend itself against Apple's lawsuit.

Apple first released the iPhone in 2007, and has since upgraded the device several times. The company unveiled the iPad last year, and began selling the iPad 2 in March. The company had sold over 108 million iPhones and 19 million iPads, as well as more than 60 million of the iPod Touch, which is a digital music player that looks similar to the iPhone but can only access the Internet over Wi-Fi and cannot make cellular calls.

Samsung began selling the Galaxy smartphones and Galaxy Tab tablet computer in the U.S. last year, all of which run on Google's Android operating system. Samsung is the world's largest manufacturer of flat screen televisions, liquid crystal displays and computer memory chips. Its memory chips are used in the iPad.

"Samsung will respond actively to this legal action taken against us through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property," Samsung spokesman Kim Titus said.

The lawsuit is the latest in a long string of patent disputes among phone makers trying to stake a claim on a slice of the rapidly growing smart phone market. Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Nokia Corp. and HTC Corp. and others have taken legal action to protect intellectual property in the last few years.

Update: Samsung has issued a statement in response to the legal action taken by Apple. In an emailed response, a Samsung spokesperson said, "Samsung's development of core technologies and strengthening our intellectual property portfolio are keys to our continued success. Samsung will respond actively to this legal action taken against us through appropriate legal measures to protect our intellectual property."

Monday, April 18, 2011

S&P cuts US debt outlook to negative

Washington’s deficit reduction debate came to Wall Street on Monday, after the Standard & Poor’s rating firm lowered the outlook for the United States to negative, saying there was a risk that lawmakers might not reach agreement on how to address the country’s fiscal issues.

Indexes fell sharply as the S.&P. revision pushed the federal deficit problems out of the political arena and into the financial one.

Many analysts were surprised by the market response to the revision, which cut the long-term United States debt rating to negative from stable. The S.&P. also affirmed the government’s AAA rating.

“The idea that the US public finances are on an unsustainable trajectory is hardly new news,” economists from Capital Economics said in a research note. “Indeed, we warned that the US might be downgraded, or at least put on negative watch, as far back as nearly two years ago.”

Analysts said the upside of the announcement was that it could spur the administration and lawmakers to find a way to reduced the nearly $1.5 trillion budget deficit.

Steven Blitz, a senior economist for ITG Investment Research, said that the “S.&P. and all the rating agencies are still under a lot of pressure to reform and this action could help them by helping the White House scare the Republicans to engage in responsible political negotiation to reach some reasonable deal on deficit reduction and raise the debt ceiling rather than have the talks take on the aura of a hostage negotiation.”

Mr. Blitz said the revision involved a ratings change that could occur several years from now, but the timing of the release had political aspect, much like the heightened terror alerts during President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign..

Stanley Nabi, chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management Group, said the policy makers and lawmakers should “realize there is a very serious problem, and you are going to see more consideration on how to rein in expenditures.”

For their part, administration officials played down the revision while reiterating Washington’s determination to act. Treasury officials “believe S.&P.’s negative outlook underestimates the ability of America’s leaders to come together to address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the nation,” an assistant secretary for financial markets, Mary J. Miller, said in a statement.

President Obama has initiated a bipartisan process that will help make progress on restoring fiscal responsibility, the statement said.

“I think this is fundamentally S.&.P.’s making a political judgment,” said Austan Goolsbee, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, in an interview with Bloomberg TV news, pointed out that President Obama in a recent speech had said that there would be actions taken to promote fiscal responsibility. “I don’t think that the S&P’s political judgment is right.”

Both President Obama and Republican lawmakers have suggested plans to cut the federal deficit by at least $4 trillion over the next 10 to 12 years, but by different methods. And Mr. Obama plans to take his message on the road this week, traveling to the West Coast to promote his plan, which combines spending cuts and revenue increases.

The Republican blueprint written by Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who leads the Budget Committee, includes cutting non-defense spending, and a politically charged proposal to fundamentally reconfigure Medicare.

While the S.&P. said the proposals were a good starting point for negotiations, “we see the path to agreement as challenging because the gap between the parties remains wide.”

“We believe there is a significant risk that Congressional negotiations could result in no agreement on a medium-term fiscal strategy until after the fall 2012 Congressional and presidential elections,” the statement said.

In late-day trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was 157.34 points, or 1.27 per cent lower, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index declined 15.46 points, or 1.17 per cent. The technology heavy Nasdaq lost 34.46 points, or 1.25 per cent.

European indexes all closed down at least 2.1 per cent, pushed lower by the S.&P. revision and the concerns about the debt crisis in Europe.

Laura LaRosa, the director of fixed income for Glenmede, said before the announcement on Monday that traders were assessing events in the euro zone, where a nationalist political swing in Finland and speculation about a possible restructuring of Greek debt put pressure on euro-zone assets.

Investors, reminded that the region’s sovereign crisis is not yet resolved, responded to an election on Sunday in which Finnish voters ousted their government and gave a lift to a nationalist party that is skeptical of the financial bailouts of Ireland, Greece and the agreement, reached this month, to aid Portugal.

Those results could complicate Europe’s plans to rescue Portugal, according to analysts.

Separately, news reports over the weekend suggested that the German government has been floating the possibility of a voluntary restructuring of Greece’s sovereign debt, something that most investors see as inevitable. The reports appeared to refer to extending the duration of debt issues over a longer timeframe.

Adam Cole, head of foreign exchange strategy at RBC Capital Markets in London, said the euro was being undermined in the near term by the uncertainty of the Finnish vote.

The conservative National Coalition Party won the election, but by a narrow margin over the left-leaning Social Democrats. Just behind them came the True Finns, an anti-immigration party that does not believe that Finland should rescue its European partners.

The Social Democrats have also called for changes to how those countries are financed.

The National Coalition, part of the outgoing center-right government and a strong advocate for European integration, will now have to invite others into coalition talks, raising questions about Finland’s support for rescue packages that need unanimous approval in the 17-member euro zone.

The election results are “likely to result in some noisy horse trading in the coming days,” Mr. Cole said in a research note. However, he added that “ultimately, it is unlikely that Finland will derail the Portuguese bailout process and there is in any case a fairly large ‘window’ before Portugal faces heavy redemption pressure in mid-June.”

At a sale in Madrid, the Spanish government was forced to pay substantially more to issue 12- and 18-month Treasury bills on Monday compared with last month, Reuters reported, amid concern over the Portuguese bailout and speculation about a Greek restructuring.

The benchmark Spanish 10-year issue yield rose by 13 basis points, pushing wider its spread over equivalent German bonds.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Flight to mars possible after 2035

An interplanetary spacecraft for a flight to Mars will be created not before 2025 and the maiden flight to the red planet will be possible only after 2035, said Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov on Wednesday.

"The possibility of a flight to Mars needs to be combined with the construction of a spaceship having a new nuclear power propulsion unit, which will make it possible to reach the planet in a month," Perminov said in Russia's upper house of parliament.

He said the propulsion unit, which serves the purpose of changing the velocity of a spacecraft in the space, is to be built by 2019.

7.2 billion rubles ($256 mln) are to be allocated as part of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom's innovation development programme from 2010 to 2018 on the joint project with Roscosmos to create a nuclear power unit-based transport module for the future spacecraft.

Answering questions from senators in the Federation Council, the Roscosmos head called flights to Mars on board existing spaceships "absurdity," and added that the prospective flight could only be organised on an international level.

Russia, as well as the US, have been developing technology to produce nuclear-powered spacecraft for decades. Roscosmos and NASA are planning to discuss the development of a nuclear-powered spaceship on Friday during talks in Moscow.

Budget woes force NASA to redraw plans to Mars

Know how to go to Mars cheaply? NASA can use your help.

The space agency yesterday put out a call for ideas for the next Mars mission in 2018.

The fine print, the cost can't be astronomical and the idea has to move the country closer to landing humans on the red planet in the 2030s.

"This is the kickoff," said NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld.

The race to redraw a new, cheaper road map comes two months after NASA pulled out of a partnership with the European Space Agency on two missions targeted for 2016 and 2018, a move that angered scientists.

The 2018 mission represented the first step toward hauling Martian soil and rocks back to Earth for detailed study something many researchers say is essential in determining whether microbial life once existed there.

Agency officials said returning samples is still a priority, but a reboot was necessary given the financial reality.

In the past decade, NASA has spent USD 6.1 billion exploring Earth's closest planetary neighbour.

President Barack Obama's latest proposed budget slashed spending for solar system exploration by 21 per cent, making the collaboration with the Europeans unaffordable.

A newly formed team will cull through the ideas and come up with options by summer around the time when NASA's latest mission, a USD 2.5 billion car-sized rover Curiosity, will land near the equator on Mars.

NASA headquarters is the ultimate decider of which future projects to fund. Whatever mission flies in 2018, it will be vastly cheaper than Curiosity and will be capped at USD 700 million.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

China has 960,000 millionaires and still counting...

China has a mind-boggling 960,000 millionaires, said an annual wealth report that noted it was a jump from 825,000 millionaires two years back.

The 960,000 millionaires have personal wealth of 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) or more, the China Daily reported.

Of them, 60,000 are considered super rich with 100 million yuan or more in wealth, up 9 percent year-on-year.

The GroupM Knowledge-Hurun Wealth Report 2011 said that it is up 9.7 percent year-on-year.

China has a population of 1.34 billion.

The report said that rising property prices and a rapidly-growing GDP have led to an increase in the number of Chinese millionaires.

As many as 55 per cent of Chinese millionaires have got their wealth from private businesses while 20 percent from property speculations. About 15 percent are stock experts and 10 percent are high-earning executives, China Daily said.

In 2009, there were 825,000 millionaires while last year the number went up to 875,000.

The media report said that housing prices went up in the country by 13.7 percent in 2010 and luxury property prices rose even faster.

"The overall confidence of China's millionaires in the property sector and China's overall economy remains very high," Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report, was quoted as saying.

The report said that the average age of the Chinese millionaires was 39 years, a good 15 years younger than those in Western countries. Thirty percent of the millionaires were women.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tata Power has bagged an over Rs. 1,000 crore-contract from the Indian Air Force

In one of the biggest private sector engagement in the defence sector, Tata Power has bagged an over Rs. 1,000 crore-contract from the Indian Air Force for modernisation of its 30 airfields.

Tata Power has received the order to modernise the Airfield Infrastructure of Indian Air Force from the Ministry of Defence.

Sources said the contract is worth over Rs. 1,000 crore and would be implemented in a two-phases over a period of around four years. It would cover about 30 air fields.

This would probably be the largest defence contract awarded through a global tender process, another source said.

The contract is quite important and encouraging in terms of private sector participation in the defence sector and would create a "precedence", the source added.

"The programme, known as Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure – Phase I (MAFI-I), is of strategic importance and aims to improve capability of the Airfields to handle the modern combat air fleet being inducted by IAF," Tata Power said in a statement on Monday.

Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division (SED) Chief Executive Officer Rahul Chaudhry said the contract "won against a Global Defence tender of MoD, is a watershed moment, not only for us, but also for increasing private sector participation in Indian defence sector".

The company has been working closely with the Ministry of Defence and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to provide state-of-the-art solutions to Indian Armed Forces for the past four decades, he added.

Tata Power's Managing Director Anil Sardana noted that bagging this order signifies recognition of Tata Power SED's capability to support the Indian defence establishment.

"Tata Power SED is committed to delivering world-class Airfields to the Indian Air Force and the division will continue to remain a long-term reliable partner of the Indian Armed Forces and other related establishments of MoD," he said.

Shares of the Tata Power closed marginally higher at Rs. 1317.30 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

New telecom policy to delink spectrum from licenses

The Telecom Department was the arguably unlikely birthing ground for India's largest-ever scam. A Raja, the minister who allegedly helmed the swindle, is now in jail - large amounts of frequency were virtually donated along with mobile network licenses to companies that were ineligible for them. New Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has announced a new set of rules today that aim at cleansing a system that seemed designed for manipulation.

So Mr Sibal's Telecom Policy 2011 deems that the licenses of all operators will be renewed every 10 years instead the 20-year-term that was on offer.

To ensure spectrum is not being wasted or under-utilized, operators will be audited for efficiency - several telecoms have yet to deliver the services they signed up for in 2008. Spectrum will no longer be bundled with licenses - so when telecom operators ask to renew their licenses, they'll have to pay separately for frequency. Also, spectrum will be priced at market rates - making it much more expensive. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is working on the prices.

To ensure transparency, there will only be on type of license issued now - the unified license. So far, companies got different licenses depending on the type of services they provided. License fees will be uniform across the country - currently, how much telecom operators pay annually depends on the area that they're providing services to.

Mergers and acquisitions will be made easier - to allow consolidation in what many describe as an over-crowded sector.

"The move by the minister to delink spectrum from licence and to try and ease merger rules are steps in the right direction," said Rajat Mukerjea who heads Corporate Affairs for Idea, a telecom operator.

The Opposition referred to Mr Sibal's infamous statement where he had declared that the telecom policies of the government had not resulted in any losses to the country.

"Coming from a minister who thought there was no scam or loss to the exchequer... we look forward to the changes and cleansing the system," said the BJP's Nirmala Sitharaman.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Anna Hazare to end his fast on Saturday

After single-handedly provoking a people's revolution, the 72-year-old activist who launched what he calls "India's second freedom struggle" is likely to end his four-day hunger strike tomorrow at 10 am.

The delay over announcement is mainly due to two issues: That Mr Anna Hazare is not happy with wording of Chairman and co-Chairman.

Both posts, however, will have same power.

The Chairman of the committee will be from the government, while the co-Chairman will be from the civil society.

Sources have said that Shanti Bhushan is likely to be the co-Chairman.

It took Anna Hazare over 82 hours of fasting to accomplish every point of an agenda that seemed preposterously ambitious when the week began. Till India pitched in, expressing its solidarity with rallies around Mr Hazare's cause - to force the government to introduce a new tough law to combat corruption, and to ensure that politicians alone are not entrusted with its conception.

So the government has agreed that a committee will be set up with five representatives of civil society, including Mr Hazare, and five ministers. At the head will be two chairmen - a minister and an unelected representative.

The government's unprecedented concessions were thrust upon it partly by Sonia Gandhi, who in a statement last night spelled out her support for his stand and urged him to end his fast. An equal amount of pressure was applied by lakhs of Indians online and offline, who dared the government to ignore the power of a people who swapped cynicism for a determination to be the change.

The turning point came this evening at 6 pm, when Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal met this evening with social activists Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Swami Agnivesh. At Jantar Manatar in Delhi, a short drive away, 6000 men, women and children sang "We shall overcome". A few minutes later, Mr Hazare addressed them, reassuring them that he was in good health. "You are my strength," he said.

For the last few days, Mr Hazare has with these speeches drawn middle class India Pied-Piper style from cities and small towns into taking on the system. For every demand that Mr Hazare presented, the government had an equal and opposite reaction. And slowly, it began conceding one point after another, till it was game, set and match for Mr Hazare.

So the government will agree to formally notify a committee to draft the Lokpal Bill. This will confer legal authority on the committee, which will be headed by two chairmen - one from civil society, the other a government representative. The committee will have five members who are non-elected representatives, including Mr Hazare.

And the government and activists have swapped their drafts of the bill - wide differences have existed between the two versions so far.

Till this morning, the sticking points were who would chair the committee, and what its legal status would be.

After Mr Hazare said he did not want to be Chairman, activists suggested that former Chief Justice of India JS Verma or retired Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde head the committee. Mr Sibal said this morning that ministers would not be a part of a committee chaired by a non-elected representative. The government also said that it could not sanction Mr Hazare's request for government order on the formation of the committee- an informal announcement would have to suffice. At 5 this evening, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, "No government can abdicate its Constitutional responsibility by accepting the impossible condition."

But at two meetings - in the morning and evening - Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister urged senior ministers to end the impasse.

At the same time, in separate letters to Mrs Gandhi and the Prime Minister, Mr Hazare urged them to be more proactive and supportive of the Lokpal Bill.

He urged Sonia Gandhi and her National Advisory Council - set up to interface with civil society and provide legislative and policy inputs - to discuss the "broad content of the Lokpal Bill... and recommend the outcome to the govt." Mr Hazare has urged the Prime Minister to reconsider appointing Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the head of the committee to draft the Lokpal Bill. "People are demanding non-political person as chair. I am not interested in this role. I propose Justice Verma or Justice Hedge as chair," he wrote.

Since September last year, India has confronted corruption scams of unprecedented scale. The list is topped by a telecom swindle that saw 2G spectrum being sold at throwaway prices in 2008 by then Telecom Minister A Raja. He is now in jail. His actions are estimated to have cost the government upto Rs. 1.76 lakh crore. As a series of financial skeletons have tumbled out of the government's closet, public anger has been esclating. The country needed a rallying point, and Mr Hazare provided an inspirational one.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

10 things to know about Anna Hazare and Jan Lok Pal Bill

1. Who is Anna Hazare?

An ex-army man. Fought 1965 Indo-Pak War

2. What's so special about him?

He built a village Ralegaon Siddhi in Ahamad Nagar district, Maharashtra

3. So what?

This village is a self-sustained model village. Energy is produced in the village itself from solar power, biofuel and wind mills.

In 1975, it used to be a poverty clad village. Now it is one of the richest village in India. It has become a model for self-sustained, eco-friendly & harmonic village.

4. Ok,...?

This guy, Anna Hazare was awarded Padma Bhushan and is a known figure for his social activities.

5. Really, what is he fighting for?

He is supporting a cause, the amendment of a law to curb corruption in India.

6. How that can be possible?

He is advocating for a Bil, The Jan Lokpal Bill (The Citizen Ombudsman Bill), that will form an autonomous authority who will make politicians (ministers), beurocrats (IAS/IPS) accountable for their deeds.

8. It's an entirely new thing right..?

In 1972, the bill was proposed by then Law minister Mr. Shanti Bhushan. Since then it has been neglected by the politicians and some are trying to change the bill to suit thier theft (corruption).

7. Oh.. He is going on a hunger strike for that whole thing of passing a Bill ! How can that be possible in such a short span of time?

The first thing he is asking for is: the government should come forward and announce that the bill is going to be passed.

Next, they make a joint committee to DRAFT the JAN LOKPAL BILL. 50% goverment participation and 50% public participation. Because you cant trust the government entirely for making such a bill which does not suit them.

8. Fine, What will happen when this bill is passed?

A LokPal will be appointed at the centre. He will have an autonomous charge, say like the Election Commission of India. In each and every state, Lokayukta will be appointed. The job is to bring all alleged party to trial in case of corruptions within 1 year. Within 2 years, the guilty will be punished. Not like, Bofors scam or Bhopal Gas Tragedy case, that has been going for last 25 years without any result.

9. Is he alone? Whoelse is there in the fight with Anna Hazare?

Baba Ramdev, Ex. IPS Kiran Bedi, Social Activist Swami Agnivesh, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and many more.

Prominent personalities like Aamir Khan is supporting his cause.

10. Ok, got it. What can I do?

At least we can spread the message. How?

Putting status message, links, video, changing profile pics.

At least we can support Anna Hazare and the cause for uprooting corruption from India.

At least we can hope that his Hunger Strike does not go in vain.

At least we can pray for his good health.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Anna Hazare's 5-point letter to PM

In a five-point letter to the Prime Minister, veteran activist and Gandhian Anna Hazare has explained why he is continuing with the hunger fast that the government has asked him to re-consider. Mr Hazare is clear that his agenda is not just to push for the bill, but to ensure that it is not drafted by the government alone - this, he says, would be undemocratic and would allow politicians to provide far too many loopholes to let themselves off the hook.

Here's the letter:

Dear Dr. Singh,

I have started my indefinite fast at Jantar mantar. I had invited you also to fast and pray for a corruption free India on 5th April. Though I did not receive any reply from you, I am hopeful that you must have done that.

I am pained to read and hear about government's reaction to my fast. I consider it my duty to clarify the points raised on behalf of Congress party and the government by their spokespersons, as they appear in media:

1. It is being alleged that I am being instigated by some people to sit on this fast. Dear Manmohan Singh ji, this is an insult to my sense of wisdom and intelligence. I am not a kid that I could be "instigated" into going on an indefinite fast. I am a fiercely independent person. I take advice from many friends and critics, but do what my conscience directs me to do. It is my experience that when cornered, governments resort to such malicious slandering. I am pained that the government, rather than addressing the issue of corruption, is trying to allege conspiracies, when there are none.

2. It is being said that I have shown impatience. Dear Prime Minister, so far, every government has shown complete insensitivity and lack of political commitment to tackling corruption. 62 years after independence, we still do not have independent and effective anti‐corruption systems. Very weak versions of Lokpal Bill were presented in Parliament eight times in last 42 years. Even these weak versions were not passed by Parliament. This means, left to themselves, the politicians and bureaucrats will never pass any law which subjects them to any kind of objective scrutiny. At a time, when the country has witnessed scams of unprecedented scale, the impatience of the entire country is justified. And we call upon you, not to look for precedents, but show courage to take unprecedented steps.

3. It is being said that I have shown impatience when the government has "initiated" the process. I would urge you to tell me - exactly what processes are underway?

a. You say that your Group of Ministers are drafting the anti‐corruption law. Many of the members of this Group of Ministers have such a shady past that if effective anticorruption systems had been in place, some of them would have been behind bars. Do you want us to have faith in a process in which some of the most corrupt people of this country should draft the anti‐corruption law?

b. NAC sub‐committee has discussed Jan Lokpal Bill. But what does that actually mean? Will the government accept the recommendations of NAC sub‐committee? So far, UPA II has shown complete contempt for even the most innocuous issues raised by NAC.

c. I and many other friends from India Against Corruption movement wrote several letters to you after 1st December. I also sent you a copy of Jan Lokpal Bill on 1st December. We did not get any response. It is only when I wrote to you that I will sit on an indefinite fast, we were promptly invited for discussions on 7th March. I wonder whether the government responds only to threats of indefinite fast. Before that, representatives of India Against Corruption had been meeting various Ministers seeking their support for the Jan Lokpal Bill. They met Mr Moily also and personally handed over copy of Jan Lokpal to him. A few hours before our meeting with you, we received a phone call from Mr Moily's office that the copy of Jan Lokpal Bill had been misplaced by his office and they wanted another copy. This is the seriousness with which the government has dealt with Jan Lokpal Bill.

d. Dear Dr Manmohan Singh ji, if you were in my place, would you have any faith in the aforesaid processes? Kindly let me know if there are any other processes underway. If you still feel that I am impatient, I am happy that I am because the whole nation is feeling impatient at the lack of credible efforts from your government against corruption.

4. What are we asking for? We are not saying that you should accept the Bill drafted by us. But kindly create a credible platform for discussions - a joint committee with at least half members from civil society suggested by us. Your spokespersons are misleading the nation when they say that there is no precedent for setting up a joint committee. At least seven laws in Maharashtra were drafted by similar joint committees and presented in Maharashtra Assembly. Maharashtra RTI Act, one of the best laws of those times, was drafted by a joint committee. Even at the centre, when 25,000 tribals came to Delhi two years ago, your government set up a joint committee on land issues within 48 hours. You yourself are the Chairperson of that committee.

This means that the government is willing to set up joint committees on all other issues, but not on corruption. Why?

5. It is being said that the government wants to talk to us and we are not talking to them. This is utterly false. Tell me a single meeting when you called us and we did not come. We strongly believe in dialogue and engagement. Kindly do not mislead the country by saying that we are shunning dialogue.

We request you to take some credible steps at stemming corruption. Kindly stop finding faults and suspecting conspiracies in our movement. There are none. Even if there were, it does not absolve you of your responsibilities to stop corruption.

With warm regards,
K B Hazare

People are maalik, Govt is sevak: Hazare

In a five-point letter to the Prime Minister, veteran activist and Gandhian Anna Hazare has explained why he is continuing with the hunger fast that the government has asked him to re-consider. Mr Hazare began his hunger strike on Tuesday, and says he will not eat or drink till the government proves its commitment to fighting corruption with a powerful new law - the Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's Ombudsman Bill). (Read: What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, why it's important)

Mr Hazare is clear that his agenda is not just to push for the bill, but to ensure that it is not drafted by the government alone - this, he says, would be undemocratic and would allow politicians to provide far too many loopholes to let themselves off the hook. (Read: Who is Anna Hazare)

"I have just sent a letter to the Prime Minister. I request the Prime Minister that the Lokpal bill is the right of the public, it's not a favour to them. You are sevaks, the people are the maaliks," the 72-year-old said. (Read: Who is Anna Hazare)

He also said that while different ministers have said that they had appealed to Mr Hazare to give them some more time to consider his demands, "62 years after independence, we still do not have independent and effective anti‐corruption systems. Very weak versions of Lokpal Bill were presented in Parliament eight times in last 42 years. Even these weak versions were not passed by Parliament."

And then Mr Hazare summarizes why his movement has captured the imagination and support of Indians at home and abroad. "At a time, when the country has witnessed scams of unprecedented scale, the impatience of the entire country is justified," he writes.(Read: Anna's 5-point letter to the Prime Minister)

Mr Hazare also delivers a scathing assessment of the Group of Ministers appointed by the Prime Minister to draft the new Lokpal bill. "You say that your Group of Ministers are drafting the anti‐corruption law. Many of the members of this Group of Ministers have such a shady past that if effective anti-corruption systems had been in place, some of them would have been behind bars," he writes in his note to the PM.

Mr Hazare's call to action - along with a group called India Against Corruption, he is asking people to hold rallies, or fast for as long as they can - is resonating across hundreds of cities, a sombre reflection of a country's disenchantment with the government over corruption. "Let people fill the streets like they did after India won the World Cup," said one young demonstrator.(Watch: Anna's crusaders - Students, housewives)

Mr Hazare, on his part, thanked the youth of the country today for supporting him, and described the nationwide movement demanding action against corruption as "another freedom struggle." (Watch)

What Mr Hazare and other prominent activists want is for the government to ensure that those appointed to investigate corruption charges are free of political influence. They want an institution called the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in each state. On the group's official website,, they state that these offices, "Like Supreme Court and Election Commission... will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations." (Read: Why Hazare, Others oppose Lokpal Bill 2010)

Mr Hazare says from how these officials would be selected, to their ability to accept complaints directly from the public, and then lodge police cases, the Lokpal and Lokayukta must be empowered much more than what the government has offered.

To ensure this, Mr Hazare wants civil society to be represented on the committee that drafts the Lokpal Bill. The government has said that while it values Mr Hazare's commitment and suggestions, legislation is the business of Parliament. The Prime Minister's Office tried unsuccessfully on Monday night to persuade Mr Hazare to cancel his fast. On Tuesday, as he launched his strike, spin-off demonstrations pulled in big crowds in cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bangalore. (See Pictures | Comment: What should India do to fight corruption?)

On Wednesday, Kapil Sibal, a minister who is part of a "sub-group" of ministers dealing with the Lokpal bill, said that Mr Hazare had been reassured that his request would be given the government's full attention. "We are open to all suggestions...but we were asked to commit that in principle, a joint committee will function. We were told that this must be done before April 5," he said. "We said we are a subgroup and we are not empowered to commit to we need more time...and we will present this to a Group of Ministers (GoM) who will take a decision. So we requested that sometime be given to the government to deal with these issues. Civil society should have confidence in the government. We are deeply concerned with the issue of corruption." (Watch)

Mr Hazare doesn't accept these explanations. He said on Wednesday morning that "If the government were serious about fighting corruption, why are there so many delays in getting to work on it?

Anna Hazare's fast against corruption strikes huge chord

In two hundred cities across India on Tuesday, thousands of college students, young executives and housewives joined a campaign that asks the government to enact an important new law to fight corruption. (Watch: Huge crowds in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad) At the centre of the movement is respected social activist Anna Hazare who has begun a hunger strike that he says will not end till the government proves its commitment to the Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's Ombudsman Bill).

What the government has proposed in its draft, he and other activists say on the website,, is "complete eyewash". Rather than strengthen anti-corruption systems, it demolishes whatever exists in the name of anti-corruption systems today. It seeks to completely insulate politicians from any kind of action against them." Unless civil society plays a role in drafting the law, Mr Hazare believes, it will change nothing. Mr Hazare visited Mahatma Gandhi's memorial at Rajghat on Tuesday morning in Delhi. He then drove in an open jeep to India Gate, accompanied by hundreds of supporters. As he marched to Jantar Mantar, schoolchildren could be seen waving the national flag. Online, Mr Hazare has received the support of five lakh Indians. (See Pictures Comment:

What should India do to fight corruption?) If Mr Hazare is commanding the attention of the average Indian, it is not just because of his considerable reputation as a crusader for basic rights for the aam admi or average Indian. Since autumn, the country has confronted an epidemic of corruption within the government. The Commonwealth Games, a massive telecom scandal, and the appropriation by politicians and bureaucrats of a high-rise in Mumbai meant to house war widows and veterans have provoked public outrage.

The government has been tested in Parliament by a reinvigorated Opposition. It will now face the people's verdict -five key states including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala vote this month. Mr Hazare and activists who have joined forces with him hope that the Jan Lokpal Bill will serve as the antidote to systematic and governmental corruption. They have challenged the government over its version of the bill - which they say gives politicians over-riding powers to decide who should be investigated and by whom.

Listing objections on, the group says, "Lokpal has been proposed to be an advisory body. Lokpal, after enquiry in any case, will forward its report to the competent authority. The competent authority will have final powers to decide whether to take action on Lokpal's report or not. In the case of cabinet ministers, the competent authority is Prime Minister. In the case of PM and MPs the competent authority is Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, as the case may be. In the coalition era when the government of the day depends upon the support of its political partners, it will be impossible for the PM to act against any of his cabinet ministers on the basis of Lokpal's report." The selection committee for the Lokpal will be made up largely of politicians - so there is a conflict of interest.

(Read: Why Hazare, Others oppose Lokpal Bill 2010) Instead, the Lokpal Bill - Mr Hazare and his supporters state - must grant "an institution called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in each state. Like the Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations. Its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process." (Read: What is the Janlokpal Bill, why it's important)

Mr Hazare wants civil society representatives to be included in the committee that drafts the bill. The government says that while it is willing to incorporate suggestions, legislation is the business of Parliament alone. Mr Hazare disagrees. "I will observe fast-unto-death till the government agrees to form a joint committee comprising 50 per cent officials and the remaining citizens and intellectuals to draft the Jan Lokpal Bill," he has said.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's excuses all the way for Warren Buffett

Whenever the world’s greatest investor gets in a tight squeeze, he straps on his angel wings, readjusts his halo, and leans on his reputation for avuncular straight talk to make the problem go away.

Warren Buffett did it in the early-1990s, when one of his holdings at the time, Salomon Brothers, was caught in a Treasury bond scandal. He did it in the mid-2000s, when executives at General Re, owned by Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, were prosecuted for concocting a phony transaction with AIG.

Now he’s doing it again as he attempts to gloss over the actions of a close associate that look suspiciously like insider trading. The deputy, David Sokol, resigned earlier this week, claiming he wanted to concentrate on his “philanthropic interests.” (That’s what they all say.) The resignation, said Buffett, came as a “total surprise.” (They all say that, too.)

In a statement, Buffett laid out the facts about Sokol’s stock purchases of Lubrizol, a company Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy two weeks ago. To give Buffett his due, this is decidedly not what chief executives usually do in this circumstance. That’s why the Oracle of Omaha has such a glowing reputation in the first place. But the statement also contains a sentence that only Buffett would have the chutzpah to write:

“Neither Dave nor I feel his Lubrizol purchases were in any way unlawful.”

Yeah, well, Raj Rajaratnam has said he didn’t do anything unlawful either — and he’s being prosecuted for insider trading. No matter how pure Buffett believes Sokol’s heart is, it shouldn’t prevent the government from investigating this case. either. Yes, it’s possible that there’s an innocent explanation. But based on what we know so far, it smells to high heaven.

Let’s recount the story, shall we? On December 13, some investment bankers meet with Sokol to pitch possible acquisitions. He expresses an interest in Lubrizol and tells them to convey his interest to its chief executive, James Hambrick. He then buys 2,300 shares, selling them a week later.

The plot soon thickens. In early January, Sokol goes back into the market and buys 96,000 shares at around $100 apiece. A week later, Sokol calls Hambrick and has a preliminary discussion about a possible deal. Sokol then takes the idea to Buffett, mentioning “in passing” that he owns some Lubrizol stock. Buffett expresses “skepticism” about a deal. Inexplicably, he says nothing about Sokol’s stock holdings.

Does Sokol let the matter die there? No. For some reason — what could that be? — he’s got a bee in his bonnet about this deal. On January 25, he has dinner with Hambrick; when he reports back to Buffett about the conversation, Buffett becomes interested in making a deal. By early February, Buffett himself is wooing Hambrick. He tells the Lubrizol chief executive that he would like to buy all the company’s outstanding shares for $135 a share.

Sokol, of course, owns a nice little chunk of those outstanding shares. When the deal is announced in mid-March, Buffett’s trusted deputy walks away with a nifty little profit of $3 million or so. Not bad for a few weeks’ work.

How is this not, on its face, evidence of insider trading? A guy buys stock in a company and then talks his boss into buying the company. The fact that his boss is Warren Buffett makes it even more “material,” to use the word the S.E.C. favors when it investigates insider trading. If a company executive trades on material information, knowing that he is privy to stock-moving news that hasn’t yet been divulged to other shareholders, he is likely to be committing a crime. When Warren Buffett buys a company, the stock price goes up. Everybody knows that — including, presumably, Dave Sokol.

What is galling about Buffett’s stance is not the recitation of facts, but the way they were spun to make Sokol’s actions look benign. “Dave’s purchases were made before he had discussed Lubrizol with me and with no knowledge of how I might react to his idea,” he writes. “In addition, of course, he did not know what Lubrizol’s reaction would be if I developed an interest.”

I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Since when do companies turn their backs on Buffett? Besides, Sokol knew that his idea would get a serious hearing; he was so esteemed by Buffett that he was rumored to be the Great Man’s successor. When you strip away the Buffett gloss, the facts are harsh. Sokol (a) brought the deal to Buffett, (b) brokered between Buffett and Hambrick, and (c) persuaded Buffett to pull the trigger. All while owning 96,000 shares he’d bought a few weeks earlier.

No one is suggesting that Buffett himself did anything wrong. But these flimsy excuses are embarrassing. They damage Buffett’s own reputation, which he cares deeply about. If he keeps it up, he’s going to have to turn in his angel wings.