Friday, June 29, 2012

Reading Exercise June 29

Read the following passage and identify the paragraphs from which the subsequent questions have been taken.

Many rich countries have struggled for three years to emerge fully from the Great Recession of 2008-09. Alas, the world is slipping into a new recession. No global authority has dared say so, but the writing is on the wall.

A classic lead indicator of a global recession is a crash in commodity prices, which is evident today.

Brent crude, the benchmark variety that determines Gulf oil prices for India, has fallen from $125/barrel in January to barely $ 90/barrel. Major global commodity indices have slumped over 20%. Mittal and Tata are closing some global steel plants because of falling demand. Prices of non-ferrous metals, cotton, coal and iron ore have crashed.

This reflects decelerating or falling GDP growth across the globe, and growing realization that conditions will remain depressed for some time. Europe has long been a troubled zone, but the US economy is stalling while ominous negative signs emanate from China.

The Eurozone was predicted to have a mild recession starting October 2011 and ending by the summer of 2012. The region slid down in the October-December quarter and then, thanks to a good German performance, stabilized in the January-March quarter. But the latest data show European growth plummeting in the April-June quarter, with even German factories suffering the sharpest contraction since June 2009. The UK, which is outside the Eurozone, is deeply in double-dip recession.

Optimists think that even if rich countries get into trouble, the strength and resilience of fast-growing emerging markets - above all China - will stem the rot. Alas, China is slowing down too. The HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index shows that Chinese manufacturing has actually fallen in May and June.

China's slowdown has hit Japan, which depends on exports to that destination. Japan is now running trade deficits month after the month, for the first time in decades. This is a game-changer.

The global fall in commodity prices has sent shock waves through all countries that prospered by riding the commodity boom, including Brazil and Russia. India, a net commodity importer, should gain from falling prices. Yet its GDP growth has plummeted too.

There is a standard remedy for recessions. Governments cut interest rates, provide easy money, and run large fiscal deficits to revive demand. Alas, these strategies have very limited scope today because the world is already replete with loose monetary and fiscal policies thanks to attempts to regain momentum, after the 2008-09 Great Recession.

Interest rates are at or below 1% in Europe, Japan and the US. The US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank (ECB) have injected trillions of dollars and euros respectively into their regions, breaking all records in easy money.
Recent elections have brought to power parties in France and Greece saying there is too much austerity, so the region must aim for growth too. The IMF and several economists across the world echo this sentiment. Yet the claim of excessive austerity has been debunked by Josef Joffe in the Financial Times. The ECB Bank has injected trillions of Euros into the region, including ultra-cheap money to banks, massive contributions to rescue funds, and large-scale purchases of government bonds.

In 2011, fiscal deficits as a proportion of GDP were 13% in Ireland, 9% in Greece, 8.5% in Spain, and 4% in Portugal and 
Italy. Even France and Holland, supposedly non-crisis countries, had fiscal deficits of 5%. The Maastricht Treaty forbade anything over 3%. When Maastricht rules are so massively violated, is the problem really excessive austerity? No, the real problem is the structural madness of creating the Eurozone, a monetary union without a political union.

This fundamental blunder remains intact with no prospect of early resolution. A Euro zone break-up would cause massive chaos and misery for a year or two, after which economies would pick up. Trying to save the Eurozone will mitigate immediate misery, but ensure that it continues for years till it becomes politically intolerable.

Europeans refuse to confront the dilemma squarely. Instead, they are devising quick-fixes for the immediate problems of Eurozone banks and governments. Germany may approve some growth measures, and relax objections to direct ECB lifelines to stricken banks and debt-ridden governments. This can put off the day of reckoning, but cannot cure the underlying disease of an ill-conceived monetary union.

Many analysts (including me) have said that India's GDP growth slump to 5.3% in the January-March quarter cannot be blamed on the Euro zone crisis alone, and reflects paralysis and bad policy at home. This will now be compounded by a new global slump. We can hardly expect any miraculous action from the moribund UPA government . We need a fresh election and fresh government.

Identify the paragraphs from which the following questions have been taken.

Q1). What is the main premise on which the author’s fears of recession are based?
Q2) Why according to author the standard remedies for fighting recession will not work?
Q3) Why is author disagrees with the idea that ‘there is too much austerity”?
Q4) What solution the author proposes to solve the Euro crisis?
Q5) What is author’s assumption behind drawing the conclusion in the last sentence of the passage?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

True-False Exercise June 28

Read the passage and answer the question that follows.

It was an event that included sky divers, stunt bikers and people rappelling down the side of a building. Then came another spectacle: watching Google, the Web search giant, re-imagine itself as a hardware maker.
On Wednesday at Google I/O, the company's annual conference for developers, Google unveiled a new 7-inch tablet computer, called Nexus 7, and a sphere-shaped device for streaming music and video that it is calling Nexus Q.
Both debuts paled in comparison to the company's ramped-up demonstration of Project Glass, a device that puts a camera and a tiny video screen into a kind of eyeglass frame. This involved Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, jumping on stage wearing the device and engaging in a live video chat on Google's social network with a couple of wing-suited sky divers as they jumped out of a plane. They were followed by stunt bikers and rappellers who dropped down the face of the Moscone West convention center, all the while sharing what they were seeing through experimental versions of the glasses.
Brin said Google would make a $1,500 prototype of the glasses - which it calls the Google Glass Explorer Edition - available to developers from the United States who attended the conference. He said the glasses were slated to ship early next year.
Google's focus on hardware is a strategic shift for the company, which makes the vast majority of its revenue from advertising. Google is likely to sell the Nexus 7 and Nexus Q at cost, or even at a loss, but hopes to make up for those losses - and then some - with additional revenue from purchases made on Google Play, its app and content store; additional traffic to its YouTube video site; and the advertising it reaps from all of its Internet products.
By selling Google-branded devices, the company also aims to protect its core search business as competitors hover. Facebook is deepening its partnership with Microsoft's Bing search engine and Microsoft just announced plans for its own branded tablet. Apple is moving to cut Google out of its mobile and desktop operating systems with its own cloud, search and mapping services.
"Google is a hardware company now," said Colin Gillis, an Internet analyst with BGC Partners. "Hardware is becoming the doorway to products and services. If you're going to use the Internet, you are going to have to use a device. Whoever makes that device controls what services and products are offered to you, and those nickels and dimes add up over time."
Google's Nexus 7 tablet, which will be manufactured by Asus, the Taiwanese hardware maker, features a lightweight design, 7-inch screen and high-definition display. Google priced its tablet at $199, which puts it in direct competition with Amazon's Kindle Fire. The cheapest version of Apple's latest iPad sells for $500.
The Nexus 7 will feature Google's new version of its Android mobile operating system, called Jelly Bean, which was made available to developers Wednesday and will come to some Android devices next month.
Joe Britt, an engineering director at Google, said the Android updates include a simpler and more accurate on-screen keyboard and a smarter auto-correct feature. The new software will also transcribe speech even when the device is not online.
State whether the following statements are true or false.
1) Google IO is a new hardware device.
2) Nexus Q is a new tablet device.
3) Nexus 7 is going to compete with Kindle Fire.
4) Google Play is gaming device being launched by Google.
5) Google has a plan ready for making up the losses it will deliberately make through the sales of Nexus 7 and Nexus Q.
6) Jelly Bean is new operating system.
7) With new focus on hardware, Google is not giving priority to its search engine anymore.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CR Exercise June 27 2012

In the following passage there are four sentences that are not part of the original writing and hence disrupt the flow. Read the passage carefully and identify these sentences.

Unmanned U.S. aircraft now routinely fly over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Their cameras record the presence of men in motion. A commander sitting in a base thousands of kilometres away gives the kill order. The U.S. President had previously been over lists of alleged terrorists and marked off those who can be killed. This is the “kill list”. If only one person is to be killed, the execution is called a “personality strike”. There are a wide variety of drone shapes, sizes, configurations, and characteristics. If the drone kills more than one person, it is called a “signature strike”.
On September 30, 2011, two U.S. Predator drones fired Hellfire missiles at a car in Yemen's al-Jawf province. The missiles destroyed the car. Among the four dead were two U.S. citizens, the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and the editor of Al Qaeda's English language magazine Inspire, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, on October 14, another U.S. drone fired at a group who were on their way to dinner. Among the 10 dead were 16-year-old Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki, the son of the cleric, and his 17-year-old cousin Abdulrahman.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) estimates that between 2001 and 2012, the U.S. launched about a hundred drone strikes in Yemen, killing between 317 and 826 people. The civilian casualty is estimated to be anywhere between 58 and 138, of them 24 being children. These are all very poor numbers, as the Bureau acknowledges. The U.S. has not released any firm data; indeed the U.S. continues to have an ambiguous attitude regarding its assassination policy. Many people have mistakenly used the term Unmanned Aerial System, or Unmanned Air Vehicle System, as these designations were in provisional use at one time or another. It takes credit for the killings, but does not take responsibility for the programme itself.
In a stinging 29-page report in 2010, former United Nations special representative on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston asked the major powers to lay out the legal limits to extrajudicial assassinations. In a statement that accompanied the report, Alston described the political problem for the U.S.: “I'm particularly concerned that the United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe. But this strongly asserted but ill-defined licence to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is a British not-for-profit news organisation backed by a number of prominent journalists. In the quiet rooms of the U.N., such language is rare: it asserted that the continual U.S. use of drones was not only a violation of current norms but a threat to the architecture of conflict resolution and the rules of war.
The BIJ collected data not only from Yemen but also from Pakistan and Somalia. In Pakistan, U.S. drones have killed between 2,462 and 3,145 people, among whom 482 to 830 were civilians (including 175 children). The numbers of those injured are upwards of 3,000. After the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Chicago, the U.S. struck in Waziristan about seven times (by June 3). In Somalia, the U.S. conducted a handful of drone strikes, with deaths reported in the hundreds (among them three children). The BIJ's method is eclectic; it uses news reports and speeches. These are, therefore, not exact numbers, only indications of a trend. With no information forthcoming from the U.S., there is no way to have better figures.
The first public admission of extrajudicial executions came with the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and the first public admission of the use of drones came from President Barack Obama in an Internet interview on January 30 this year. Of the drone attacks, Obama said, “This is a targeted, focussed effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.” He said geographical conditions necessitated these attacks. These  Unmanned Aircraft Systems range in cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars, with aircraft ranging from less than one pound to over 40,000 pounds. According to him, the alleged terrorists are in a region in Pakistan that is not amenable to a simply military operation. “Obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] and going after Al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The key phrase in his statement was that he had a “list of active terrorists” who could be killed by the unmanned drones.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Critical Reasoning June 26

Read the following excerpt from an interview. Different answers given by the expert have been labeled as A, B, C etc. followed by the questions that were asked.(labeled as 1,2 3 etc.) Match the questions with the answers.
A] I have worked during one round of the selection process, when Amartya Sen was the Jury Chair. The charter of the Prize is in keeping with what I would like it to achieve. The Prize has established itself, but frankly, it has to be given much greater attention in India.
In India, there is such an obsession with the day’s news, with politics and the policy-making process. The kind of attention I get makes me convinced that these things get disproportionate attention (laughs). We ought to give much greater attention to the fundamental sciences. I actually mean fundamental thinking. I mean writers, poets, fundamental mathematics, fundamental economics — all these people and their work deserve much more attention in India.
I must say that The Hindu does probably more than any other newspaper in India in terms of focusing on these things. The paper’s attention to the life of the mind is distinctly more than most others. Of late, there are others like theHindustan Times, which are doing more, but we really need to go much further.
In contrast, America gives huge attention to these things. The obituaries in The New York Times on people in the arts and sciences are more substantial than articles on people in politics or policy making.
When eminent Indian statistician Raghu Raj Bahadur [considered to be one of the architects of modern mathematical statistics] died in 1997, the longest obituary was in the NYT, not in any Indian newspaper.
B] The gap in subjects like economics may have widened now, but about 15-20 years ago, when we had Amartya Sen, Jagdish N. Bhagwati and Prasanta K. Pattanaik, the gap in cutting edge research was much narrower. People in the sciences also tell me the same thing.
C] I am glad that Infosys is giving a reasonable amount of money. But, as in things like this, if the prize is properly projected, the money will become relatively minor. The Nobel Prize is big money, but people will be willing to give money to get the prize.
D] Once the awards are announced, the media must follow-up to find out what the winners have achieved. One of the great things after the Nobel announcements every year is the fun in reading in lay language the contributions of the winners.
I believe that the pursuit of knowledge and aesthetic beauty — in poetry, literature, mathematics and in many other fields — is an end in itself. Just harping on the utilitarian aspects of these branches is no good. People must be motivated by the pure pursuit of aesthetics, like a music composer or artist is, or like Pythagoras did when he discovered the triangle theorem. The sheer beauty of triangles caught his imagination. It is indeed arguable that Pythagoras’ Theorem has contributed more than the biggest of the business houses. It gave us the instrument, which made it possible for rockets to fly. But Pythagoras himself was never distracted by these possibilities.
E] Just as there is the concept of Corporate Social responsibility for business, there ought to be the concept of Media Scientific Responsibility. The media should make a deliberate contribution to science, even if it is unprofitable.
F] No. We need multiple actions. Government funding is very critical, but we also need to create space for the scientists. University nurture is extremely important. But take the case of the Delhi School of Economics. Even in its heyday, its success was not because of government nurture. Greater autonomy played a huge part in its success. Amartya Sen was made full professor of economics at the age of 30. Prasanta K. Pattanaik became professor at 29. Part of the tribute would have to go to people like Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao and K.N. Raj, who were, what I would call, academic entrepreneurs. They may not have been the greatest researchers but they built the Delhi School of Economics.
1) Do you see the Infosys Prize as one way of doing this?
2) But can even a Prize of this stature help in the absence of government funding for research?
3) How do you plan to set about getting more attention for the awards?
4) Do you see the gap in coverage as a reflection of the gap in the advancement of the fundamental sciences in India and in the advanced countries?
5) What should the media do?
6) You took over the Jury Chair of the Infosys Prize for Social Sciences in April. What are your plans for the Prize in the social sciences?

Monday, June 25, 2012

True-False Exercise June 25

Read the passage and answer the question that follows.

Studies on Subhas Chandra Bose's flirtation with the Axis powers, first Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy and next Tojo's Japan, vary a lot in their approach from the denunciatory to the apologetic and hagiographic, so typical of Indian nationalistic writings. Some have emphasised his activities in South-East Asia – with its Azad Hind government and the rest, which the brilliant advocate Bhulabhai Desai so ably described at the Indian National Army (INA) trial in the Red Fort in New Delhi – to the neglect of the crucial phase in Germany, which preceded it.Romain Hayes' work, based on massive research, deserves wide readership in India because it is scrupulously fair and richly nuanced. It covers the background to Bose's adventure – his outlook on democracy and/differences with Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. All of which explain, but do not justify, why he sought and took help from the fascists. The author's emphasis on Bose's sturdy independence is writ all over the book. He was incapable of being anybody's stooge; only an opportunistic, albeit fierce, nationalist. That said, the author is unsparing in his censures of Bose's moral blindness to the crimes of his deliberately chosen allies.There is a record of such opportunism and not in India alone. The Irish patriot, Sir Roger Casement, was tried for treason and hanged. The Italian scholar Marzia Casolari has revealed, on the basis of archival evidence, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh's (RSS) links with and admiration for Mussolini's fascist regime (“Hindutva's foreign tie-up in the 1930s”, Economic & Political Weekly, January 22, 2000. One wonders when her studies will emerge in book form). At one time, Churchill expressed his admiration for Mussolini.So did Gandhi. Indeed Bose and Gandhi's mistakes fed on each other. Were it not for Gandhi's shabby treatment of Bose – forcing an elected Congress president to vacate his office and then treating him with scorn – Bose would not have left India in December 1940. “Bose left no doubt that the attitude of Gandhi had been central to his leaving India.” Maulana Azad noted with some astonishment that Gandhi's “admiration for Subhas Bose unconsciously coloured his view about the whole war situation”, especially on Cripps' proposals of March 30, 1942, for a settlement of India's political impasse.As early as in 1941, “Sardar Patel felt convinced that the Allies were going to lose the war” (K.M. Munshi; Pilgrimage to Freedom, 1967; page 75). Singapore fell to Japanese arms on February 15 and Rangoon on March 7, 1942. However, on June 22, 1941, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union and on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour bringing the “unsinkable aircraft carrier”, the United States, into the war. Historians are agreed that by mid-June 1942 “the limit of Japanese power [was] reached”.Nirad C. Chaudhuri had a poor opinion of Nehru's and Bose's understanding of international affairs. He analysed the 1942 episode in detail in an article in The Times of India of February 28, 1982, aptly titled, “They were ignorant of International Politics”. This was a reference to “the two Cambridge men” in the Congress, Nehru and Bose, “who were always talking about the international situation. They were also regarded by their political colleagues as expert authorities on international affairs… (but) their ideas on international politics were only a projection of their nationalism, which prevented their seeing any international situation for what it was.” This is true also of Indian writers on foreign affairs.The failing persists, still. South Asia has produced world-class economists, historians, scientists and diplomats. It has not produced a single world-class scholar on international affairs. Nationalist self-absorption is no help in scholarly pursuits. The myopic outlook on world affairs was laid bare in all its unreality at a historic meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in Allahabad from April 27 to May 1, 1942.On the first day, Gandhi's draft resolution declared: “Britain is incapable of defending India…. Japan's quarrel is not with India. She is warring with the British Empire.… If India were freed her first step would probably be to negotiate with Japan.” Nehru disagreed. “Gandhiji's draft is an approach which needs careful consideration. Independence means, among other things, the withdrawal of British troops. It is proper; but has it any meaning, our demanding withdrawal? Nor can they reasonably do it even if they recognise independence. Withdrawal of troops and the whole apparatus of civil administration will create a vacuum which cannot be filled up immediately.“If we said to Japan that her fight was with British imperialism and not us she would say, ‘We are glad the British army is withdrawn; we recognise your independence. But we want certain facilities now. We shall defend you against aggression. We want aerodromes, freedom to pass our troops through your country. This is necessary in self-defence.' They might seize strategic points and proceed to Iraq, etc. The masses won't be touched if only the strategic points are captured. Japan is an imperialist country. Conquest of India is in their plan. If Bapu's approach is accepted we become passive partners of the Axis powers. This approach is contrary to the Congress policy for the last two years and a half. The Allied countries will have a feeling that we are their enemies…. “The whole background of the draft is one which will inevitably make the world think that we are passively lining up with the Axis powers. The British are asked to withdraw. After the withdrawal we are to negotiate with Japan and possibly come to some terms with her. These terms may include a large measure of civil control by us, a certain measure of military control by them, passage of armies through India, etc…. Whether you will like it or not, the exigencies of the war situation will compel them to make India a battleground. In sheer self-defence they cannot afford to keep out. They will walk through the country. You can't stop it by non-violent non-cooperation. Most of the population will not be affected by the march. Individuals may resist in a symbolic way. The Japanese armies will go to Iraq, Persia, etc., throttle China and make the Russian situation more difficult…. But the whole thought and background of the draft is one of favouring Japan. It may not be conscious. Three factors influence our decisions in the present emergency: (i) Indian freedom, (ii) sympathy for certain larger causes, (iii) probable outcome of the war; who is going to win? It is Gandhiji's feeling that Japan and Germany will win. This feeling unconsciously governs his decision. The approach in the draft is different from mine” (emphasis added throughout). (Congress Responsibility for the Disturbances 1942-43, Government of India, 1943, page 43.)

On the basis of the passage state whether the following statements are True or false.

1) ‘Unsinkable aircraft carrier’ title has been used for Japan.
2) Nirad C Chaudhari had a poor opinion about Nehru’s and Gandhi’s understanding of international affairs.
3) Nehru was not in favour of immediate troop withdrawals by the British.
4) Nehru felt that in case of British withdrawals, the Japanese would exploit Indian for their strategic pursuits.
5) Gandhiji opposed the British in favour of Japan and Germany as he thought that the latter were morally superior.
6) RSS, Churchill and Gandhiji are known to have expressed admiration for Mussolini. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Critical Reasoning Exercise June 18, 2012

Read the following excerpt from an interview. Different answers given by the expert have been labeled as A, B, C etc. followed by the questions that were asked.(labeled as 1,2 3 etc.) Match the questions with the answers.
A] Desertification is a huge global environmental problem — like climate change. Desertification adds to, and worsens the impact of climate change. Currently, some two billion people are affected by desertification and the degradation of land; 41 per cent of the landmass worldwide is prone to desertification. The major deserts in the world are expanding at an alarming rate. Deserts in China, Mongolia and Africa are all invading their neighboring regions. In your own country, the deserts in western India are expanding. Hundreds of thousands of hectares in the arid and semi-arid regions and drylands around the world are becoming sand dunes every year. This means fewer and fewer hectares are available for agriculture, livestock rearing and allied activities that offer livelihood sources to hundreds of millions of world population, especially the poor. Desertification cuts on the availability of food and water even as the global population is increasing. It also causes disasters such as sandstorms which wipe out large swathes of habitable lands. Aquifers vanish and biodiversity is greatly reduced.
If we do not rehabilitate the degraded lands and stop the march of the deserts, there will be huge global shortages of food, water and fuels and unprecedented mass migrations.

B] Land degradation and desertification is a long process. They involve a host of issues such as deforestation, over-grazing, over-cultivation, logging, pressure of population, industrialisation and poor land-use practices. A naturally dry climate, long spells of droughts and heavy winds add to the anthropogenic causes.
C] The Rio+20 role will be very crucial as world leaders can take a bold decision of setting a sustainable development goal for “zero net land degradation.” We are pushing for an agreement on zero net land degradation by 2030. Setting up of an Intergovernmental Panel on Land and Soil will be very helpful in speeding up efforts to check desertification. Desertification is nearly as critical as climate change and international initiative on climate change and biodiversity loss should have linkages and synergies with steps against desertification. Unfortunately, people are not as aware of the impact of desertification as they are of climate change. The Rio+20 meeting can bring in desertification on the sustainable development agenda. It can also agree to give more legal teeth to the UNCCD.
D] Of course, the battle against desertification calls for long-term commitment and investment. There is no alternative. Regional, sub-regional and country-level plans are necessary for Africa and Asia to reclaim deserts and restore them to fertile farmlands. Developing countries need to integrate their poverty eradication programmes with strategies to fight desertification. They could also earmark a certain share of their annual budgets for the efforts. The soil and land preservation efforts should be prioritised and mainstreamed. The funds for climate change mitigation and adaptation could be dovetailed to the anti-desertification programme. In Africa, several countries have come together to form a 12,000 “great green wall” extending from Senegal to Djibouti with the participation of local communities. People's participation is crucial in reclaiming lands. China's “great green wall” project is on a massive scale and is now starting to show results.
E] More than two billion hectares of degraded land in various parts of the world can be rehabilitated. The techniques include agro-forestry and farmer-managed natural regeneration. Small community initiatives like closure of degraded lands for grazing, curtailing farming, growing fast-growing plants, raising tall trees that serve as a barrier against winds and sandstorms are very effective. National governments could consider building large green belts, prioritise forestry programmes and launch projects of fixing and stabilising sands. In China, where deserts comprise 27 per cent of the landmass, lots of money has been invested in anti-desertification programmes. The country has realised that desertification — and its spin-off, the sandstorm — has to be tackled to sustain its economic development.
Match the following questions with their corresponding answer.
1] Steps to check desertification and rehabilitating degraded lands are expensive and time-consuming. How can poor countries rise to the challenge?
2] How do you assess the threat of desertification?
3] What are some of the ways to rehabilitate degraded lands?
4] What will be the role of the upcoming Rio+20 conference in the fight against desertification?
5] What causes desertification?

Friday, June 15, 2012

True false exercise June 15, 2012

Read the passage and answer the question that follows.
More than 1,000 new internet “top level domains” — such as .app, .kids, .love, .pizza and also .amazon and .google — could come online beginning early next year, with the potential to radically change the face of the web.
But the move by Icann, the U.S.-appointed company which decides what new domains can be added to the web, has been criticised by some as allowing a commercial landgrab of the internet.
Documents released by Icann on Wednesday show that Amazon and Google have made dozens of applications to control hundreds of domains — including .shop, .book, .love, and .map and .mba.
The most applied-for domain is .app, which 13 organisations have staked a claim to own, including both Amazon and Google. Only one entity can own a top-level domain.
The next is .home and .inc, with 11 applications, .art with 10, and then .book, .blog, .llc, and .shop with nine each.
Those put in charge of allotting such domains will have complete power over whether a company or individual can apply for a website or domain name within them — so that if Amazon was to control .book, it could deny a rival such as the chain of bookshops called Waterstones the chance to create
The new top-level domains, or TLDs, will start to come online in the first quarter of 2013, said Rod Beckstrom, the chief executive of Icann, who unveiled the list of 1,930 applications for 1,700 different new TLDs at a press conference in London.
“This is an historic day for the internet and the two billion people around the world who rely on it,” Beckstrom said.
“The internet is about to change forever. Through its history the internet has renewed itself through new ideas; we're on the cusp of new ideas and innovation which will give rise to new jobs and ways to link communities and share information.” Companies, individuals and communities were able to apply for the new TLDs, which cost $185,000 per registration. But the cost of registration and the complexity of filling out the 250-page forms appears to have dissuaded applications from Africa, which produced only 17 of the 1,930 applications. By contrast, North America produced 911 applications — although Amazon's 76 applications have been made through its Luxembourg office, almost certainly for tax reasons. Google has made more than 100 applications, including .android, .baby, .blog and others.
The London-based Guardian Media Group, which publishes the Guardian and Observer newspapers and the website, has applied for five, though it faces a contest for the principal one, .guardian, which has also seen an application from the U.S.-based Guardian Life Insurance company, which also owns the worldwide domain.
Icann will have to resolve hundreds of such conflicts, which will see a combination of trademark disputes and arguments about which companies or organisations will be appropriate owners of TLDs.
It reckons that it will be able to process the applications in batches of about 500 each, taking between four—and—a—half and five months each. That means it will take about 18 months to process the entire set.
The applications from Africa, however, are guaranteed to be in the first tranche considered, and so should go online first if they succeed in the selection process.
Alexa Raad, chief executive of Architelos, which provides consultancy services to businesses looking to run domains, said: “It's like the difference between owning a flat in an apartment, and owning the whole apartment block. If you own the block, you can decide who gets in and out of it, you can decide on the behaviour in there.
“For Amazon, it could decide to reward its most loyal customers with a ‘.amazon' email, for example, and it will know that that email is never going to go away. People are focusing just on the names but it's not the name that's important, it's the business models that will lie behind them.”
On the basis of the passage state whether the following statements are True or false.

1) Icann is a real estate development firm infamous for illegal land grab.
2) High cost of registration is a reason that has deterred African nations from applying for TLDs.
3) TLD is a new online application developed by Icann.
4) Concept of TLD can give rise to conflicts among the competitors and business rivals, especially those having similar names.
5) The applications from Africa will be considered along with the first 500 applications.
6) Estimated time taken to consider all the applications is around 4-5 months.
7) Amazon, Google and 11 other organizations are vying to own the domain .app.
8) Icann has been appointed by the UN, which decides what new domains can be added to the Web

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Critical Reasoning Exercise June 9, 2012

Read the passage and answer the following question.

A micro-level study of Ganjam district in Odisha showed that the overall health staffing for ensuring service guarantees for maternal and child health according to the NRHM framework was inadequate. In fact, the study says that in India the staffing requirements vary widely from one health facility to another. For various reasons, doctors and other health personnel live in the district headquarters or cities, while more than 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas. The shortfall of specialists and other staff continues to be a festering problem, and one manifestation of this is the overcrowding of public hospitals in the metros and other cities. The study is also critical of the accredited social health activists (ASHAs), the implementing channel of the NRHM. The ASHAs were found to be struggling to establish their identity both within the community where they lived and among the formal service providers whom they assisted in providing statutory health services. The situation of the ASHAs has not changed much, with the government refusing to give them the status and recognition of regular workers. In fact, the conflict between them and the other regular staff continues in various forms. The study observes that joint training and collaborative planning of all the front-line workers are essential. Compensation issues and the reimbursement-driven system also need looking into, it says.

Which of the following statements can be inferred from the passage?

I) NRHM provides multiple health facilities.
II) Most of the ASHAs are females.
III) ASHAs have been demanding the status of regular workers.
IV) One of main problems being faced in the implementation of NRHM is non availability of proper infrastructure.
V) ASHAs are usually paid money in advance for the official expenses they incur.

A) I, II AND III        B) I, IV AND V      C) I AND III         D) II, III AND IV   E) Only III

Friday, June 8, 2012

True False Exercise June 8, 2012

Read the passage and mark the following statements as true or false.

AMONG the many things that have proliferated in the economic boom of the brash new India is conflict of interest. So widespread, comprehensive and many-tentacled has this feature become that it is often no longer even recognised to exist, much less to be a problem. The practice is now so common that it is even hard to single out just a few cases or to get more outraged about some compared with the overall pattern of behaviour.
But consider just a few examples, which many of us have come across and the consequences of which all of us face. Senior bureaucrats promptly take on post-retirement jobs with companies that have been affected by policies and implementation they have directed while in office, with no one batting an eyelid.
Those in the economic Ministries are the first to be snapped up, with banks and private companies vying to have them on their boards and others taking them on as “advisers” who are valued precisely because they are completely informed about the inside workings of government.
Others who have worked in particular line departments find places in companies (and even lobbying firms) that deal specifically with those and related activities.
The “revolving door” through which important people move from private to public life and back is a well-known (and global) means through which the corporate sector exercises influence over public policies. None of this is illegal, and none of it is even much remarked upon, so inured have we become to the grey areas in which “public private partnerships” are conducted in different ways.
There are other means as well. Committees and commissions that advise on critical matters such as financial regulation or pricing of utilities often contain representatives of banks and companies that would be directly affected by their decisions. Or some of the members join such firms fairly quickly after serving on such bodies.
Large agribusinesses and other corporate bodies are regularly represented on officially designated advisory bodies, some of which even have statutory powers. Multinational food giants and pharmaceutical companies host or sponsor activities of professional organisations that can set standards or influence the advisory decisions of health and nutrition professionals.
Sometimes – though these are relatively rare occasions – such practices create a public outcry that causes some change. It is noteworthy that these changes do not happen easily: they require intense and prolonged pressure and often legal action.
For example, in March 2011, the basic regulatory body for food in the country – the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) – was forced to reconstitute its expert panels. But this was only after a public interest litigation (PIL) by the Alliance Against Conflict of Interests caused the Supreme Court to intervene. The FSSAI had instituted eight scientific panels, of which seven included as many as 18 members who were actually employees of big food businesses.
For example, the panel for sampling and analysis had a member from Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd even though that was one of the companies named in an independent study of pesticide residues in popular drinks. The panel for food additives and flavouring had representation from both Coca-Cola India and Pepsico International. Yet it was supposed to provide objective and impartial advice.
The scientific panel on labelling and claims/advertisements included employees from the companies Nestle and Hindustan Unilever, both of which had been made to withdraw misleading television commercials the previous year.
The shocking thing is not just that such appointments could be considered in the first place but that even after alarm bells were rung by the public they were not withdrawn until the Supreme Court explicitly castigated the FSSAI and forced it to make changes. In other cases, where legal processes have not forced revision, protests against such conflicts of interest are simply shoved under the carpet or ignored.
But the government and public institutions are not the only ones guilty of such conflicts of interest. The increasingly commercialised and corporatised media are big-time practitioners of this. Some media – both newspapers and TV channels – are directly owned by large corporate houses, and therefore it is surely no surprise if there is some control over editorial policy, especially when the interests of that corporate house are involved. Since media are critical in making the public aware of issues and affecting public policies, this type of conflict of interest also has extremely serious and damaging implications.
Indeed, there are also cases in which the media group is not directly owned by some companies but still receives money, in the form of advertising revenues or other sponsorship that may influence its reportage and even editorial positions. For example, the chief sponsor of the Indian Express group's 2011 Ramnath Goenka Awards for excellence in journalism, including ethics in journalism, was the Jaypee Group.
This group of companies has major interests in building dams, both for the Narmada river and in the northeastern region. “Coincidentally”, a few months earlier Indian Express had mounted major campaigns against anti-dam campaigners in both places, particularly in the northeastern region, and in favour of large hydro projects in the region (which were also to be contracted to the Jaypee Group). Another sponsor of this event was the seed company Mahyco Monsanto, which produces genetically modified (GM) seeds. Once again, it emerges that Indian Express produced a number of articles and reports in favour of GM crops before that.
The most egregious example of such conflict of interest is in the paid news that has come to proliferate in large chunks of both local language and English media. An article by P. Sainath in The Hindu, “Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint” on April 10, 2012, showed how The Times of India had published a full-page feature on the benefits of Bt cotton in Vidharbha, Maharashtra, a paid advertisement masquerading as news, which contained supposedly objective but unverified “reports” that had appeared in the paper three years earlier, in which clearly false claims were made.
As Sainath notes, the full page appeared twice in three years: “The first time as a story trip ‘arranged by Mahyco-Monsanto'. The second time as an advertisement arranged by Mahyco-Monsanto. The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
All this is why a Private Member's Bill in the Rajya Sabha (The Prevention and Management of Conflict of Interest Bill, 2011) is of such importance. The Bill, introduced on April 27 by E. Sudarshan Nachiappan, seeks to limit the possibilities of conflict of interest among officials, public and quasi-official bodies and the like. The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill makes it clear that conflicts of interest have increased significantly as a result of the economic policies of the past two decades.
“The current market liberalisation has ushered in an era of new relationships between the state and the markets, with a potential for creating a new relationship between the state and the citizen. Private sector is increasingly being invited to present their solutions to the nation's ills. Yet many services, such as public goods – health care, nutrition, education, water, sanitation, protection of the environment, etc., – cannot be provided by markets.”
The primary duty of the private sector is to increase its profits for its shareholders, whereas the fundamental and inalienable duty of the state is to provide all its citizens, especially the weakest and poorest, with the minimum requirements to live a life with safety and dignity, regardless of the cost. The Constitution of India makes it incumbent that the state gives primacy to Article 21 and its expanded interpretation as the right to live with human dignity.
The differing priorities – that of the state and that of the private sector – present in themselves a serious conflict of interest. The current draft legislation on conflict of interest is an attempt to safeguard the duty of the state towards its citizens and to uphold “Article 21 of the Constitution”.
This is an extremely important step. But even the proposed Bill does not go far enough because there are all sorts of ingenious ways in which such conflict of interest may exist. Further, as has been noted earlier, some of the most worrying examples of conflict of interest are not confined to public bodies but are increasingly entirely within the so-called “private sector”. So we clearly need to think of ways – through laws, rules or other frameworks – to control that.
And most of all, we need much more public outrage at the prevalence of conflicts of interest, away from the currently somnolent or cynical acceptance of their ubiquity.

Which of the following are the ideas stated/suggested by the author.
1)  India should avoid conflicts with its neighboring counties.
2) India needs legislation to check the spread of GM crops.
3) The phenomenon of conflict of interests in India is a corollary to economic growth.
4) Media has not been involved in and conflict of interest situation.
5) TOI and the Hindu carried out reports that favored their sponsors.
6) Common man should not remain silent and raise his voice against cases involving conflict of interests.
7) Inclusion of corporate representatives on scientific panels should be encouraged.
8) There should be a proper legislative framework to safeguard the citizens from such conflicts of interests.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

True False Exercise June 6 2012

Read the passage carefully and without referring to the passage classify the following statements as TRUE or FALSE. (Answers provided at the Answers page)

One would expect India's airlines, thanks to the business's distinctive capacity for oomph and sexiness, to attract a certain type of cocky businessmen and managers who have a knack for wisecracks and plainspokenness. That has been the case overseas. 

Take for example what Ryanair's Michael O'Leary had to say about his scheme to charge passengers using the toilet: "If someone wanted to pay £5 to go to the toilet I would carry them there myself. I would wipe their bums." Or Delta Airlines founder CE Woolman's thoughts about his job: "Running an airline is like having a baby: fun to conceive, but hell to deliver." 

Indian airline bosses have been largely tame in contrast. The most interesting comment from an airline boss for many years was Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal's startling revelation that his mother arrived in a dream and ordered him to take back sacked pilots. 

Barbs and witticisms have emanated since from his counterparts, but they have been few and far between.Kingfisher Airlines owner Vijay Mallya last year took a dig at low-cost carrier IndiGo. " has been downhill for civil aviation except for one airline that defies the odds and claims to be profitable, however unlikely that may be," he wrote in a memo to employees. 

SpiceJet CEO Neil Mills too fired barbs at IndiGo. "It is whether you believe fairy tales," he said, referring to reports about IndiGo's much lauded punctuality in an earlier interview with ET on Sunday. "A carrier that is financially insolvent and has a third of its fleet grounded has the best on-time performance among all low-cost carriers in the world. I believe in faith, but this is believing a little too much." 

A quote hunter would have savoured the prospect of a retort from the airline at the receiving end of these jabs and the public slanging match that would ensue. But IndiGo president Aditya Ghosh, 36, has adopted a monk-like silence, as has been his wont in his nearly four-year tenure at the helm. 

Ghosh is not the man about town, an aberration of sorts in a high-visibility business and a case study for corporate chiefs not thrilled with the spotlight. Yet, he sees nothing unusual in his averseness to publicity. Passengers, he says, fly IndiGo not because they know the president of the company. 

Classify these statements as true or false. (Without going back to the passage)
1) Vijay Mallya is highly impressed with Indigo
2) Aditya Gosh is the CEO of Indigo.
3) Ghosh has aggressively dismissed the criticism directed at Indigo.
4) Bosses of Indian aviation companies are generally not known for their humor and wit.
5) Naresh Goyal's revelation about his mother arriving in a dream invited appreciation from competition. 
6) Jet Airways chief is one of those who have criticized Indigo.
7) Ghosh generally avoids spotlight and publicity.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Critical Reasoning Exercise June 2

Read the passage and categorize the following statements on the basis of effect they would have on the ideas proposed by the author in the passage. The effect could be a) Strengthening, b) weakening  c) No effect.

Obesity is seen as a modern affliction, and one that is sought to be dealt with in many ways. Clearly, success rates have been rather slim as an increasing number of countries are seeing governments stepping in with their own solutions. 
The newest initiatives that emerged last week from two major nations with adipose problems - the US and UK - demonstrate two different approaches, but sadly, a similar probability of failure. The mayor of New York wants to ban sugary drinks being served in jumbo-size receptacles in restaurants, cinema halls and stadiums, in the naive hope that consumers will then quaff less. The simple way around that would be, of course, for them to buy multiple servings in order to keep the calorie count up. The result would be burgeoning waste - smaller cups and bottles, but many more of them - rather than diminishing waistlines. 

And the real 'addicts' could always buy their jumbo packs of fizz from supermarkets, which would be exempt from the size restrictions. The gut feeling, naturally, is that such strictures will do nothing to shrink obesity rates in the long run. 

Britain is not going down that doomed path, but appears to be opting for another equally-futile solution. Outlawing fat - not the condition of being obese, but calling anyone that (accurately or otherwise) - by accepting the recommendation of its all-party parliamentary group on body image that 'appearance-based discrimination' be put at par with racial and sexual discrimination, is hardly likely to spur overweight people to become healthier. 
Instead, this could lead to the rise of a notion that obesity is an inalterable state - like race and gender - and, thereby, put paid to any future attempts by other agencies to prevent or treat it. Then the fat would really be in the fire.

Assuming the following statements to be true, classify them as  A) Strengthening, B) Weakening  C) No effect 

1) According to a research, 80% consumption of fizz drinks happens in restaurants, cinema halls and stadiums.
2) Majority of people avoid the inconvenience of multiple servings.
3) Forming laws doesn’t have much affect on people’s basic perceptions.
4) Obese people are sensitive to discrimination and loose motivation to reduce weight when subjected to discrimination.
5) Coke and Pepsi have comparable calorie count.