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Events, people who made the news this past fortnight

August 9, 2014

Right-hand man

"That I am Narendrabhai's right-hand man is a media perception. There is no special relationship between us. He relies on every worker who works hard and has the talent and capacity to produce results ? One Amit Shah doesn't make any difference to Modi," said BJP President Amit Shah in an interview with India Today. How many would underplay their proximity - perceived or real - to PM Modi? Could it be one of the reasons Shah thrives? The spy who turned the clock back

Just the other day, the German Parliament's NSA Investigative Committee bought a manual typewriter. The committee is looking into spying in Germany by the United States and other English-speaking countries. The typewriter is to provide a bulwark against high-technology spying. It was bought around the time Germany asked the CIA's local functionary to leave. Typewriters are already becoming a common sight in the Russian government, bought after Edward Snowden blew the whistle on US electronic surveillance. injurious to financial health

Edward Snowden

A Florida jury imposed punitive damages of $23.6 billion on R J Reynolds, maker of cigarette brands such as Camel and Pall Mall, in a case brought by the widow of a chain-smoker who died of lung cancer in 1996 at age 36. This is one of the biggest such verdicts and shows rising intolerance of tobaccoas a business. According to news agency Reuters, the award is likely to be rejected or substantially reduced on appeal. R J Reynolds is a unit of Reynolds American, which, a week earlier, said it would acquire rival Lorillard, maker of the Kent and Newport brands, in a dealvalued at $27.4 billion.

New Digest

Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal has said the countrys No. 2 airline by market share will look at selling planes and restructuring its debts. The airline, which has not reported an annual profit since 2007, set out a three-year restructuring plan in May centred on cutting costs and boosting efficiency. Together, Jet Airways and Etihad Airways operate more international flights from India than any other airline.

The Supreme Court has allowed Sahara to sell its international assets to raise money for the group chief Subrata Roy's bail. Sahara has to raise Rs 10,000 crore for the bail of Roy and two directors of group companies. The three were jailed on March 4.

>>Wal-Mart Stores Inc has infused fresh funds worth Rs 623 crore ($102.9 million) into its Indian wholesale business in June. Wal-Mart runs 20 wholesale stores in India and plans to roll out 50 more over four to five years. The retailer has already launched its e-commerce operations, to sell to small businesses, in Lucknow and Hyderabad.

>>The Reserve Bank of India has removed the ceiling on the quantum of loans given against pledged gold ornaments, where the end-use of funds is not for agricultural purposes.

>> According to the Monster Salary Index India IT Sector Report 2014, only 30 per cent of the total IT sector workforce in India are women and the fairer sex faces a gender pay gap of 29 per cent.

>>A study by Kotak Wealth Management estimates 117,000 ultra-high net worth households - those with wealth exceeding Rs 25 crore - at the end of March 2014, an increase of 16 per cent over last year. This number is likely to treble in the next five years.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has castigated the government's fuel pricing policy saying it gave undue benefit of Rs 667 crore to Essar Oil and Reliance Industries. It called for renegotiating rates at which diesel is bought from private refiners.

Kotak Mahindra Bank has agreed to buy 15 per cent stake in Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX) from Financial Technologies (India) Ltd for Rs 459 crore. FTIL, which held 26 per cent in MCX, had to divest as it was deemed not fit and proper by the commodities market regulator, Forward Markets Commission, owing to the  Rs 5,600 crore National Spot Exchange Ltd fiasco.

Three private carriers jointly owe about  Rs 377 crore as airport and other dues to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), including Rs 172.69 crore by defunct Kingfisher Airlines, between April and June. The total amount of penal interests charged from the defaulting parties stood at about Rs 115 crore.

Aadhaar is amongst the four instruments selected by the EPFO as know-your customer that will be seeded to each provident fund account number. The others include NPR number, Permanent Account Number and bank account number. The other options for KYC includes election card, ration card, passport and driving licence.

>>Microsoft is set to slash up to 18,000 jobs worldwide by next year. The software giant, led by India-born Satya Nadella, will sharpen its focus on cloud and mobile offerings. As of June, Microsoft had about 99,000 people on a full-time basis. The worlds largest software company reported a 7 per cent dip in quarterly profit, chiefly due to incorporating the struggling handset business of the Finnish mobile pioneer Nokia.

>>US fast food chains McDonalds Corp and KFC-parent Yum Brands Inc has apologised to Chinese consumers and said they will stop using a Shanghai meat supplier after Chinese regulators shut down the firm over food safety concerns.

>>The Indian medical tourism industry is expected to touch $6 billion by 2018, according to a PHDCCI report. In value terms, it is estimated at a little over $3 billion now. The number of people arriving in the country for medical treatment is set to double over the next four years.

>>Indians are glued to their smartphones as they check their handsets 77 times a day on average, says a study by Ericsson onsumerLab. Indians spend more than three hours a day using their smartphones with a third of the total time spent on apps. Eleven per cent of working professionals shop online using smartphones while at work.

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