For the first time, Russia has confirmed that it has built up its military presence on the Ukrainian border (according to Agence France Presse). On the heels of the de-escalation and the West’s threat of tougher sanctions (if Russia failed to abide by the new ‘deal’), Kremlin spokesman Dmirty Peskov told Rossiya TV that “we have troops in different regions, and there are troops close to the Ukrainian border. Some are based there, others have been sent as reinforcements due to the situation in Ukraine.” Reuters also reports that Washington statements “are unlikely to help dialogue,” and further sanctions would be “absolutely unacceptable.” It seems the ‘deal’ has done little to calm anything but the US equity market as Peskov blasted “You can’t treat Russia like a guilty schoolboy.”

 The Daily Mail’s latest update on suspected (now confirmed) Russian troop build-up

>> Read More

Thought For A Day

19 April 2014 - 0:02 am

For a moment, the four-party agreement in Geneva on Thursday appeared to be a breakthrough. But by yesterday it was already starting to unravel – and it was becoming clear that the deal, aimed at calming tensions in Ukraine, had not reduced the danger of further Russian military intervention.

Analysts said the fact that US, EU, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers managed to agree on a document at all was positive, at a meeting for which expectations had been low.

They agreed illegal armed groups should hand over their weapons, Ukraine should undertake reforms to give more powers to its regions, and a monitoring mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe would be stepped up. >> Read More

 

Saudi Arabia is scheduled to begin building the world’s tallest tower next week, which will soar 1km in to the sky when completed.

The Kingdom Tower in the coastal city of Jeddah will measure 3,280 feet (1km), some 568 feet (173 meters) taller than the current Guinness world record holder, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,716 feet (827 metres).

At an estimated cost of $1.23bn, the tower in Saudi will require approximately 5.7 million square feet of concrete, 80,000 tonnes of steel for its 200 floors and will take five years to complete, according to The Saudi Gazette.

The tower, overlooking the Red Sea, will feature a five-star Four Seasons hotel, apartments, office space and an observatory.

But constructing the tower is not without its many challenges.

Firstly, the tower’s structure needs to be able to withstand the saltwater of the nearby ocean.

Consultants Advanced Construction Technology Services will be testing the strength of different concretes that can be used for the tower’s 200 feet (60 metres) deep foundations.

Secondly, wind load will be a problem for this gargantuan building, so the tower will change shape regularly to counter it. >> Read More

 

Investments into Indian shares through participatory notes (P-Notes), a preferred route for HNIs and hedge funds from abroad, surged to the highest level in nearly three years at Rs 2.07 lakh crore (over USD 34 billion) in March.

According to the data released by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), the total value of P-Note investments in Indian markets (equity, debt and derivatives) rose to Rs 2,07,639 crore at the end of March from Rs 1,72,738 crore in the preceding month.

This was the highest level since May 2011, when the cumulative value of such investments stood at Rs 2,11,199 crore.

P-Notes, mostly used by overseas HNIs (High Networth Individuals), hedge funds and other foreign institutions, allow them to invest in Indian markets through registered Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs), while saving on time and costs associated with direct registrations. >> Read More

 

Reliance Industries today posted its highest quarterly profit in more than two years as robust petrochemical margins and a surge in export earnings on a drop in rupee value offset weakness in the natural gas business.

Net profit rose 0.8 per cent to Rs 5,631 crore, or Rs 17.4 per share, in the January-March period from Rs 5,589 crore, or Rs 17.3 a share, in the same period a year ago.

Earnings from oil refining climbed 12.3 per cent, while those from the petrochemical segment were up 10.6 per cent, offsetting a 17.8 per cent dip in the oil and gas business, the company said in a statement.

RIL, which operates the world’s biggest refining complex at Jamnagar in Gujarat, earned USD 9.3 on turning every barrel of crude oil into fuel in the quarter, compared with a gross refining margin of USD 10.1 a barrel a year earlier and USD 7.60 a barrel in the preceding three months. >> Read More

 

If you listen carefully, you can hear the stampede of politicians distancing themselves from their once best-friend – Hotel magnate Sant Singh Chatwal – as AP reports, he plead guilty Thursday to charges he secretly funneled more than $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions to three unnamed candidates and coached someone to lie about it. Without the contributions “nobody will even talk to you,” Chatwal said. “That’s the only way to buy them, get into the system.” Welcome to the ugly truth of American politik.

A Democratic fundraiser and hotel executive has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade campaign finance laws and witness tampering, the Department of Justice said.

Sant Singh Chatwal, chairman of Hampshire Hotels Management, pleaded guilty on Thursday to making more than $180,000 in illegal federal campaign donations to three candidates through “straw donors” who were reimbursed, the DoJ said in a statement. 

He raised at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama. The justice department did not comment on whether Mrs Clinton was one of the three candidates, but it said there was no allegation that candidates took part in or were aware of Mr Chatwal’s scheme.

Mr Chatwal was skirting legal limits on contributions to an individual candidate’s campaign of $2,300 in 2008 and $2,400 in 2010.

A Supreme Court ruling earlier this month removed an aggregate cap of $123,000 on a single donor’s total donations to all candidates and parties, but did not change the cap on donations to individual candidates. >> Read More

 

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Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has served a legal notice on the authors of the book Gas Wars—Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis for allegedly defaming RIL and its chairman Mukesh Ambani.

The 570-page book, which was released on 15 April, has been written byParanjoy Guha Thakurta with Subir Ghosh and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri, and essentially deals with suspected irregularities in the pricing of natural gas.
The government decided last year to double the price of gas sold by domestic producers with effect from 1 April 2014—a move put on hold until after the completion of the general election in May on the orders of the Election Commission of India. The price increase would have benefited producers including RIL and state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd.
The Supreme Court is hearing public interest litigations (PILs) on the price increase.
Law firm Khaitan and Co. Llp, acting on behalf of RIL, served notice on the authors and the book’s distributor Feel Books Pvt. Ltd, and e-commerce websites Flipkart and Amazon that sold the book for being party to a “conspiracy” to defame RIL. 
It called for a halt to further sales of the book, demanded that the copies in circulation be recalled and all existing copies be destroyed. The law firm, which referred to the book as a pamphlet, also sought an unconditional public apology from the authors and distributors “in the form and manner acceptable to our clients.” >> Read More

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