Current Events: World
Obama to tax rich in $3.5-trillion budget
Biggest redistribution of wealth in US history
U.S. President Barack Obama embarked on the biggest redistribution of wealth from the rich
to the poor in U.S. history when he unveiled his first budget, which will amount to a
staggering $3.5 trillion.
The President proposed $1trillion in tax rises over the next decade. His budget is likely to
face resistance from Republicans, who expressed anger at the scale of the spending and tax
Obama said that, in spite of recession, it was time to address the fundamental problems facing
America. This meant, he said, "some hard choices" lay ahead. To try to pay for his ambitious
spending plans, he intends to rip into Pentagon spending. Also to be targeted are farm
subsidies that have existed for decades and tax breaks for corporations. But the most
contentious issue is his planned increase in taxes for anyone earning more than $2,50,000 a
year from 2011.
One of the more staggering figures to emerge from the budget is the deficit for this year,
which is due to rise from an already huge $1.2 trillion inherited from President George Bush
to $1.75 trillion, much higher than had been expected. That is more than 12% of GDP — the
highest since the Second World War. In spite of this, the Obama administration insisted it
could begin to reduce the deficit next year, based on assumptions that the economy will start
to recover by then.
The President will face repeated delaying action by Republicans. Though the Democrats
enjoy an overwhelming majority in the House, they are dependent on winning over a handful
of Republicans in the Senate.
Women hold just 18% of Parliament seats worldwide
Women hold just over 18% of the seats in parliaments around the world. This represents a 60
per cent increase since 1995 but it is still a long way to go to achieve equality with men in
national legislative bodies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union has said in its annual report card.
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Of the 2,656 seats that went to women in 2008, the IPU said 1,707 women were directly
elected, 878 were indirectly elected and 71 were appointed. In the U.S., both houses of
Congress elected their highest proportions of women members — 17% in each chamber, the
report said. But that's still ranks the U.S. below the global average. Europe, with Sweden,
Finland and the Netherlands ranked in the top five countries for women in parliament.
During 2008, parliamentary elections and renewals took place in 54 countries and women's
representation increased to 18.3% — up from 17.7% last year and 11.3% in 1995, the IPU
The U.N. Economic and Social Council had set a target of having a minimum of 30 per cent
women lawmakers in all parliaments by 1995. The U.N. women's conference in Beijing in
1995 noted that little progress had been made in achieving that target, and the IPU and many
women's groups started promoting the election of female legislators. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and
Micronesia have never had a woman as an MP.
Rose Mukantabana, Speaker of Rwanda's Chamber of Deputies which is the only body to
have a majority of women members — 56.3% — said that the high female representation is
the result of a quota of 30% of seats set aside for women and the large number of widows in
the country following the 1994 genocide.
"We still feel that progress is slow," said Philippines Senator Pia Cayetano, President of the
IPU committee of women parliamentarians. She stressed that on average fewer than one in
five legislators is a woman. "The challenges that women face in accessing politics are
immense," she told a news conference. "Prejudices and cultural perceptions about the role of
society are among the greatest obstacles to women's entry."
Bloomberg awards announced
The anti-smoking awards were set up with funds from former New York mayor
Bloomberg Philanthropies announced four recipients of the 2009 Bloomberg Awards for
Global Tobacco Control at the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health held in Mumbai
recently. The awards winners include:
Programmer manager, Environmental Rights Action and Friends of The Earth Nigeria–
Mexico City's Secretary of Health–Armando Ahued
Executive secretary of Action On Smoking And Health, Thailand–Prakit Vathesatogtik
Coalicion Panamena contra el Tabaquismo's director–Dr. Nelyda Gligo.
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The recipients were chosen based on their efforts in reducing tobacco use by creating public
awareness, effectively implementing pictorial warnings on
tobacco product packs, creating smoke-free public spaces and
ensuring ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship.
The awards include $400,000 in grants and were given by the
Bloomberg initiative, established in 2006 with a commitment of
$125 million by Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York.
Singapore will host the 15th 'World Conference on Tobacco or
Health' in 2012.
The World Conference on Tobacco or Health is widely
recognised as an important forum for international collaboration on tobacco control and as a
stimulus for national efforts in this field.
Will Smith is Hollywood's most bankable star
Angelina Jolie is the highest ranking woman in Forbes Star Currency survey
Will Smith didn't take home anything shiny at this year's Academy Awards, but members of
the entertainment industry say he's tops at mining real gold, a
more critical skill given the current economy.
Smith ranks first in Forbes.com's inaugural Forbes Star Currency
survey, an exclusive look at what the business side of Hollywood
really thinks of more than 1,400 working actors when it comes to
ensuring the financial success of film projects.
Smith was the only person to receive a perfect score of 10,
edging out Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and
Angelina Jolie, who all tied for second with scores of 9.89.
Others in the top 20 include Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington,
Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon.
It's an all-star cast that shows consistent muscle in attracting financing and generating global
box office revenues. They also have hefty celebrity personas that grab press attention,
creating valuable awareness for their projects. There's a considerable amount of acting talent
there, too. Consider that, of the top 20 names alone, 16 have been nominated for an Academy
Award in the acting categories. Collectively, they have a combined 69 nominations and 15
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The Forbes Star Currency survey was sent to entertainment industry members globally asking
them to use a provided scale in ranking 1,400-plus actors as individuals on a range of
attributes regarding their participation in a film, including the actor's ability to attract
significant financing to a project with their involvement; if their presence guarantees
theatrical distribution; if they significantly drive theatrical box office performance; and if
their involvement is an essential component in securing rights deals for revenue streams
including DVD, pay/free TV, etc.
Erdos & Morgan, a New York-based independent research firm, advised Forbes on the
survey, as well as handled the tabulation and ranking of the results.
Smith won for good reasons. Look at his numbers:
His films have raked in more than $5.2 billion at the box office worldwide (through Feb.
1, 2009), according to Exhibitor Relations Co.
Seven of his live-action films opened consecutively in the No. 1 spot at the North
American box office, from "Men in Black II" (2002) through "Hancock" (2008).
"Will Smith is unique in that he is one of a very few people who is a draw purely on name
alone," says producer Rick Alvarez. "It almost doesn't matter what genre. The name alone
creates a confidence with the audience that they're going to get something that's entertaining
whether it's action, comedy, drama."
Angelina Jolie is the survey's top-ranked woman. Ashok
Amritraj, chairman and CEO of Hyde Park Entertainment says:
"She has built a larger-than-life persona that captivates you,
and she has become a really good actress as we saw in the
Eastwood film and, of course, the action films like "Wanted"
and "Tomb Raider." Being able to show that she can do it all
and adding to that the social work and personal aspects makes
her extremely interesting as an actress." No wonder Hollywood
Aishwarya Rai has emerged as the most bankable star from India in Hollywood and has been
ranked even more valuable than the Khans of Bollywood in a new Forbes list. Aishwarya is
among half a dozen Bollywood actors on the list of "Hollywood's Most Valuable Actors",
compiled by the American publication known for its rankings of the world's richest persons.
Other Indians on the list include Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Irrfan Khan
and Hrithik Roshan.
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Although at 387th position in the global list of as many as 1,411 actors from across the world,
Aishwarya is ranked highest among all the Indian actors and is the only female actor from the
country having made to this elite club. Aamir Khan is ranked 540th in the list, followed by
Shahrukh (735), Salman (753), Irrfan Khan (825) and Hrithik Roshan (1059).
Hussain wins Grammy in World Music
Rock veteran Bruce Springsteen wins another Grammy
Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain has won the Grammy in
the Contemporary World Music Album category for his
collaborative album "Global Drum Project". Hussain
worked with Mickey Hart of the rock band 'Grateful
Dead', Nigerian percussionist Sikiru Adepoju and
Puerto Rican jazz percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo for
"Global Drum Project" is the second collaboration
between Hart and Hussain after their compilation
"Planet Drum" which was released in 1991 and went on
to win the first-ever Grammy Award in the World Music category. The Grammys are
considered the most prestigious awards in the world of music.
Other winners include:
Radiohead won for their album "In Rainbows" for Best Alternative Album and Best
Special Limited Edition Album.
Coldplay won the award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for
their track "Viva la Vida" from the album of the same name.
Estelle won the prize for Best Rap Collaboration for her song with rapper Kanye West
Adele picked up an award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the song
Welsh singer Duffy won in the category of Best Pop Vocal Album for her debut
John Mayer won the award for the Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.
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Bruce Springsteen won the award for the Best Rock Song for his song "Girls in Summer
Rapper Lil Wayne won in the Best Rap Solo Performance for his song "A Milli" while
the other two were for his collaborations "Swagga like us" and "Lollipop" which won
awards for the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group and the Best Rap Song
Peruvian film wins Golden Bear at Berlin
Films from around the world win awards at Berlin film festival
Peruvian film 'La teta asustada' (The Milk of Sorrow)
directed by Claudia Llosa has won the Berlin Film
Festival's coveted Golden Bear award for best picture.
The runner-up Silver Bear was shared by Uruguay's
'Gigante' and Germany's 'Everyone Else'.
'The Messenger', in which the protagonist is an army
officer assigned to inform the next of kin about soldiers
killed in combat, won the Silver Bear for best script for
writers Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon.
Austrian Birgit Minichmayr won the best actress award for her role in 'Alle Anderen'.
Sotigui Kouyate from Mali won the Silver Bear for best actor for his turn in 'London River'
as a French Muslim waiting for news of his son after the deadly bombings in London in July
The best director Silver Bear went to Iranian Asghar Farhadi for 'About Elly', the story of
middle-class Iranians whose trip to the Caspian Sea turns to tragedy as they try to uphold
their social customs.
Tendulkar, Bhupati among 14 Indian WEF young global leaders
The young global leaders (YGL) 2009 reflects regional and stakeholder diversity
Fourteen Indians were chosen by the World Economic Forum as the 'young global leaders'
(YGL) 2009, which recognises and acknowledges between 200 and 300 outstanding young
leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society
and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
The honour, bestowed each year by the Forum, has nominated young global leaders from 71
countries, including business leaders, as well as leaders from government, academia, nonprofit
organisations, media and society.
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The new class represents all regions: East Asia (54), Europe (58), the Middle East and North
Africa (12), North America (45), South Asia (24), sub-Saharan Africa (20) and Latin
Drawn from a pool of almost 5,000 candidates, the young global leaders 2009 were chosen
by a selection committee, chaired by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of
Jordan, comprising 31 eminent international media leaders.
They include Anies Baswedan, president, Paramadina University, Indonesia; Shireen Bhan,
anchor, CNBC-India, India; Omar Ghobash, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the
Russian Federation; Priya Haji, CEO and co-founder, World of Good, USA; Chad Hurley,
co-founder and CEO, YouTube, US; Paula Santos, CEO and co-founder, Vesta Technologies,
Brazil; Brent Stirton, photographer, South Africa; Stephan Wrage, CEO, SkySails GmbH &
Co. KG, Germany among others.
The 2009 young global leaders will become part of the broader Forum of Young Global
Leaders that currently comprises 480 outstanding individuals. The YGLs convene at biannual
summits, as well as forum events and meetings throughout the year, and collaborate on
initiatives to tackle some of the key challenges of our generation.
The 2009 young global leaders from India are:
1. Sachin Tendulkar: cricketer
2. Mahesh Bhupati: founder, Globosport
3. Navin Chaddha: managing director, Mayfield Fund
4. Pooja Jain: executive director, Luxor Writing Instruments Pvt. Ltd
5. Sminu Jindal: managing director, Jindal Saw Ltd
6. Siddhartha Lal: managing director and CEO, Eicher Motors
7. Monisha Shah: director, Emerging Markets BBC Worldwide
8. Ashok Vemuri: senior vice president, banking and capital markets, Infosys
9. Amit Wanchoo: managing director, Eaton Laboratories
10. Reuben Abraham: director, Base of Pyramid Learning Lab, India School of Business
11. Boria Majumdar: author and lecturer
12. Shereen Bhan: anchor, CNBC India
13. Kanimozhi Karunanidhi: Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
14. Malini Mehra: founder and CEO, Centre for Social Markets
Lahore attacks: Deadly blow
The Pakistani state has created an Islamist Frankenstein that has turned on its
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The Sri Lankan cricket team attack occurred on March 3, 2009, when a bus carrying Sri
Lankan cricketers, part of a larger convoy, was fired upon by 12 gunmen, near the Gaddafi
Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan. The cricketers were on their way to play the third day of the
second Test against the Pakistani cricket team. Six members of the Sri Lankan cricket team
were injured. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed. The driver of the bus,
Mehar Mohammad Khalil, dodged the attackers and kept on driving until they reached the
stadium. The Sri Lankan team were then airlifted from the pitch via Pakistan Air Force Mil
Mi-17 helicopters, and sent back on the next available flight. The second Test, which was the
last scheduled fixture of the tour, was abandoned as a draw.
The incident could well be the last nail in the coffin of international cricket in Pakistan for a
long time to come. The attack has told cricketers around the world that it is not safe to go to
Pakistan. Sri Lanka in particular will regret having moved in when India cancelled its tour, in
the wake of an assessment of the security situation after the November 26 attack on Mumbai.
It was violence of the most senseless kind, and therefore even more lethal in its
The problems go beyond cricket, of course. It is evident that the Pakistani state has created an
Islamist Frankenstein that has turned on its creator. The Taliban were supposed to look
outward, and take over Afghanistan. Other jihadi organisations were supposed to export
terror to Jammu & Kashmir and the rest of India. None of them was supposed to turn inward
and focus the assault on Pakistan itself. But that is what has happened. Benazir Bhutto has
been assassinated, and Pervez Musharraf was lucky to survive.
The battle has been joined for the soul of Pakistan. And this is a battle whose outcome will be
determined domestically. The majority of Pakistanis are not jihadists and follow a moderate
version of Islam. In election after election, Pakistan has voted overwhelmingly for the
moderate parties. However, Pakistani governments have been weak and unsatisfactory, while
the Pak army has seen its search for state security lead it to jihadists whom it has sought to
use as tools for various stratagems. That folly now presents the country (and India) with some
dire scenarios for the future.
New Islamic justice system to buy peace in Swat
Critics fear it may only increase the influence and power of the Taliban
Pakistan has ushered in a controversial Islamic justice system in a big chunk of the North-
West Frontier Province to buy peace in Swat valley.
The new Nizam-e-Adl system was announced by NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan
Hoti after an agreement with Maulana Sufi Mohammed, the head of the banned Tehreek-e-
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The system, which apparently has the backing of the PPP-led federal government, will
provide for Islamic courts headed by qazis, or Islamic judges, in the NWFP's Malakand
division that includes seven districts including Swat.
In return, Sufi Mohammed has agreed to persuade his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, who is
also the leader of the Taliban in Swat Valley, to give up arms and militancy.
The Nizam-e-Adl deal has raised concerns that the NWFP government has once again
capitulated to the Taliban. Leaders of the Awami National Party (ANP), which heads the
province's coalition government, claim that the Nizam-e-Adl regulations did not mean that
Sharia law had been imposed, but were only a means to provide "cheap and speedy justice"
to the people of the region.
Under the newly announced system, criminal cases will be decided within four months and
civil cases within six months. The Sharia bench of the Peshawar High Court is to be the final
court of appeal.
The government announced under the agreement "all laws that are anti-Sharia and anti-
Hadith, that is, which go against the Koran and the Sunnah, are subject to cancellation and
considered null and void". The agreement to establish the qazi courts will be implemented
only when peace returns to Swat and the government writ is restored, said an ANP
spokesperson in Peshawar.
Drug giant GSK pledges cheap medicine for world's poor
GlaxoSmithKline shocks industry with challenge to other 'big pharma' companies
The world's second biggest pharmaceutical company is to radically shift its attitude to
providing cheap drugs to millions of people in the developing world.
GlaxoSmithKline will slash prices on all medicines in the poorest countries, give back profits
to be spent on hospitals and clinics and – most ground-breaking of all – share knowledge
about potential drugs that are currently protected by patents.
Pressure on the industry has been growing over the past decade, triggered by the AIDS
catastrophe. Drug companies have been repeatedly criticised for failing to drop their prices
for HIV drugs while millions died in Africa and Asia. Since then, campaigners have targeted
them for defending the patents, which keep their prices high, while attempting to crush
competition from generic manufacturers, who undercut them dramatically in countries where
patents do not apply.
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The extent of the changes GSK is setting in train is likely to stun drug company critics and
other pharmaceutical companies, who risk being left exposed. The move on intellectual
property, until now regarded as the sacred cow of the pharmaceutical industry, is the most
radical of GSK's proposals.
Campaigners gave a cautious welcome to GSK's strategy. But Oxfam and Médecins Sans
Frontières both said the company should go further and include HIV drugs in the patent pool,
and warned that generics companies have always been able to offer lower prices than big
pharma, because of their lower production costs