Citizens' Issues
India calls for Security Council action against terrorist outfits
India has called upon the UN Security Council to act decisively against the widening arc of terrorism that has struck Paris, Beirut and Syria while the links between the Islamic State and extremists in Afghanistan and elsewhere are tightening.
 
"We urge the Security Council to act against this threat to international peace and security with a sense of urgency and within a defined time-frame," India's Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji told the UN General Assembly Monday during a debate on the situation in Afghanistan.
 
"The first step the Council should undertake is to strengthen the Council's Sanctions Regime structure, in order to effectively impose and implement the restrictions placed on the listed terrorist organisations, so as to deny them sanctuaries and safe haven," he said.
 
The Security Council's failure to act against Pakistan for providing a sanctuary for anti-India terrorists and for releasing on bail Lashkar-e-Taiba's 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi has been a sore point for India.
 
The growing violence in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Islamic State along with its affiliates was an "alarming" development, he said, citing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report on the situation in that nation.
 
In particular he drew attention to Ban's report that most of the Islamic State-affiliated fighters in Afghanistan are made up mostly of "disaffected former members of the Afghan Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or groups previously associated with Al-Qaeda."
 
In view of these developments and the rising tide of terrorist violence around the world, the international community should rethink the time table for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Mukerji said.
 
In a reversal of policy, President Barack Obama announced in October that the United States will keep its troop strength at 9,800 through next year, but will reduce it to about 5,500 by the time he leaves office in January 2017.
 
Calling India "Afghanistan's first strategic partner", Mukerji spoke of the close bilateral ties between the two nations and expressed regret over restrictions on transit.
 
"Afghanistan will be able to achieve its optimal economic potential only if it is allowed freedom of transit to major markets in South Asia," he said. Without naming Pakistan, he added, "We regret that this freedom continues to be denied to Afghanistan." Islamabad has blocked direct access to India for trucks bringing Afghanistan's exports.
 
"India has opened its markets to all Afghan exports, and is willing to receive Afghan trucks on its territory," Mukerji said. "India remains committed to greater regional integration, and is open to join and support all such regional initiatives, including the expansion of the Afghan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement."
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Sunshine Report: State-by-State Access to Consumer Complaints
TINA.org report finds states in the US should do more to give consumers access to complaints filed against businesses
 
As a non-profit focused on educating and empowering consumers to protect themselves from false and deceptive advertising, truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) routinely files requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with state and federal officials for consumer complaints lodged against companies it is investigating. These complaints provide valuable information about experiences consumers have had with a business. While consumer complaints filed with key federal consumer protection agencies are available to the public, states differ drastically as to whether and how they disclose these same types of complaints.
 
Importance of Complaints
 
Consumers who take the time to file a complaint with state officials can provide valuable information on how a business operates in practice. While consumers may turn to online reviews and ratings sites to evaluate a business, those sources can be murky. Fake reviews are a troublesome issue and some businesses are trying to tamp down negative reviews with terms and conditions that impose gag orders and fines. Thus, complaints filed with state officials become an important resource for consumers. States that lock complaints behind closed doors are limiting access to useful information about experiences fellow consumers have had with a company.
 
Equally important is the ability to keep government officials accountable. States that keep consumer records from the public are severely limiting the public’s ability to monitor whether government officials are doing enough to protect them from unscrupulous enterprises by taking action against a company.
 
In order to gauge the level of access consumers have in different states to these important records, TINA.org launched a Freedom of Information (FOIA) project, sending pubic records requests to all 50 states and analyzing the pertinent public records laws.
 
Methodology
 
Specifically, TINA.org sent requests to attorneys general offices in all 50 states for consumer complaints against Wake Up Now. The requests asked for copies of all consumer complaints filed against the company with any of the consumers’ personal identifying information — such as names, phone numbers, and addresses — redacted. The requests indicated the time frame that the states had to respond as outlined in their open records laws. For a sample FOIA letter click here.
 
TINA.org also sent letters to additional state consumer protection departments if the departments were separate from the attorney general office in that state or if a state official upon receipt of the FOI request indicated that there was another department where the request should be sent. TINA.org sent the letters in a variety of ways, including via email, online form, fax or through the mail – it all depended on the process outlined by the state. TINA.org did not appeal any of the decisions other than a denial in Utah.
 
 
If a state replied that it did not find any records “responsive” to TINA.org’s request, TINA.org categorized those states as ones that would disclose the complaints if there were any after it reviewed the laws in those states.
 
(Note: States differ greatly on their FOIA procedures and ease of filing requests. To some degree, the responses TINA.org received may have been dependent upon the state officials who reviewed the requests. The time frame for the response was also dependent on getting requests to the appropriate official.)
 
Results: Best and Worst States
 
The good news is that more than 85 percent of states disclose some amount of information regarding consumer complaints they receive about businesses, ranging from posting the information online to just providing the number of complaints filed. But 12 percent refuse to release any information with regard to consumer complaints.
 
 
The three most open states are Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Oregon, all of which provide an online searchable database for consumers. South Carolina’s Department of Consumer Affairs is also commendable; it posts a buyer’s beware list of businesses that have not responded to complaints filed against it or businesses that did not provide the promised resolution.
 
However, consumers seeking complaint information from Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Rhode Island, face a drastically different response. These states denied access to the complaints.
 
In between the givers and the deniers are numerous states that disclosed some amount of information. Arkansas and Tennessee will only let residents of the state review its public documents. (Despite the law, Tennessee’s Department of Consumer Affairs did respond that no complaints had been filed against the company, even though TINA.org is not a resident of the state.) Utah only discloses complaints that meet certain criteria. And although the offices of the attorney general in California and Nevada would not disclose consumer complaints, other consumer protection departments in these states did indicate they would release the complaints received by their offices. Click here for a list of states best to worst.
 
Timely vs. Untimely Responses
 
In analyzing the FOIA responses, TINA.org also reviewed how long it took states to respond to its requests. Six states — Connecticut, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Ohio– responded… Continue Reading…
 
 

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RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 6.75%

While keeping key rates unchanged, the RBI said some indicators suggest the economy is in the early stages of a recovery, though with some areas of continued weakness

 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its fifth bi-monthly credit policy review on Tuesday has kept repo, reverse repo, cash reserve ratio (CRR) and bank rate unchanged. With repo rate remaining at 6.75%, the reverse repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) will remain unchanged at 5.75%, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the bank rate at 7.75%.

 
In a statement, RBI Governor Dr Raghuram Rajan said, "The Reserve Bank will follow developments on commodity prices, especially food and oil, even while tracking inflationary expectations and external developments. The implementation of the Pay Commission proposals, and its effect on wages and rents, will also be a factor in the Reserve Bank’s future deliberations, though its direct effect on aggregate demand is likely to be offset by appropriate budgetary tightening as the Government stays on the fiscal consolidation path."
 
"In the meantime, since the rate reduction cycle that commenced in January, less than half of the cumulative policy repo rate reduction of 125 basis points (bps) has been transmitted by banks. The median base lending rate has declined only by 60 bps. The Reserve Bank will shortly finalise the methodology for determining the base rate based on the marginal cost of funds, which all banks will move to. The Government is examining linking small savings interest rates to market interest rates. These moves should further help transmission of policy rates into lending rates. In addition, the on-going clean-up of bank balance sheets will help create room for fresh lending," the statement from RBI said.
 
Ratings agency, CRISIL, feels that the policy transmission rates, which have remained weak, are an area of concern. It said, "So far in 2015, the policy repo rate has been cut by 125 bps. But while market-driven interest rates such as those on CPs and CDs have fallen 90-120 bps across maturities, bank lending rates have seen much weaker transmission. This limits the boost to consumption from lower interest rates.:
 
According to RBI, the economy is in early stages of recovery. It said, "On the domestic front, provisional estimates of gross value added (GVA) at basic prices for Q2 of 2015-16 rose on the back of acceleration in industrial activity. Other indicators suggest the economy is in the early stages of a recovery, though with some areas of continued weakness."
 
Commenting on the central bank's policy, Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chairman of State Bank of India (SBI) said, "RBI's announcement to keep the repo rate unchanged is on expected lines. Today's policy undertone has leaned towards the neutral-to-dovish side. Governor's indication of being accommodative policy sends a positive signal for Indian economy. The guidelines on the base rate calculation based on marginal cost of funds will be watched and appropriate actions will be taken on the same. Overall with CAD and inflation targets well within control and Q2 GDP at 7.4%, the Indian economy seems headed for a good financial year ahead."
 
In view of both rabi and kharif prospects being hit by monsoon vagaries, the outlook for agriculture is subdued, the central bank said, adding, "While there are areas of robust growth in manufacturing such as capital goods and passenger cars, weak rural and external demand holds back stronger overall growth. Similarly, while prospects for a revival in service sector activity have been boosted by optimism on new business, pockets of lacklustre activity such as construction weigh on the overall outlook."
 
RBI said, step-up in public capital spending and the easing stance of monetary policy provide the enabling environment for a revival in private investment demand, supported by easing input prices and improving conditions for doing business. The growth projection for 2015-16 has accordingly been kept unchanged at 7.4% with a mild downside bias, it added.
 
Here are the latest policy rates following RBI review…
 
Repo Rate.......................6.75%
Reverse Repo Rate.........5.75%
CRR.................................4%
Bank Rate.......................7.75%
 
The sixth bi-monthly monetary policy statement will be announced on 2 February 2016.

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