Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who is Cyrus Mistry?

Cyrus Mistry, 43, is the son of construction tycoon Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry. Valued at $8.8 billion, Pallonji holds an 18.5 per cent stake in Tata Sons, making him the single largest shareholder.

Mr Mistry is the younger son of Pallonji and is married to Rohika Chagla, the daughter of lawyer Iqbal Chagla. He has an elder brother - Shapoor Mistry and one of his sisters is married to Noel Tata, Ratan Tata's half-brother.

He has been a director of Tata Sons since September 1, 2006. He served as a Director of Tata Elxsi Limited, from September 24, 1990 to October 26, 2009 and was a Director of Tata Power Co. Ltd until September 18, 2006.

Mr Mistry serves as Chairman of the Board of Shapoorji Pallonji Group and Afcons Infrastructure Limited.

Mr Mistry also serves as Director of various companies including - Forvol International Services Ltd, Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. Ltd, Cyrus Investments Ltd, Shapoorji Pallonji Power Co. Ltd, Buildbazaar Technologies (India) Pvt Ltd, Sterling Investment Corporation Pvt. Ltd, Samalpatti Power Co. Pvt. Ltd, Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. (Rajkot) Pvt. Ltd, Shapoorji Pallonji Finance Ltd, Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure Capital Co. Ltd, Oman Shapoorji Construction Co. Ltd and Muscat Pallonji Shapoorji & Co. Pvt. Ltd.

Mr Mistry has been a Non-executive Director of Forbes Gokak Limited since June 23, 2003.

Mr Mistry is Fellow of the Institute of Civil Engineers. He holds BE (Civil Engineering) from Imperial College, London and Master of Science in Management from London Business School. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Mumbai University.

An avid golfer, Mr Mistry is also a founder member of the Construction Federation of India. He is a trustee of the Breach Candy Hospital Trust, Mumbai. He is also on the board of Imperial College India Foundation.

Europe's debt crisis: All you want to know

Here are answers to questions about the debt crisis that began in Greece and is now threatening to overwhelm much bigger economies in Spain, Italy and even France
European finance officials, who met Tuesday in Brussels, were trying to save their common currency and prevent a meltdown that could tip the global economy into recession. The debt crisis that began in Greece is threatening to overwhelm much bigger economies in Spain, Italy and even France.

The finance ministers made little progress. Major disputes will now have to be addressed by European leaders, who will hold their own meeting in Brussels next week.

Markets had rallied this week on hopes that the 17 countries that use the euro would reach a deal and defuse the panic. But on Wednesday, world stocks fell after the finance officials' meeting failed to stem fears that the eurozone might be nearing a breakup.

Here are some questions and answers about the crisis:

Why the urgency now?
Earlier efforts, like bailouts of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, haven't convinced investors that European policymakers can or will resolve the crisis. Jittery investors are demanding that European governments pay ever-higher interest rates on their bonds. Yields on Italian bonds, for instance, top 7 percent. That's considered unsustainable. Even Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse, struggled to sell bonds last week.

Why are higher interest rates such a problem?
They make it harder for governments to pay debts. And they slow growth. Tax revenue then falls. The cost of unemployment benefits and other social programs rise. Some countries might abandon the euro, plunging the continent and perhaps the world's economy into recession.

Why would countries want to jettison the euro and go back to their own currencies?
To become more economically nimble. When they joined together 12 years ago, the 17 eurozone countries surrendered control of their interest-rate policies to a new European Central Bank. That meant they couldn't cut rates to boost their economies. Nor could they reduce the value of their currencies, to give their exporters an edge. (A lower currency makes exports cheaper for foreigners to buy.) Abandoning the euro would let them escape an economic trap.

How did Europe get into this mess?
The euro made it easier to do business across Europe and made the continent a potent economic bloc. Yet the experiment was flawed. Countries were harnessed to one another despite different economies and cultures but still managed their own finances. As long as prosperity reigned, banks were happy to lend at low rates even to weaker countries like Greece. The euro meant lenders didn't have to worry about inflation in individual countries. Greece and others exploited the opening by borrowing heavily to finance their swelling budgets. But once the Great Recession hit hard, their debt proved crushing.

Why is a solution so hard?
The ECB and Germany have resisted aggressive action. Many economists want the central bank to buy the debt of Italy and other struggling countries. That would push down interest rates and ease those countries' borrowing costs. The ECB has bought Italian and Spanish bonds. But it's loath to do so in a big way. The ECB says it must control inflation, not be a lender of last resort to governments. Germany opposes one idea — creating joint bonds backed by the whole eurozone — because it fears its own borrowing costs would surge if it had to borrow jointly with weaker countries.

What options have European officials considered?
Things that would have been unthinkable just weeks ago. One option would be to have countries cede control of their budgets to a central authority. That authority would stop countries from spending beyond their means. There has also been talk of forming an elite group of euro nations to guarantee each other's loans. It would require fiscal discipline from any country that wants to join.

What would happen if some countries left the eurozone?
It could be catastrophic. Depositors would pull money from banks in weak countries that dropped the euro. Savers wouldn't want their euros replaced with feeble national currencies. If countries tried to repay their euro debts with their own currencies, they'd be considered in default. They'd struggle to borrow. So would corporations. Economists at UBS estimate that a weak economy that left the eurozone would shrink 50 per cent.

Could a strong country like Germany leave the eurozone to avoid the damage?
Not necessarily. Germany's currency would likely shoot up if it did. Its exports would then become costlier for foreigners. UBS says that if Germany left the eurozone, its economy would decline 20 to 25 percent. And the pain would spread. The United States, Asia and others would suffer if worldwide credit froze and European economies sank into recession. U.S. companies have poured $2.2 trillion into long-term investments in Europe like factories and acquisitions. Companies from Whirlpool to Abercrombie & Fitch to General Motors have reported sagging sales in Europe.

Can Europe's leaders solve this mess?
Their performance so far doesn't inspire confidence. Some investors are bracing for a crackup of the eurozone, which a few analysts say could happen within days, possibly by the time European leaders end their meeting next week.

Resolving the crisis involves getting up to 17 countries and the ECB to agree on a solution. "This is not just a crisis of Greece or this or that country," says Nicolas Veron, senior fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel. "It's a crisis of European institutions."

Zuckerberg blogs: 'We've made a bunch of mistakes'

Government regulators are sharing some alarming information about Facebook: They believe the online social network has often misled its more than 800 million users about the sanctity of their personal information.

The unflattering portrait of Facebook's privacy practices emerged Tuesday in a Federal Trade Commission complaint alleging that Facebook exposed details about users' lives without getting legally required consent. In some cases, the FTC charged, Facebook allowed potentially sensitive details to be passed along to advertisers and software developers prowling for customers.

To avoid further legal wrangling, Facebook agreed to submit to government audits of its privacy practices every other year for the next two decades. The company committed to getting explicit approval from its users - a process known as "opting in" - before changing their privacy controls.

The FTC's truce with Facebook, along with previous settlements with Google and Twitter, is helping to establish more ground rules for online privacy expectations even as Internet companies regularly vacuum up insights about their audiences in an effort to sell more advertising.

Although Facebook didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing in the legal papers it signed with the FTC, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was more contrite in a blog post Tuesday.

"I'm the first to admit that we've made a bunch of mistakes," Zuckerberg wrote. "In particular, I think that a small number of high-profile mistakes ... have often overshadowed much of the good work we've done."

Facebook has overcome its missteps in the past to emerge as the world's largest social network and one of the Internet's most influential companies since Zuckerberg created the website in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004.

No website has been as successful as Facebook at getting people to voluntarily share intimate details about themselves. Zuckerberg has emerged as the Internet's chief evangelist for sharing, partly because he believes it can help make the world a better place by making it easier for people to stay connected with the things and people that they care about.

Facebook also is trying to make money by mining the personal information that it collects to help customize ads and aim the messages at people most likely to buy the products and services being promoted.

That strategy has been working well as Facebook prepares to sell its stock in an initial public offering that's expected next year.

The company's revenue this year is expected to approach $4.3 billion, according to research firm eMarketer, up from $777 million in 2009. The rapid growth is expected to make Facebook the biggest Internet IPO in history, topping Google's stock market debut in 2004.

The FTC's 19-page complaint casts a glaring spotlight on how Facebook has approached its users' rights to privacy at a time that it is facing tougher competition from Internet search leader Google Inc., which has attracted more than 40 million users to a social service called Plus just five months after its debut.

Google tried to lure people away from Facebook with a system that made it easier to guard their personal information. Facebook has responded by introducing more granular privacy settings.

The FTC cracked down on Google eight months ago for alleged privacy abuses that occurred last year when the company attempted to plant a social network called Buzz within its widely used Gmail service. Like Facebook, Google agreed to improve its privacy practices and submit to external audits for the next 20 years.

Twitter, the online short-messaging service, also struck a settlement with the FTC in June 2010 to resolve charges that it didn't do enough to protect users' accounts from computer hackers.

Much of the FTC's complaint against Facebook centers on a series of changes that the company made to its privacy controls in late 2009. The revisions automatically shared information and pictures about Facebook users, even if they previously programmed their privacy settings to shield the content. Among other things, people's profile pictures, lists of online friends and political views were suddenly available for the world to see, the FTC alleged.

The complaint also charges that Facebook shared its users' personal information with third-party advertisers from September 2008 through May 2010 despite several public assurances from company officials that it wasn't passing the data along for marketing purposes.

Facebook believes that happened only in limited instances, generally when users clicked on ads that appeared on their personal profile pages. Most of Facebook's users click on ads when they are on their "Wall" - a section that highlights their friends' posts - or while visiting someone else's profile page.

The FTC also alleged that Facebook displayed personal photos even after users deleted them from their accounts.

Facebook's agreement with the FTC requires the company to obey privacy laws or face fines of $16,000 per day for each violation.

"Facebook's innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "The FTC action will ensure it will not."

The FTC's commissioners unanimously approved the agreement with Facebook. The FTC is accepting public comments through Dec. 30 before deciding whether to finalize the settlement.

Facebook's stepped-up commitment to privacy wasn't enough to satisfy Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, one of the privacy watchdog groups that prodded the FTC investigation. In a statement, Chester called on Zuckerberg and Facebook's board of directors to resign so that the company could hire more trustworthy replacements.

"They misled consumers and should pay a price beyond a 20-year agreement to conduct their business practices in a more above-board fashion," Chester said.

Facebook sought to downplay the gravity of the FTC's allegations, maintaining that it had already addressed most of the privacy complaints. Zuckerberg said the website has added more than 20 new privacy features in the past 18 months.

To underscore its commitment, Facebook has created two new executive positions - Michael Richter as chief privacy officer of products and Erin Egan as chief privacy officer of policy.

"This means we're making a clear and formal long-term commitment to do the things we've always tried to do and planned to keep doing - giving you tools to control who can see your information and then making sure only those people you intend can see it," Zuckerberg wrote in his blog post.

Long wait for green cards could soon be over

In a rare show of bipartisan comity on the angrily contested issue of immigration, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that tweaks the visa system to allow more highly skilled immigrants from India and China to become legal permanent residents.

The bill, originally offered by Representatives Jason Chaffetz, a conservative freshman Republican from Utah, and Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sailed through by a vote of 389 to 15. Joining as sponsors were several Democrats who are outspoken liberals on immigration, including Representatives Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois and Zoe Lofgren of California.

Mr. Chaffetz said he had tried to find a sweet spot, even if small, where lawmakers from both parties could come together to fix the legal immigration system, which is widely acknowledged to be broken. The bill does not address illegal immigration, nor does it add any new visas to the system, which many Republicans, including Mr. Smith, are reluctant to do.

"I campaigned in Utah on the idea that we can never solve our illegal immigration woes without fixing legal immigration," Mr. Chaffetz said Tuesday.

The bill seemed likely to pass easily in the Senate, said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a leading Democrat on immigration.

Its main impact will be to reduce visa backlogs that meant, for example, that some Indians with science or technology skills who were approved recently for permanent resident visas, known as green cards, would face waits of 70 years before they would actually receive the documents.

The bill eliminates limits on the number of green cards based on employment that is available annually to each country. Currently, 140,000 green cards are available each year for immigrants based on their job skills, with each country limited to 7 percent of those visas. Under the bill, after a three-year transition, all employment-based green cards will be issued on a first-come-first-served basis, with no country limits.

The legislation also includes a measure that will more than double the green cards based on family ties available for Mexicans and Filipinos, the two national groups facing the longest backlogs on the family side of the system. It raises the country limit for 226,000 family green cards each year to 15 percent from the current 7 percent.

The fix in the family visas helped to persuade Democrats like Mr. Gutierrez to sign on to the bill.

By far, the main beneficiaries will be highly skilled immigrants from India and China, including many with master's degrees and doctorates in science and engineering. Because they come from populous countries that send many people to work here who have advanced science and technology skills, immigrants from those two nations had been forced by the country limits into lines that were many years long and growing much longer.

In most cases, Indians and Chinese who will now receive their permanent green cards more quickly have been working in the United States for years on temporary visas. The immigrants and their employers have passed labor market tests showing that qualified Americans were not available for jobs they hold.

"This legislation makes sense," Mr. Smith said before the vote. "Why should American employers who seek green cards for skilled foreign workers have to wait longer just because the workers are from India or China?"

American technology companies have been clamoring for Congress to offer more green cards for their foreign employees, arguing that the United States was losing out in global competition by forcing those immigrants to leave.

Some countries will lose under the legislation. During the next three years, many more employment green cards will be set aside for Indians and Chinese than for others languishing in backlogs, particularly Filipinos and South Koreans.

And because the law would add no new visas, backlogs would be redistributed but not eliminated. The wait in the most severely clogged employment visa categories will even out over time to 12 years for all countries, said Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, which conducts research on immigration.

Mr. Gutierrez said: "We need bigger fixes to our legal immigration system so that employers and families use official channels, not black-market ones. We want people to go through the system, not around it."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

China should now take 'pushy' India seriously: Official daily

China must start taking an of late "pushy" India seriously as it has strategically placed itself in the US-China face-off to gain maximum benefits, a leading Chinese official newspaper said today.

Days after the postponement of the 15th round of Sino-India border talks, Global Times, an influential tabloid of ruling Communist Party of China, said the talks need to be kept alive to avert a breakdown in ties.

In the first such comment from the Chinese media on the postponement of the border talks, the paper said that of late India appears to be interested in having a face-off with China and Beijing should start taking it seriously.

"The scheduled talks between China and India over border issues at the end of November were temporarily postponed," the Times said referring to deferment of talks over Beijing's objections to the Dalai Lama addressing a Buddhist conference in New Delhi.

The Chinese media has so far avoided publishing any report on the postponement of the talks that were supposed to be held in New Delhi this week between National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and top Chinese diplomat Dai Bingguo. In a surprisingly guarded editorial tiled 'China and India mustn't go for the throat', The Times, which in the recent past has carried write ups asserting that China should resolutely stop India-Vietnam cooperation in the South China Sea using "every possible means", struck a more conciliatory note today, saying both countries should stop "over reacting to their disputes" to aggravate the crisis.

"While speculations about this decision (for postponement of talks) are varied, one thing is certain: India, whose GDP is a third of China's, has been maintaining a bold stance when dealing with China. Indian public opinion will not permit concessions to China, but China will not yield to India's demand on border issues either," it said.

"This is where the dilemma is. Both sides must keep the border issue from worsening by focusing on keeping goodwill talks alive and being mindful of the consequences of a sudden breakdown".

"Currently, India is a bit pushy in its relations with China. The country appears to be highly interested in facing off with China. But that contest is not the primary focus of the Chinese society," it said.

It said if India can maintain its current economic growth rate, it will only become increasingly important to China, and that India's placing itself strategically in the US-China conflict will make it difficult for Beijing to "buy it over".

Bangalore best Indian city to live in: Global Survey

Pipping past the four metro cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, southern technology hub Bangalore has emerged as the best city to live in India, a global survey said on Tuesday.

Despite its top Indian ranking, Bangalore's worldwide rank is very low at 141st position in a list of 221 cities globally in terms of standard of living, compiled by the 'Quality of Living Survey - Worldwide Rankings, 2011' by the global HR (human resources) consultancy major Mercer.

Vienna has been ranked as the world's best city to live in on the global list, which has five Indian cities - Bangalore (141st), New Delhi (143rd), Mumbai (144th), Chennai (150th) and Kolkata (151st).

Globally, Vienna is followed by Zurich, Auckland, Munich, Dusseldorf, Vancouver, Frankfurt, Geneva, Copenhagen and Bern among the top-ranked cities in terms of quality of living, Mercer said.

In another list of the world's best cities in terms of personal safety standards, Luxembourg has been placed on the top, followed by Bern, Helsinki, Zurich, Vienna, Geneva and Stockholm.

On this list, Indian cities have been ranked a little better, as Bangalore has got 117th place, New Delhi and Kolkata shared the 127th position, Mumbai is at 142 and Chennai is placed at 108th.

The personal safety ranking has been on measures of internal stability, crime levels, law enforcement effectiveness and host-country's international relations.

A host of Indian and foreign IT companies, as also many multinational companies from other sectors, have set up shop in Bangalore for their outsourcing and R&D (research and development units).

On the other hand, Mumbai plays host to the companies mostly from the financial services sector, being the financial capital of the country, while New Delhi's attraction has been its status as the national capital. Chennai and Kolkata are have also been catching up fast in the recent past as major industrial hubs within the country.

About the survey, Mercer said that many cities in Asia have fared badly due to issues like political turmoil and lack of suitable infrastructure.

"Many Asian cities rank at the bottom, due to social instability, political turmoil, pollution, disease and sanitation issues, natural disasters such as typhoons and tsunamis, and lack of suitable infrastructure," Mercer's Asia Pacific leader for Global Mobility Phil Stanley said.

Globally, Baghdad (Iraq) has been ranked as lowest in terms of quality of living at 221st position. Other cities with the lowest quality of living are Khartoum, Sudan (217), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (218), N'Djamena, Chad (219), and Bangui, Central African Republic (220).

In terms of safety standards also, Baghdad is ranked the worst as the worst's least safe city at 221st position, preceded by N'Djamena, Chad (220), Abidjan, Cte d'Ivoire (219), Bangui, Central African Republic (218), and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (217).

Within Asia-Pacific region, Auckland (3) is the highest-ranking city for quality of living, followed by Sydney (11), Wellington (13), Melbourne (18) and Perth (21).

The highest-ranking Asian cities are Singapore (25) and Tokyo (46), Hong Kong (70), Kuala Lumpur (76), Seoul (80) and Taipei (85).

At the same time, Phnom Penh, Cambodia (186), Yangon, Myanmar (196) and Dhaka, Bangladesh (204), have been ranked lowest in the region.

Mercer said that the rankings would help the companies in assigning their employees on assignments across the world.

Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented: "Companies need to keep on top of current developments to ensure that their compensation packages remain competitive and continue to motivate expatriate employees."

Why ratan tata is not on the billionares list?

TATA Group is running 96 businesses and out of which 28 Companies are publically listed on the various stock exchanges.
Tata Group is world's top 50 Group according to Market capitalization and Reputation.

TATA Group's 96 companies are held by its main Company "TATA Sons" and the main owner of this TATA Sons is not Ratan Tata but various charitable organizations developed and run by TATA Group.

Out of which JRD TATA Trust & Sir Ratan Tata Trust are the main. 65% ownership of TATA Sons which is the key holding company of the other 96 TATA Group Company is held by various charitable organizations.

So this 65% ownership ownership of Tatasons Limited is not reflected on Ratan Tata's personal Financial Statement but on the various charitable organizations. and this is the reason why Ratan Tata is not in the list of Billionaire club.

if we put this 65% ownership of Tata Sons in Ratan TATA's own personal financial statement then Ratan Tata's Net worth can become more than $ 70 billion. and that's much more than the Warren Buffet's Current Net Worth of $ 62 billion, the world's richest person according to Forbes magazine 2008.

However, it doesn't mean that Ratan Tata is poor. In one interviews he had told the reporter that, "I have my own Capital". He is the chairman of Tata Group so obviously he earns lots of money every year as a bonus, remuneration and salary. However, Ratan Tata's Net worth is not $ 1 Billion.

He is not a billionaire on paper. but in reality he is the richest
person of the world. His net worth in reality is more than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

SO the good thing about Tata Group is that, They do Charity out of their Money.

And that is the reason TATA Group has generated so much of Goodwill over last 5 generations.

Monday, November 28, 2011

India invite to foreign retailers stirs backlash

A broad and fiery backlash against India's new open-door policy for foreign retailers sparked fresh investor fears Monday about political risk and the stability of the Congress Party's coalition government.

A broad and fiery backlash against India's new open-door policy for foreign retailers sparked fresh investor fears Monday about political risk and the stability of the Congress Party's coalition government.

The new regulations don't require Parliamentary approval, but to set up shop, foreign retailers such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour must be approved by the government of the state where stores will be located.

Five state leaders made clear over the weekend their unwillingness to let in foreign companies. Leaders from two of Congress' main coalition allies oppose the policy. Parliament adjourned Monday in an uproar over the issue and Communist Party-controlled trade unions have pledged to strike Thursday. Some politicians even threatened to burn down foreign stores that open under the new rules.

The fury of opposition is adding to foreign investor fears about the political risks of doing business in India. Some analysts say the Cabinet may have to backtrack on its bold new rules, which would be a political embarrassment for a government straining to reassert its leadership in the face of corruption scandals, high inflation and flagging growth.

"We are waiting for clarification of the rules related to FDI," Jean-Noel Bironneau, the managing director of Carrefour India, said Monday. "We prefer to assess the situation."

The new rules would allow big retailers such as Wal-Mart to set up supermarkets in India's major cities and will likely herald the entrance of companies like Swedish retailer Ikea, which has been keen to come for years, but only if it can maintain control of its operations.

In a letter to political leaders, Minister of Commerce Anand Sharma cast the change as a boon for consumers and farmers — who constitute large sections of the voting public — rather than a threat to small traders.

"A complex chain of middlemen have a cascading impact on supply inefficiencies and prices," he wrote. "(F)armers are unable to secure remunerative price for their produce, while consumer ends up paying more than 5 times the price secured by the farmers."

He said that in other emerging economies where foreign direct investment is permitted in retail, like China, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, local retailers have not been put out of business.

He has said that states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra — home to India's financial capital, Mumbai — support the policy.

The changes could also help domestic players who have struggled to succeed on their own.

Future Group Chief Executive Kishore Biyani, who has been likened in India to Wal-Mart and Sam's Club founder Sam Walton, welcomed the entry of foreign chains. "This policy is a win-win-win," he told The Associated Press. "It's a win for consumers, a win for retailers, a win for suppliers and a win for farm producers. Ninety percent of India should benefit."

Biyani would not discuss details of his negotiations with foreign partners, but said he's open to forging joint ventures, particularly in consumer electronics, where he'd like to become the market leader.

The debt-laden Future Group has 16 million square feet of retail space and is growing by 2 to 2.5 million square feet a year, he said. "We can now grow faster," he said.

The central government has taken out advertisements to quell critics, championing the new rules as a way to make food cheaper for everyone, eliminate waste that claims up to 40 percent of all fresh produce, and create millions of jobs.

The leaders of the states of Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa and West Bengal have all publicly opposed the ruling Congress Party's move to let foreign retailers own up to 51 percent of supermarkets and 100 percent of single-brand stores, according to the Press Trust of India.

India's main opposition BJP party as well as the Congress Party's coalition ally, the Trinamool Congress, have also voiced opposition. India's Hindustan Times newspaper calculated that 28 of the 53 cities where retailers could set up under the new rules are in states controlled by political parties opposed to the regulations.

Some say the wave of opposition won't scuttle the changes, which foreign retailers have been pushing for a decade.

"There are enough states which would be positively inclined," said Saloni Nangia, head of retail and consumer products at Technopak Advisors, a New Delhi based consulting company. "Retailers will take some time before they start implementing. By then things would settle down."

Other analysts say global economic uncertainty may prove a stronger immediate disincentive.

Tamil Nadu's chief minister J. Jayalalithaa in a letter Sunday to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said she wouldn't let retailers into her state, describing the central government's move as a "wrong decision, taken under pressure from a few retail giants starved for capital infusion for their future survival," according to the Press Trust of India.

Mayawati, the fiery leader of Uttar Pradesh, said foreign investment in retail would make her state "bankrupt." She is locked in a battle with the Congress Party over upcoming state elections.

The chief minister of Kerala, which is controlled by the Congress Party, also came out against the changes.

Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, has been silent on the issue. Though he is renowned for being business friendly and actively seeking foreign investment, a major constituency of his BJP party are the small traders and mom and pop shops that many fear will be put out of business if companies such as are allowed greater access.

The government tried to design the new retail policy so that the price of entry into India's 1.2 billion-strong consumer market would be improving the nation's food distribution and bolstering local businesses.

Under the new regulations, retailers must put at least half their investment into back-end infrastructure such as refrigerated storage, with 30 percent of procurement from small companies, and they can only open outlets in cities with a population of more than 1 million.

Technopak says the new rules could attract $5 billion in investment over the next five years.

The work facing new arrivals is formidable. Besides navigating political uncertainty, they must develop supply chains from scratch, improve supplier efficiency, set up logistics in a nation which needs better roads, train an uncomprehending work force and find appropriate, affordable retail locations in urban centers.

Wal-Mart, Tesco, Carrefour and Germany's Metro may have an advantage over other foreign retailers if they decide to expand their India operations as they already have wholesale businesses in the country.

Steel Authority of India bags mining rights for 3 Afghan mines

In a strategically significant development, Afghanistan today awarded mining rights for three Hajigak blocks located at the central Bamyan province to an Indian consortium led by state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL).

"The Afghan Iron and Steel Consortium (AFISCO) which comprises SAIL, NMDC, Monnet Ispat & Energy, RINL, JSW Steel, Jindal Steel & Power, JSW Ispat has been awarded three blocks...," the Afgan Ministry of Mines announced.

The Hajigak resources contain an estimated 1.8 billion tonnes of iron ore.

"This is a historical moment in our economy, not just bringing huge investment, but also an important step in developing our vast mineral resources which is the key to the sustainability of economic growth in the country," Afgan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said in a statement.

The Afghan government had invited bids to award development rights for four mines in Hajigak earlier this year and the last date for submission of bids was September 4.

The fourth block has been given to a Canadian firm, Kilo Gold Company.

The Indian consortium had proposed setting up mines and a steel plant in the war-torn country.

"AIFSCO brings a tremendous array of expertise, technical, financial and physical resources; mining and steel production experience developed over more than 100 years in India and internationally," the statement said.

SAIL Chairman C S Verma said he is yet to receive an official intimation from the Afghan government. "The Hajigak Iron Ore deposits consist of four blocks - A, B, C and D. The estimated iron ore reserves is approximately 484, 930 and 357 million tonnes in A, B and C blocks respectively while D block has small reserves," he said.

Toyota's new car looks like a giant smartphone

Toyota's president unveiled a futuristic concept car resembling a giant smartphone to demonstrate how Japan's top automaker is trying to take the lead in technology at the upcoming Tokyo auto show.

Toyota Motor Corp. will also be showing an electric vehicle, set for launch next year, and a tiny version of the hit Prius gas-electric hybrid at the Tokyo Motor Show, which opens to the public this weekend.

But the automaker's president, Akio Toyoda, chose to focus on the experimental Fun-Vii, which he called "a smartphone on four wheels" at Monday's preview of what Toyota is displaying at the show.

The car works like a personal computer and allows drivers to connect with dealers and others with a tap of a touch-panel door.

"A car must appeal to our emotions," Toyoda said, using the Japanese term "waku waku doki doki," referring to a heart aflutter with anticipation.

Toyota's booth will be a major attraction at the biannual Tokyo exhibition for the auto industry. Toyota said the Fun Vii was an example of what might be in the works in "20XX," giving no dates.

The Tokyo show has been scaled back in recent years as U.S. and European automakers increasingly look to China and other places where growth potential is greater. U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. isn't even taking part in the show.

Toyota's electric vehicle FT-EV III, still a concept or test model, doesn't have a price yet, but is designed for short trips such as grocery shopping and work commutes, running 105 kilometers (65 miles) on one full charge.

The new small hybrid will be named Aqua in Japan, where it goes on sale next month. Overseas dates are undecided. Outside Japan it will be sold as a Prius.

Japan's automakers, already battered by years of sales stagnation at home, took another hit from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which damaged part suppliers in northeastern Japan, and forced the car makers to cut back production.

The forecast of demand for new passenger cars in Japan this year has been cut to 3.58 million vehicles from an earlier 3.78 million by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Toru Hatano, auto analyst for IHS Automotive in Tokyo, believes fuel efficient hybrid models will be popular with Japanese consumers, and Toyota has an edge.

"The biggest obstacle has to do with costs, and you need to boost vehicle numbers if you hope to bring down costs" he said. "Toyota has more hybrids on the market than do rivals, and that gives Toyota an advantage."

Toyota has sold more than 3.4 million hybrids worldwide so far. Honda Motor Co., which has also been aggressive with hybrid technology, has sold 770,000 hybrids worldwide.

Toyota is also premiering a fuel-cell concept vehicle, FCV-R, at the show.

Zero-emission fuel cell vehicles, which run on hydrogen, have been viewed as impractical because of costs. Toyota said the FCV-R is a "practical" fuel-cell, planned for 2015, but didn't give its price.

"I felt as though my heart was going to break," Toyoda said of the turmoil after the March disaster. "It is precisely because we are in such times we must move forward with our dreams."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NASA launches super-size rover to Mars

The world's biggest extra-terrestrial explorer, NASA's Curiosity rover, rocketed toward Mars on Saturday on a search for evidence that the red planet might once have been home to itsy-bitsy life.

It will take eight-and-a-half months for Curiosity to reach Mars following a journey of 354 million miles.

An unmanned Atlas V rocket hoisted the rover, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, into a cloudy late morning sky. A Mars frenzy gripped the launch site, with more than 13,000 guests jamming the space centre for NASA's first launch to Earth's next-door neighbor in four years, and the first send-off of a Martian rover in eight years.

NASA astrobiologist Pan Conrad, whose carbon compound-seeking instrument is on the rover, had a shirt custom made for the occasion. Her bright blue, short-sleeve blouse was emblazoned with rockets, planets and the words, "Next stop Mars!"

Conrad jumped, cheered and snapped pictures as the rocket blasted off a few miles away. So did Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roger Wiens, a planetary scientist in charge of Curiosity's rock-zapping laser machine, called ChemCam.

Wiens shouted "Go, Go, Go!" as the rocket soared. "It was beautiful," he later observed, just as NASA declared the launch a full success.

The 1-ton Curiosity - as large as a car - is a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 science instruments that will sample Martian soil and rocks, and analyze them right on the spot. There's a drill as well as the laser-zapping device.

It's "really a rover on steroids," said NASA's Colleen Hartman, assistant associate administrator for science. "It's an order of magnitude more capable than anything we have ever launched to any planet in the solar system."

The primary goal of the $2.5 billion mission is to see whether cold, dry, barren Mars might have been hospitable for microbial life once upon a time - or might even still be conducive to life now. No actual life detectors are on board; rather, the instruments will hunt for organic compounds.
Curiosity's 7-foot arm has a jackhammer on the end to drill into the Martian red rock, and the 7-foot mast on the rover is topped with high-definition and laser cameras. No previous Martian rover has been so sophisticated or capable.

With Mars the ultimate goal for astronauts, NASA also will use Curiosity to measure radiation at the red planet. The rover also has a weather station on board that will provide temperature, wind and humidity readings; a computer software app with daily weather updates is planned.

The world has launched more than three dozen missions to the ever-alluring Mars, which is more like Earth than the other solar-system planets. Yet fewer than half those quests have succeeded.
Just two weeks ago, a Russian spacecraft ended up stuck in orbit around Earth, rather than en route to the Martian moon Phobos.

"Mars really is the Bermuda Triangle of the solar system," Hartman said. "It's the death planet, and the United States of America is the only nation in the world that has ever landed and driven robotic explorers on the surface of Mars, and now we're set to do it again."

Curiosity's arrival next August will be particularly hair-raising.

In a spacecraft first, the rover will be lowered onto the Martian surface via a jet pack and tether system similar to the sky cranes used to lower heavy equipment into remote areas on Earth.

Curiosity is too heavy to use air bags like its much smaller predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, did in 2004. Besides, this new way should provide for a more accurate landing.

Astronauts will need to make similarly precise landings on Mars one day.

Curiosity will spend a minimum of two years roaming around Gale Crater, chosen as the landing site because it's rich in minerals. Scientists said if there is any place on Mars that might have been ripe for life, it would be there.

"I like to say it's extra-terrestrial real estate appraisal," Conrad said with a chuckle earlier in the week.

The rover - 10 feet long and 9 feet wide - should be able to go farther and work harder than any previous Mars explorer because of its power source: 10.6 pounds of radioactive plutonium. The nuclear generator was encased in several protective layers in case of a launch accident.

NASA expects to put at least 12 miles on the odometer, once the rover sets down on the Martian surface.

This is the third astronomical mission to be launched from Cape Canaveral by NASA since the retirement of the venerable space shuttle fleet this summer. The Juno probe is en route to Jupiter, and twin spacecraft named Grail will arrive at Earth's moon on New Year's Eve and Day.

NASA hails this as the year of the solar system.

4000-year-old Aryan city discovered in Russia

Russian archaeologists have unearthed some ancient and virtually unknown settlements which they believe were built by the original Aryan race about 4000 years ago.According to the team which has discovered 20 of the spiral-shaped settlements in remote part of Russia steppe in southern Siberia bordering Kazakhstan, the buildings date back to the beginning of Western civilisation in Europe.The Bronze-age settlements, the experts said, could have been built shortly after the Great Pyramid some 4000 years ago by the original Aryan race whose swastika symbol was later adopted by the Nazis in the 1930s.TV historian Bettany Hughes, who explored the desolate part of the Russian steppe for BBC programme 'Tracking The Aryans', said: "Potentially, this could rival ancient Greece in the age of the heroes.
"Because I have written a lot about the Bronze Age world, there always seemed to be this huge missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle," Hughes was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.She said: "We are all told that there is this kind of mother tongue, proto-Indo-European, from which all thelanguages we know emerge. "I was very excited to hear on the archaeological grapevine that in exactly the period I am an expert in, this whole new Bronze Age civilisation had been discovered on the steppe of southern Siberia."The remains of the ancient city were explored for the first time around 20 years ago shortly after then Soviet officials relaxed strict laws banning non-military aerial photography.But because of the region is so remote the incredible cities have remained virtually unknown to the rest of Europe until now, according to the archaeologists.They are about the same size as several of the city states of ancient Greece and would have housed between 1,000 and 2,000 people, they said.Hughes was driven to the vast region by the expedition's chief archaeologist Professor Gennady Zdanovich who pointed to the cities that were buried in the ground beneath them.The Aryan's language has been identified as the precursor to a number of modern European tongues. English uses many similar words such as brother, oxen and guest which have all been tracked to the Aryans. Items that have so far been dug up at the sites include make-up equipment, a chariot and numerous pieces of pottery.The artifacts were daubed in swastikas which were used in ancient times as symbols of the sun and eternal life.But the swastika and Aryan race were adopted by Hitler and the Nazis as symbols of their so-called master race. Evidence of ritual horse burials were found at the site which ties in with ancient Aryan texts that describe the animals being sliced up and buried with their masters.Hughes, a visiting research fellow at King's College London, said that "ancient Indian texts and hymns describe sacrifices of horses and burials and the way the meat is cut off and the way the horse is buried with its master"."If you match this with the way the skeletons and graves are being dug up in Russia, they are a millimetre-perfect match.
Who Were the Aryans?The Aryans were semi-nomadic Nordic Whites, perhaps located originally on the steppes of southern Russia and Central Asia, who spoke the parent language of the various Indo-European languages.
Latin, Greek, Hittite, Sanskrit, French, German, Latvian, English, Spanish, Russian etc. are all Indo-European languages; Indo-European, or more properly Proto-Indo-European (PIE), is the lost ancestral language from which those languages ultimately derive. The "Proto" indicates that the grammar and vocabulary of this long extinct language, probably spoken up until 3000 BC, are a hypothetical reconstruction by modern philologists. Just as Romance languages like Italian and Spanish derive from Latin, so Latin derives from PIE.
Indo-European philology traditionally used "Aryan" both to denote a people, understood racially or ethnically, and the language group itself ("Aryan speech"), irrespective of the race or ethnicity of the people speaking its various branches. In the wake of National Socialist Germany's defeat, the term fell out of general scholarly use in both senses, and "Indo-European" (IE) became the preferred designation of the language group, "Indo-Europeans" of both the people who occupied the original Aryan homeland and their descendants, who gradually spread out across Europe, much of the Indian sub-continent, and parts of the Near East. Racial nationalists are not, of course, obliged to adopt the timid PC-lexicon of contemporary scholarship, but we should be aware of imprecision of "Aryan" as a racial or ethnic classification.
Arya, meaning "noble," appears in various Indo-European languages. Its plural form (Aryas="nobles") was probably the name the Aryans used to describe themselves prior to their dispersal, and it may survive in Eire (Ireland) and certainly survives in Iran (Airyanam vaejo="realm of the Aryans"). The discovery of thousands of such cognate words in widely separated languages, along with similar grammatical structures, led philologists to conclude, early in the nineteenth century, that most European languages had evolved from a common proto-language spoken millennia ago by a distinct people who gradually left their original homeland in a series of migrations, carrying their language with them.
Traditionally Greek, Latin and Sanskrit were considered the closest languages to PIE, and much of the reconstructed Aryan proto-language is based on them. Modern Lithuanian, however, is the most archaic living language, closer to the original Aryan speech than any other. There is even an IE language, Tocharian, attested in Chinese Turkestan, which indicates that Aryans must have made an appearance in the Far East, a long-standing piece of linguistic evidence which has been recently confirmed by the discovery of the physical remains of a blond-haired people in China.
Perhaps the most famous proof for the prehistoric existence of PIE is the word for king: rex in Latin, raja in Sanskrit, ri in Old Irish, along with a host of other cognates. All are obviously variants of a common word for king. Since none of the peoples speaking these various languages were in physical contact with one another during the historical period -- i.e. at a time for which written records exist -- comparative philologists inferred that their respective languages must have evolved from a single proto-language, which is the only way of explaining the presence of the same word for "king" among such widely dispersed peoples. The Romans clearly didn't borrow rex from the Irish or the Indo-Aryans; each had instead inherited their own word for "king" from a common ancestral language.
Philologists can also, moreover, safely conclude that the Aryans must have had kings prior to emigrating from their original homeland in southern Russia. In fact a fairly detailed body of evidence about prehistoric Aryan political organization, marriage practices, and religious beliefs can be reconstructed on the basis of the survival of common vocabulary in the various extant Indo-European languages: They worshiped a sky-god, they traced descent through the male line, they raised cattle, they drank meed, they used horse-drawn chariots (which they probably invented) as weapons of war, etc. Even the red, white and blue/green that appears in so many modern flags may have an Aryan pedigree. It is likely a survival from the Aryan tripartite social division of their communities into priests (white), warriors (red), and herders and cultivators (blue/green).
Aryans, or more specifically Indo-Aryans, make their first notable appearance in history around 2000-1500 BC as invaders of Northern India. The Sanskrit Rig Veda, a collection of religious texts still revered by modern Hindus, records (often enigmatically) their gradual subjugation of the dark-skinned inhabitants, the Dasyus: e.g. "Indra [=Norse Thor, Celtic Taranis] has torn open the fortresses of the Dasyus, which in their wombs hid the black people. He created land and water for Manu [=Aryan man]"; "lower than all besides, hast thou, O Indra, cast down the Dasyus, abject tribes of Dasas"; "after slaying the Dasyus, let Indra with his white friends win land, let him win the sun and water"; "Indra subdued the Dasyu color and drove it into hiding." With all-outstripping chariot-wheel, O Indra, Thou, far-famed, hast overthrown the twice ten kings ... Thou goest from fight to fight, intrepidly Destroying castle after castle here with strength. (RV 1.53)The Aryans were remarkably expansionist, and almost everywhere they went they conquered and subjugated the indigenous peoples, imposing their languages and (to varying degrees) their religious beliefs on the natives, and receiving in turn contributions from the peoples whom they conquered. Aryan invasions -- or more accurately, a long sequence of different invasions by speakers of Indo-European languages -- swept across Old Europe beginning as early as the fourth millennium BC, and over time the conquerors and the conquered melded into specific peoples with distinctive languages. Most of the contemporary inhabitants of Europe, along with their respective early national cultures, are the result of interaction between successive waves of Aryan invaders and culture of the particular White people that they conquered and with whom they later intermarried, and as a result almost all modern European languages are members of the Western branch of the IE family tree.
The birth of a European culture, however, predates the arrival of the Indo-Europeans: The cave art of Lascaux, which some have identified as the first flowering of Western man's creative genius, was the work of Old Europeans, as were Stonehenge in the North and the Minoan Palace culture of Crete in the South. A pan-European religious symbolism had already evolved, much of which was later incorporated into IE mythologies, including various regional adaptations of the ubiquitous Old European reverence for the Mother Goddess. Many of the principal figures in Greek mythology predate the arrival of Aryans, and during the course of ancient history Old European religious beliefs and practices continually reasserted themselves. [Image: Minoan snake goddess, from the Palace of Minos, circa 1600 BC]
Europe is European because the conquerors and the conquered were members the same White race, different branches on the same family tree; India is a morass of poverty because the bulk of the conquered, with whom the Indo-Aryans eventually intermarried, were non-White Veddoids. The lesson is obvious. Even today high-caste Hindus can still be identified by their Caucasian features and light skin, and the poorest and most backward parts of India are generally the darkest.
As an aside, recent genetic studies have indicated that the Basques of Aquitaine and the Pyrenees are probably the purest form of Old Europeans as they existed prior to the arrival of Indo-European invaders. They evidently emerged from the invasions of Europe unconquered, and they remained sufficiently isolated to retain their own unique, non-IE language.

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.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mistry effect: Tata Group market cap surges by $1 billion

A day after Cyrus Mistry was named Ratan Tata's successor, the market capitalisation of companies of the salt-to-software conglomerate surged by $ 1bn.

Blue-chips like TCS, Tata Motors, Tata Steel and Tata Power rallied in a strong market, helping the group attain a market capitalisation of close to Rs. 3,80,000 crore (about $73 billion).

This marked a gain of more than Rs. 7,200 crore (about $ 1.4 billion) in the group's market value from the yesterday's level.

The biggest contributor was the group's most valued firm TCS, also the country's biggest IT firm, while significant gains were also seen in the valuation of companies like Tata Motors, Tata Power, Tata Steel and Tata Global Beverages.

After the market closed yesterday, Tata group announced that Cyrus Mistry would become Chairman of the group's holding company Tata Sons in December 2012, after Ratan Tata retires from the position.

Mistry, Managing Director of the $2.5 billion Shapoorji Pallonji Group (SP Group) that holds an 18 per cent stake in Tata Sons as its single largest shareholder, has said he would disassociate himself from his family businesses.

Shares of two listed companies from the SP group, Forbes & Company and Gokak Textiles, also moved higher today. In the Tata group, the stocks that moved higher today also included Indian Hotels, Rallis, Tata Chemicals, Trent, Voltas, Tata Communications, TRF, Tata Investment Corp, Taj GVK, Benares Hotels and Oriental Hotels.

Lakshmi Mittal named most powerful Asian in UK

Lakshmi Mittal, the NRI steel tycoon with a fortune estimated at 15.5 billion pounds, is the most powerful Asian in Britain, according to a new list of eminent Asians in the country.

Mittal, 61, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world's leading integrated steel and mining company, heads the Power list of 101 in the category of Industry published by Eastern Eye, a weekly newspaper.

"Today, Mittal has all the trappings of wealth, power and influence - properties in Kensinghton Palace Gardens, a private jet, a 266 million pound yacht, and an eco-friendly house set on a 340-acre estate in Surrey," according to the GG2 (Garavi Gujarat) Power 101, Britain's Most Influential Asians 2011.

The list was released by Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the GG2 Leadership Awards here last night. Leading NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul ranked 17th in the list in the category of Industry.

According to the report, Lord Paul was influential enough to get the Lancaster House, which is generally reserved for government functions, as a venue for a wedding reception for his youngest son Angad in 2005.

"One of the painful things has been to reduce the guest list - in the end we could invite only 1,600 people," Lord Paul said at the time.

"There are people from the Lords, MPs, opposition, business, and there will be a substantial number from the government. I have not invited anybody on the basis of their profession. I have invited friends."

According to the report, Lord Paul does have many friends, among them Sarah and Gordon, a reference to Sarah and Gordon Brown, the then Prime Minister. A point in Lord Paul's favour is that he is not a fair-weather friend.

"He (Paul) does not drop his political allies when they fall from power. He always did have a special relationship with Mrs Indira Gandhi but Paul stuck by her when the Indian prime minister lost the general election in 1977 and all the pundits in the world predicted (wrongly) she was finished for good," the report said.

"He is a much respected business figure, guiding Caparo through a choppy waters and creating a great British steel company," the report said. He is quite justified in claiming: "I've made manufacturing fashionable in Britain," the report said.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who hails from the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, Minister without portfolio in the Conservative Party, is listed at no 2 in the Power list in the category Politics.

Leading NRI Labour MP Keith Vaz has been ranked 3rd in the list in the category of Politics.

"He became the first Asian MP in modern times since Dadabhai Naoroji first entered parliament in 1892," the study said.

S P Hinduja and G P Hinduja, Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the Hinduja Group, are No 4 in the list and they are listed in the category of "Business".

"Of all the influential Indian business families in the world, the Hindujas are unlike any other. The closeness of the four brothers, Srichand, Gopi, Prakash and Ashok and now their children, explains why they have been able to weather many a storm and yet prosper and emerge stronger as a group," the study said.

India's best-known sculptor Anish Kapoor is 6th in the list.

Lord Navnit Dholakia, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords is listed 12th and listed in the category Politics.

"When I look back I am proud to see the progress the Asian community has made - in every field," Dholakia said. Dr Kartar Lalvani, founder of Vitabiotics, Britain's leading nutraceutical company, is listed 49th and in the Pharmacy category.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, is 61 in the list.

India 'jealous' of China's growing clout, says Chinese state media

Days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, the state-run media here today said India was "jealous" of China's growing influence in Asia and charged it with instigating "small" neighbours for a "gang fight" against this country.

"India jitters at the sight of China gaining prestige in Asia, in particular, in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and takes China's ever-growing regional influence in recent years as a strategic encirclement to target and contain India," Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on its website.

Written in response to an article, "Asia's Giants Colliding at Sea?" by former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh, it said India is living under a "delusion" that China was out to encircle it.

The Xinhua commentary came nearly a week after Singh and Wen met in Bali on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit and agreed that there was enough space and areas for the two Asian giants to work together. Their meeting on November 18 took place against the backdrop of the South China Sea row.

Apparently referring to India's 'Look East' policy consolidating its ties with Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Japan, the commentary said New Delhi is resorting to "instigate" China's neighbours to contain its influence. China had sought "a win-win model when it developed economic and trade relations with its neighbours, including India," it said. "Why India appears so impatient to take more agreeable strategies in its periphery is still beyond understanding..." it added

By currying favour with China's neighbours, in particular, those who have brewed disputes with China, India would assume, it could instigate smaller nations to engage in a fight against China and contain China's growing clout in the region," the commentary said.

"It sounds nothing more than loud jealousy, for the simple reason that China has done what India could not, especially when India perceives that China's influence has reached its doorstep and created a tremendous impact on those who should have banked on India as imagined," it said.

This also explains why India has been living under the "delusion that China lays out a strategic chessboard to lock up and contain India, and thereby every act and every move of China could touch a raw nerve of India," it said.

"Jealousy can sometimes be put in the same breath of inferiority. India could trace its sense of being so self-abased to the brief border war with China in 1960s, when it was beaten by the Chinese army. And India has since eyed China with deep-seated distrust", the commentary alleged.

"The Indian media are always given to wild speculation on what on earth China intends to do. Any move the Dragon takes in the region would in all likelihood vex the Elephant," it said.

In a nutshell, "to grow up to be a real power and stand as a sound competitor, India needs to, first and foremost, break through its own psychological fence," it said.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

India Internet users top 100 million

India's Internet users have topped 100 million, a study said Tuesday, and its online population could overtake the United States' within two years.

India's Internet population stood at 112 million by September, making it the third-biggest globally after China and the United States, the Internet and Mobile Association of India said.

"It's good news that we've crossed the 100 million milestone, but it has taken us a long time to get here," association president Subho Ray told AFP. "Internet use in India now is entering a critical growth phase," he added.

India is adding 5 to 7 million Internet users every month, increasingly in small-town India and among the less wealthy.

At the current pace, the country will overtake the United States in less than two years, the study projected.

China's online population is the world's largest at 485 million while the United States has around 245 million users.

The Indian government expects the number of Internet users in the country to total around 600 million in the next five years, Ray noted.

"The 600 million target is realistic if the government follows through with its ambitious plans to put in place the infrastructure for Internet usage," he said.

Internet giant Google said last week it expects India's Internet growth to be driven by mobile phone users, predicting they will form the majority of new online users in the country as low-priced smartphones become available.

As Internet usage has grown, online shopping has climbed sharply with retail chains and consumer goods companies jumping on the Web bandwagon to lure new e-customers.

According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the online retail industry is expected to grow by 35 percent annually to touch 70 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) by 2015, up from 20 billion rupees now.

Whopping 865.7 mn mobile subscribers in India

The number of mobile phone subscribers in India rose to 865.7 million in August with Idea Cellular alone adding 2.33 million subscribers, official data showed on Thursday.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the wireless user base grew 0.86 per cent during the month with an addition of 7.34 million subscribers, from 858.37 million in July.

With this, the total number of telephone subscribers, including landline holders, touched 899.78 million, registering a growth of 0.81 per cent.

Overall tele-density in India reached 74.96.

However, of the total 865.71 million wireless subscribers, only 608.63 million subscribers were active subscribers on the date of peak visitor location register (VLR).

VLR is a temporary database of the subscribers who have roamed into the particular area, which it serves. Each base station in the network is served by exactly one VLR, hence a subscriber cannot be present in more than one VLR at a time.

The total number of subscribers of Idea Cellular stood at 98.44 million.

Reliance Communications added 1.28 million users to take its subscribers base to 146 million.

Bharti Airtel added 1.15 million subscribers to have a total of 171.85 million users.

Vodafone added 1.13 million subscribers, increasing its subscriber-count to 144.14 million while Uninor added 349,488 million subscribers to have a total of 27.74 million.

According to the data, the broadband subscriber base grew 1.46 per cent from 12.5 million in July to 12.69 million in August 2011. However, the wire line segment base declined marginally from 34.18 million in July to 34.07 million at the end of August 2011.

Europe lacks firewall in debt crisis

The European Central Bank is for now the eurozone's only battle-ready weapon against the market turmoil that is nudging Italy — and the entire 17-nation currency bloc — to the brink of financial disaster.

But although its program to buy the bonds of indebted governments such as Italy theoretically has unlimited financial power, the ECB is unwilling to use it aggressively, saying it's up to governments to get their finances straightened out.

Defining the ECB's role in the crisis has become urgent because Europe has no other effective backstop to contain its raging debt crisis and give indebted countries the months — and years — they need to pass new legislation and fix their finances.

The eurozone bailout fund, which governments recently gave new powers to shore up confidence in government bond markets, was meant to be the main tool to protect economies like Italy. But European officials need more time to finalize it.

The crisis meanwhile is worsening by the day, with Italy's bond yields this week jumping above 7 per cent, the level that eventually pushed Greece, Ireland and Portugal to ask for rescue loans.

Higher borrowing rates mean the country pays more to raise money to pay off old loans — last year its average borrowing rate was 4 per cent. The higher costs add to its debt pile, worsening its financial prospects in a vicious cycle.

European officials need a way to keep Italy's borrowing rates down while the country labors to pass reforms to cut deficits and improve growth, a job that will take time.

Options are limited. Their new eurozone bailout fund, the EFSF, isn't ready yet and may not have enough lending power. Eurozone governments have balked at adding more money, so they are looking at ways to increase the existing euro440 billion ($600 billion) in financing to over euro1 trillion by allowing it to partially insure against losses on government bonds.

Such an insurance scheme has yet to be finalized, however, and might not cover Italy's massive financing needs — euro300 billion next year alone.

Alternatively, eurozone countries could jointly issue eurobonds, effectively linking the finances of stronger countries with weaker ones. But Germany, which is already funding the bulk of the existing bailouts, has made it clear that eurobonds are not an option.

That leaves the ECB. The bank has intervened in markets at critical moments during the debt crisis and again this month. Analysts say the ECB likely helped bring Italy's bond yields down somewhat on Thursday.

But while the ECB might lend a hand in moments of panic, it has made clear it is not in the business of protecting countries from the consequences of poor financial planning.

New ECB president Mario Draghi said forcefully last week that the bank wasn't going to ramp up the purchases and that it was up to governments to do what needed to be done to save themselves.

He said it would be "pointless" to expect the ECB to bring down rates long-term, insisting the purchases are temporary and limited. If a country's economic plans are credible, that will be reflected in the country's market borrowing rates.

The question these days, however, is not only one of principle but speed. Drafting, approving and implementing economic reforms can take weeks or months, whereas market movements can change a country's prospects in a matter of minutes.

This week's increase in Italian bond yields, for example, will cost the country an added euro60 billion ($82 billion), or 4 per cent of GDP, to roll over its debt through 2015 if they don't come back down. That's almost the size of Rome's most recent austerity plan.

Jennifer McKeown, analyst at Capital Economics, says the ECB may eventually cave in and buy large mounts of bonds, but not yet.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures and if policymakers fail to come up with a way of boosting the EFSF's firepower, the risk of a collapse of the eurozone's financial system might ultimately force the ECB to step in," she said in a note to clients. "But we do not expect it to come to the rescue in the near future."

The ECB in theory has unlimited power to help Italy, because as a central bank it can simply create new money to buy bonds. The problem is that can create inflation, which the ECB is tasked with keeping low as its primary job. It would also be difficult politically, because the bank would appear to be helping governments that did not properly reform their economies.

Both the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of England have created new money to help their economies, but the ECB has avoided doing so by withdrawing an equal amount of money from the financial system.

The Federal Reserve, however, has a broader mandate — to control inflation, promote financial stability and boost growth and jobs. The ECB, under the EU treaty that created the euro, must focus on inflation.

With no other help in sight, though, Draghi and the ECB may eventually find themselves before a momentous choice. The ECB can stick to its mandate and its efforts to push governments to reform — and watch Europe's third-largest economy default on its debts, with disastrous consequences that could include a breakup of Europe's 13-year old shared currency.

Or it can turn on the money taps and increase its purchases of Italy's bonds, so far limited to some euro90 billion ($123 billion), or less than 5 per cent of outstanding Italian debt. Last week it bought euro9.5 billion in eurozone bonds, double the euro4.5 billion from the week before, but Italian yields still rose.

Some economists say the bank will have to buy much larger amounts, or otherwise deploy its full potential to stop the crisis. Charles Wyplosz, an expert on monetary policy at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, says guaranteeing a fixed amount of European public debt would do it.

That would put a floor under bond prices and show markets that "the game is over," he said.

"The beauty of central bank guarantees is that they are 100 per cent credible because they can create as much money as they want," said Wyplosz. "Markets may test the ECB, but most likely they won't even. So it will cost the ECB nothing but a two-line press communique. "

The task is "not how to teach a lesson to governments but how to rescue the euro," he said.

EU warns of possible recession in eurozone

The European Union warned on Thursday that the 17-country eurozone could slip into "a deep and prolonged recession" next year as the debt crisis shows alarming signs of spinning out of control.

The EU's economic watchdog, the European Commission, said its central forecast is that the eurozone will grow by only a paltry 0.5 per cent in 2012. That's way down on the 1.8 per cent prediction it made in the spring.

"This forecast is in fact the last wake-up call," the EU's Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn warned. "Growth has stalled in Europe, and there is a risk of a new recession."

The warning is the first acknowledgment of the possibility of a double-dip recession in Europe, a development that could hit the global economy hard. The Commission even warned that "a deep and prolonged recession complemented by continued market turmoil cannot be excluded," given the uncertainty over whether countries will implement spending cuts and reforms.

The sharp cut in the forecast comes as the eurozone's debt crisis has spread alarmingly to Italy, the single currency bloc's third-largest economy. The interest rate on Italy's 10-year bonds has reached the same 7 per cent level that eventually forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to request multibillion euro bailouts.

Speculation Premier Silvio Berlusconi will be replaced by leading economist and former Commissioner Mario Monti once he officially resigns has helped calm the market mood somewhat Thursday, but interest rates remain much higher than just a week ago.

Greece, meanwhile, was stuck in political chaos as party leaders have failed for several days to appoint an interim government, putting the country in serious danger of defaulting on its massive debts before the end of the year.

Elsewhere in its half-yearly predictions, the Commission said unemployment in the eurozone would be stuck at 9.5 per cent for the foreseeable future. That's even higher than the 9 per cent rate in the U.S.

"While jobs are increasing in some member states, no real improvement is forecast in the unemployment situation in the EU as a whole," Rehn warned.

The report also contained some worrying figures for some individual member states.

Italy is unlikely to fulfill its promise of balancing its budget by 2013 if recently promised austerity and reform measures aren't implemented. According to the forecast, which does not take into account the most recent promises, Italy will still run a deficit of 1.2 per cent, with debt close to 119 per cent of economic output. And growth is set to slow to 0.1 per cent next year, down from 1.3 per cent forecast this spring.

Berlusconi has come under so much pressure that he promised to resign as soon as the new budget has been passed. The Commission this weeks started a verification mission in Rome to check on Italy's efforts. The International Monetary Fund is due to follow soon.

Rehn said Italy's most important task in Italy was to restore political credibility and effective decision making.

He added that because of the relatively long average maturities of Italy's debt, the country could sustain the recent jump in borrowing costs for a short time.

Several other states that have so far not been caught up in the debt storm will soon risk sanctions under new EU spending rules if they don't implement additional measures to get their budgets control, Rehn warned.

"What we need now is unwavering implementation," Rehn said. "On my part, I will start using the new rules of economic governance from day one."

The countries that may face sanctions first are the eurozone nations of Belgium, Cyprus, and Malta, as well as Hungary and Poland, which do not use the euro.

Under the new rules, set to come into force in mid-December, sanctions for countries that break the caps on budget deficits and debt levels become more automatic, in an effort to prevent a worsening of the debt crisis.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Will Smart Contact Lenses Be the Bluetooth Headsets of the Future?

THE next time you gaze deep into someone's eyes, you might be shocked at what you see: tiny circuits ringing their irises, their pupils dancing with pinpricks of light. These smart contact lenses aren't intended to improve vision. Instead, they will monitor blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or look for signs of glaucoma.

The lenses could also map images directly onto the field of view, creating head-up displays for the ultimate augmented reality experience, without wearing glasses or a headset. To produce such lenses, researchers are merging transparent, eye-friendly materials with microelectronics.

In 2008, as a proof of concept, Babak Parviz at the University of Washington in Seattle created a prototype contact lens containing a single red LED. Using the same technology, he has now created a lens capable of monitoring glucose levels in people with diabetes.

It works because glucose levels in tear fluid correspond directly to those found in the blood, making continuous measurement possible without the need for thumb pricks, he says. Parviz's design calls for the contact lens to send this information wirelessly to a portable device worn by diabetics, allowing them to manage their diet and medication more accurately.

Lenses that also contain arrays of tiny LEDs may allow this or other types of digital information to be displayed directly to the wearer through the lens. This kind of augmented reality has already taken off in cellphones, with countless software apps superimposing digital data onto images of our surroundings, effectively blending the physical and online worlds.

Making it work on a contact lens won't be easy, but the technology has begun to take shape. Last September, Sensimed, a Swiss spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, launched the very first commercial smart contact lens, designed to improve treatment for people with glaucoma.

The disease puts pressure on the optic nerve through fluid build-up, and can irreversibly damage vision if not properly treated. Highly sensitive platinum strain gauges embedded in Sensimed's Triggerfish lens record changes in the curvature of the cornea, which correspond directly to the pressure inside the eye, says CEO Jean-Marc Wismer. The lens transmits this information wirelessly at regular intervals to a portable recording device worn by the patient, he says.

Like an RFID tag or London's Oyster travel cards, the lens gets its power from a nearby loop antenna - in this case taped to the patient's face. The powered antenna transmits electricity to the contact lens, which is used to interrogate the sensors, process the signals and transmit the readings back.

Each disposable contact lens is designed to be worn just once for 24 hours, and the patient repeats the process once or twice a year. This allows researchers to look for peaks in eye pressure which vary from patient to patient during the course of a day. This information is then used to schedule the timings of medication.

"The timing of these drugs is important," Wisner says.

Parviz, however, has taken a different approach. His glucose sensor uses sets of electrodes to run tiny currents through the tear fluid and measures them to detect very small quantities of dissolved sugar. These electrodes, along with a computer chip that contains a radio frequency antenna, are fabricated on a flat substrate made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a transparent polymer commonly found in plastic bottles. This is then moulded into the shape of a contact lens to fit the eye.

Parviz plans to use a higher-powered antenna to get a better range, allowing patients to carry a single external device in their breast pocket or on their belt. Preliminary tests show that his sensors can accurately detect even very low glucose levels. Parvis is due to present his results later this month at the IEEE MEMS 2011 conference in CancĂșn, Mexico.

"There's still a lot more testing we have to do," says Parviz. In the meantime, his lab has made progress with contact lens displays. They have developed both red and blue miniature LEDs - leaving only green for full colour - and have separately built lenses with 3D optics that resemble the head-up visors used to view movies in 3D.

Parviz has yet to combine both the optics and the LEDs in the same contact lens, but he is confident that even images so close to the eye can be brought into focus. "You won't necessarily have to shift your focus to see the image generated by the contact lens," says Parviz. It will just appear in front of you, he says. The LEDs will be arranged in a grid pattern, and should not interfere with normal vision when the display is off.

For Sensimed, the circuitry is entirely around the edge of the lens (see photo). However, both have yet to address the fact that wearing these lenses might make you look like the robots in the Terminator movies. False irises could eventually solve this problem, says Parviz. "But that's not something at the top of our priority list," he says.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Electronics giant Olympus hid investing losses in big merger payouts

Olympus said Tuesday that more than $1 billion in merger payouts were used to hide years of losses on investments, an acknowledgment that is an abrupt about-face for the company, which had denied any wrongdoing in the wake of a widening scandal.

That revelation alone could make this one of the biggest accounting fraud cases in corporate history. It is also a spectacular turn of events amid a boardroom battle that has pitted Olympus’s former British chief executive turned whistle-blower, Michael C. Woodford, against an otherwise all-Japanese company board.

Mr. Woodford was fired in mid-September after trying to force an investigation into a series of acquisitions, made before his appointment as president in February. He has since released internal documents to the news media and called for the entire company board to resign. Since the accusations, Olympus has lost half its stock market value as many questioned the company’s governance.

Olympus, which is based here in Tokyo, had categorically denied any wrongdoing over the deals, made from 2006 to 2008. Just last week, the company appointed a panel of outside experts to investigate, a measure Olympus said was aimed at assuaging investor fears.

But in an extraordinary statement issued Tuesday, the company said the panel found that the money for mergers had in fact been used to mask heavy losses on investments racked up since about 1990.

The panel found that Olympus channeled money through several investment funds to “eliminate latent losses,” the company said in the statement, without elaborating. The revelations came as a surprise because the panel had not been expected to reach any conclusions for at least several more weeks.

The payouts in question involve $687 million in fees Olympus paid to an obscure financial adviser over its acquisition of the British medical equipment maker Gyrus in 2008. That fee amounted to roughly a third of the $2 billion acquisition price, a fee amount more than 30 times the norm.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States are also investigating the Gyrus deal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Olympus also acquired three small companies in Japan for a total of $773 million, only to write down most of their value within the same fiscal year. Those companies — Altis, a medical waste recycling company, Humalabo, a facial cream maker, and News Chef, which makes plastic containers — had little in common with Olympus’s main line of business of producing cameras and other electronics. Those businesses had not made money before being acquired, according to the credit ratings agency Tokyo Shoko Research.

At a news conference, the company’s new president, Shuichi Takayama, bowed deeply in apology. “It is true that there were inappropriate dealings,” he said. “Our previous statements were in error.” But he stopped short of acknowledging fraud at the company, and said that no money had flowed out of the company. He said Olympus was still investigating the case and was still unprepared to reveal the scale of past losses.

Mr. Takayama also said that Hisashi Mori, an executive vice president, had been fired over his involvement in the cover-up. Hideo Yamada, who is also implicated, has offered his resignation, he said. He reiterated the company’s position that Mr. Woodford’s departure had to do with his aggressive Western-style management style rather than his inquiries into the acquisitions. Mr. Takayama said that despite the disclosure, he hoped to keep Olympus’s shares listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Its shares were down nearly 30 percent Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Woodford, who worked at Olympus for 30 years, had begun to look into those payouts after a Japanese financial magazine, Facta, published an exposé on the deals. In September, Mr. Woodford commissioned a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers into the Gyrus deal that raised concern over actions taken by Olympus management, including a lack of due diligence.

Based on the report, Mr. Woodford called for a full investigation in a letter dated Oct. 11. He urged the company’s chairman at the time, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, and other members of the board to resign, accusing them of “calamitous errors and exceptionally poor judgment” and comparing them to rogue traders.

But the next day, the Olympus board unanimously voted to oust Mr. Woodford. He said he was not permitted to speak at the board meeting, and was advised to leave the country immediately.

Mr. Kikukawa resigned in late October. In a statement at the time, he denied wrongdoing.

Questions remain over Olympus’s links to the obscure investment and advisory companies that facilitated those acquisitions, including an investment fund incorporated in the Cayman Islands, as well as Axes, a company that oversaw those funds from the United States and Japan.

The Global Company, an investment advisory firm based in Tokyo, was closely involved in setting up the three companies as well as facilitating their sale to Olympus, according to a New York Times investigation. Executives at those companies have not been available for comment.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Google changes search algorithm, Trying to make results more timely

Acknowledging that some searches were giving people stale results, Google revised its methods on Thursday to make the answers timelier. It is one of the biggest tweaks to Google's search algorithm, affecting about 35 percent of all searches.

The new algorithm is a recognition that Google, whose dominance depends on providing the most useful results, is being increasingly challenged by services like Twitter and Facebook, which have trained people to expect constant updates with seconds-old news.

It is also a reflection of how people use the Web as a real-time news feed -- that if, for example, you search for a baseball score, you probably want to find the score of a game being played at the moment, not last week, which is what Google often gave you.

"This is the result of them saying we need to find a way to more effectively get fresh content up," said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land and an industry expert. "It does help with the issue of people thinking, 'Wow, if I need to find out about something breaking, I'll go to Facebook or Twitter for that.' "

Timeliness has long mattered to Google and its search results. Nevertheless, the company said that it always looks for improvements, and the latest change goes much further in freshening search results. Google tried once before to create real-time search, in 2009, when it introduced, a service that incorporated Twitter posts that Google paid Twitter to use. But that contract expired in July and the two companies could not agree on terms to renew it, so Google disabled the site.

Americans still turn to Google for two-thirds of their Web searches, but for people who want the latest chatter about events happening now, it competes with Facebook, Twitter and Bing, Microsoft's search engine, which includes more Twitter and Facebook posts than Google does in search results.

"The biggest source of the very freshest information is Twitter, and Google doesn't have anywhere near the access to that kind of data as it had before," Mr. Sullivan said. "But when people do those kinds of searches, they're looking for a lot of reactions, looking for Twitter itself. So even with these changes, this doesn't really solve that problem."

Google became dominant by finding archived Web sites and showing links to them. But today people sometimes expect years-old links, like the best banana bread recipe; week-old links, like the last episode of "Gossip Girl"; or seconds-old links, like this morning's presidential campaign news.

Google makes more than 500 changes to its algorithm a year, but most affect only a small percentage of results. With its new formula, which Google calls a freshness algorithm, Google tried to teach itself the difference between those types of requests, Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who works on search, wrote in a blog post announcing the changes.

"Depending on the search terms, the algorithm needs to be able to figure out if a result from a week ago about a TV show is recent, or if a result from a week ago about breaking news is too old," he wrote.

"This algorithmic improvement is designed to better understand how to differentiate between these kinds of searches and the level of freshness you need."

Google last announced a significant change to its search algorithm in February, when it said it would raise the rankings of high-quality sites to fight low-quality ones, often described as content farms, that were flooding the search engine with mindless articles tied to popular search queries.

The new formula, which affects search results globally but will not change nearby ads, will bring up minutes-old results for recent events, like an unfolding news story, and for recurring events like the Oscars or a political campaign. It will also show fresher results for topics that are often updated, like reviews of a new iPhone. It will understand that unlike breaking news, reviews from a few weeks ago are also useful, the company said.

These are "queries we don't think we're doing perfectly well on," said Rajan Patel, a Google software engineer who worked on the new algorithm. "We just realized that people expect Google to return the most up-to-date results for all kinds of queries, from hot topics to more general queries like a TV show."

For evergreen results, like recipes or how to change a tire, Google said the algorithm would know to show the best results no matter when they were posted.

The algorithm uses technology that Google built last year in response to the greater speed at which people were publishing updates online. It is a Web indexing system it calls Caffeine, which crawls the Web more quickly, updating Google's index of Web sites continuously instead of every couple of weeks. Thursday's revision changes how Google ranks those links now that it has them in its index, Mr. Patel said.

Google's main competitor, Bing, has also developed a way to index Web sites that change often, like blogs and news feeds, and analyzes Twitter posts to identify popular topics, said Stefan Weitz, senior director at Bing.

Mr. Patel said that Google planned to incorporate posts from Google+, its new social network, into its search results to further improve their freshness.